PHOENIX — Several business and on-field initiatives will highlight the NFL annual league meeting scheduled Monday through Wednesday.
The NFL plans to highlight that 2022 was a successful season from the standpoint of innovation, player health and safety, fan engagement, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The season also saw Bills safety Damar Hamlin experience a cardiac event on the field in Cincinnati that had the league and sports world on hold for days.
Falcons coach Arthur Smith and other NFL coaches are scheduled to meet with the media.
Smith has not spoken since the team elected not to pursue Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in free agency. Smith can give updates on the players signed in free agency.
The NFL will also hold discussions designed to continue building a game that is competitive, accessible and growing.
Here are some summary points of progress in the 2022 season:
The average final-score margin of 9.70 was the lowest for a full season since 1932 (9.13).
Comeback single-season records: Games in which a deficit of 10 or more points was overcome to win or tie: 52
Competitive balance: Since 1990 – a streak of 33 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before. There were 50% new playoff teams in 2022.
The Falcons went 7-10 and completed their fifth consecutive losing season.
There were 50% new division winners in 2022.
With the retirement of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers set to leave the Packers, the league is featuring young quarterbacks. The four quarterbacks in the conference title games were all 27 or younger (Patrick Mahomes, 27; Joe Burrow, 26; Jalen Hurts, 24; and Brock Purdy, 23).
While the Hamlin event was scary, the NFL plans to continue using medical advancements and safety procedures to reduce injuries.
Overall injuries declined 5.4% in the regular season.
Concussions: Over the past five seasons, there has been an average sustained 25% reduction in concussions due to improved protective equipment, rules changes and adjustments to playing style and technique.
While there were reductions, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s concussions last season sparked discussion among league officials and teams.
The league contends it is getting better at diagnosing concussions, which rose 14% during the full 2022 season (regular and post) with a per-game rate roughly the same as it was a couple of years ago.
The rate of injury on onside kicks is an issue.
“We can’t leave it as is,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations. “We have a proposal on the fourth-and 15 (play). You can look at the XFL and USFL, but we don’t have the injury data to say that one works and one doesn’t work. But there is a college rule in place that may reduce that number. I think that’s the ultimate goal.”
The Eagles have made that proposal.
“I think it would warrant some good discussion (on) the floor,” Vincent said. “We could potentially be looking at anywhere 20 and 25% injury reduction. That’s significant. That’s kind of where we landed there.”
There are 16 other proposals and recommendations before the competition committee.
“We’re not going to give our positions on playing-rule proposals from the teams now,” said Rich McKay, Falcons president and competition committee chair. “We have to do it in the room first with them. Have them address our concerns or our support.”
The owners are also thinking about flexing Thursday night games later in the season with an eye toward improving the ratings with better matchups.
The league touts its progress in the diversity, equity and inclusion realm with seven team presidents of color, the most ever. Four were hired in the past year: Kevin Warren (Chicago); Damani Leech (Denver); Sashi Brown (Baltimore); and Sandra Douglass Morgan (Las Vegas).
The league has nine general managers of color, including Atlanta’s Terry Fontenot. Former Falcons executive Ran Carthon was hired as Tennessee’s general manager.
During the latest head-coach hiring cycle, every team with an open head coach/primary football executive position exceeded the Rooney Rule requirement of interviewing at least two external diverse candidates.
Of the five head-coach openings, one went to a Black candidate as Houston hired DeMeco Ryans.
Indianapolis (Shane Steichen) and Arizona (Jonathan Gannon) were also hired. Denver and Carolina went the retread route with Sean Payton and Frank Reich, respectively.
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