Player safety, schedule flexing addressed at NFL owners meeting

PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed several topics Tuesday, including player safety and schedule flexing, at the end of the league’s annual meetings.

The primary focus of the player safety discussion centered on the use of the guardian cap, the protective gear that fits over helmets. Offensive and defensive lineman, linebackers and tight ends used the cap during the 2022 preseason and concussions were down 52 percent when compared to the previous three-year average of the same groups, according to Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications.

Running backs and fullbacks will wear the guardian caps during the 2023 exhibition and all players will be required to wear the cap during regular-season contact practices.

The league’s plan to move to a flexible scheduling model for Thursday night games - which isn’t popular among many players - did not pass, but could come up for a vote again during the spring meetings in May. Giants owner John Mara called the plan “abusive” according to NFL Network.

“We have always been looking at the data with respect to injuries and the impact on players,” Goodell said. “That’s what drove our decisions throughout the first 12 or so years of ‘Thursday Night Football’ and how it’s evolved.”

More notes from the meeting:

Roughing the passer: One of the most bizarre calls from last season which involved Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady will remain in the hands of the on-field officials -- and will not be reviewable by a replay official.

The roughing the passer rule will remain the same. The 32 teams did not adopt a proposal from the Los Angeles Rams that would have allowed coaches to ask for a replay booth review of the controversial call.

While the league has tried to better protect the quarterbacks, good clean tackles – like Jarrett’s vs. Brady – have been flagged. In 2019, the league tried to use replay for defensive pass interference and that was not successful. The rule was reversed in 2020.

“There are a lot of issues that go into it,” said Rich McKay, the NFL’s competition committee chairman who is also the chief executive officer of the Falcons. “It is a dramatic and almost drastic change of officiating, taking it from the field, up to the booth. It wasn’t a long discussion and then we voted and it did not pass.”

Agent zero: Anyone other than offensive and defensive linemen have a new choice when selecting jersey numbers – zero.

Offensive linemen remain limited to numbers between 50 and 79 while defensive linemen can wear numbers from 50-79 or 90-99. Former Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley, who was traded to the Jaguars, plans to wear 0.

Trotter’s contact not renewed: Former NFL Media reporter Jim Trotter announced on social media that his contract would not be renewed.

At the past two Super Bowls, Trotter, a highly respected and award-winning columnist, asked Goodell about the league’s lack of diversity throughout the league. Goodell contended that Trotter’s line of questions had nothing to do with employment status.

“No, I don’t believe that had anything to do with it,” said Goodell. “I wasn’t a part of that decision.”