NFL teams set to reopen ticket offices and retail shops
On the same day NFL owners made some subtle changes to the pro game, the league prepared for Phase 2 of its reopening plan.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the 32 clubs Thursday rolling out plans for the second phase. Beginning Monday, franchises may reopen ticket offices, retail shops, and other customer-facing facilities, providing those operations comply with state and local regulations.
The Phase 1 rules are still in effect in that a maximum of 75 people can be in a facility at once, and no more than 50 percent of a club's staff. Players are not yet allowed to return, except those rehabilitating or receiving physical therapy, but Goodell said he expects coaches to be included next week among the employees allowed to return.
"As a league, and in partnership with the (NFL Players Association), we will continue to prepare and adjust when necessary," Goodell said Thursday in a conference call with media members. "This offseason has looked a lot different than it has in the past. But we're proud that key activities such as free agency, the league year, the offseason programs, and of course the draft demonstrated that we can operate in new and innovative ways."
Also Thursday, NFL owners shied away from making a quirky rules change, opting instead to table the discussion of creating an alternative to onside kicks. That proposal was to give teams the option to attempt a fourth and 15 from their 25.
Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said there was a spirited and in-depth conversation about the proposal, which was made by the Philadelphia Eagles and was similar to one proposed last year by the Denver Broncos.
"It was a good discussion," McKay said. "Rules like this take time. It took us a long time to change the extra point. There's a lot of things to talk through and that's what we did today."
Among the concerns about the fourth-and-15 proposal, a team conceivably could score a 75-yard touchdown on an untimed play.
"There's definitely that theory that, you don't want to make the comeback too easy," McKay said. "You don't want a rules change come in and say, 'We're going to come in and completely change the odds.' "
The owners, who convened via teleconference, approved four less conspicuous changes to the game:
– Automatic replay reviews have been expanded to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, as well as any successful or unsuccessful "try" attempt.
– Defenseless player protection will now include a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but has not had sufficient time to avoid or ward off impending contact with an opponent.
– Teams can no longer manipulate the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.
– The number of players who can return from injured reserve during the season has been increased from two to three.
Owners also approved a five-year extension of the Madden video-game franchise. The current contract with Electronic Arts was to expire after the 2021 season. EA Sports will continue to be the league's exclusive publisher of football simulation games through at least 2026.