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Roger Goodell addresses potential 18-game schedule, private equity in ownership at Spring League Meeting

Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday addressed the possibility of an 18-game regular-season schedule in the future and the prospect of private equity in ownership among other topics at the conclusion of the Spring League Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

A potential 18-game regular season became a topic after Goodell offered on The Pat McAfee Show a scenario in which teams played 18 regular-season games (up one from the current 17-game game slate) with two preseason games and a Super Bowl scheduled during President's Day weekend.

Goodell told reporters on Wednesday that his comments made during the 2024 NFL Draft were not an effort to float an 18-game schedule, though he acknowledged it is something the league considers as part of its long-range plans.

Goodell said that among the factors that the league considers regarding an 18-game schedule, which would have to be agreed to by the NFL Players Association, is player health and quality of the game.

"The key thing for us is looking at making sure we continue to do the things that make our game safer," Goodell said. "Seventeen games is a long season, so we want to make sure we look at that and make sure that we continue the safety efforts."

Goodell added: "Working with our players association is No. 2. We would reach an agreement with them if we're going to proceed on that. But also, third, and this is not necessarily in order, is the quality of our game. We would do it in the context of reducing the number of preseason games. We think that's a good trade: less preseason games and more regular-season games. I think most anybody would think that was beneficial. But again those other two factors are important."

The issue of allowing private equity into team ownership was another key topic discussed during the two-day meeting. While ownership did not vote on the matter, Goodell told reporters that he expects there to be something in place by the end of the year.

"We're being very thoughtful and deliberate," Goodell said. "The (finance) committee is working it pretty hard. We've got a lot of interest in the private equity space. ... We are making real progress on potential private equity. We're going to continue to be very deliberate, but I expect there to be something by the end of the year."

The issue of permitting private equity in ownership has become more prominent as the value of NFL franchises continues to rise. The Washington Commanders sold last year for a league-record price of $6.05 billion, which was an increase from the Denver Broncos' $4.65 billion sale price in 2022.

Goodell confirmed on Wednesday that ownership agreed during the Spring League Meeting to raise the debt limit for franchise acquisition to $1.4 billion (an increase of $200 million from the previous limit).

"I think it's fair to say that they agree with the direction that we're going," Goodell said regarding ownership's view on private equity. "The committee has worked incredibly hard, and I think they have a great appreciation for that, and have great confidence in their work."

Goodell also was asked on Wednesday about the status of future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady's ownership stake in the Las Vegas Raiders. Brady, who retired following the 2022 season, has been working toward an ownership stake in the franchise for the past year, but he encountered issues regarding the valuation of his stake and his status as a broadcaster for FOX Sports, which often entails access and meetings with teams in the lead up to game day.

Goodell said that "progress is being made" on the Brady front and that "we have a little more work to do."

Additionally, Goodell was asked about the status of the league's investigation into potential tampering by the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles with their respective signings of Kirk Cousins and Saquon Barkley during free agency.

Goodell said that he had not received an update on either review.

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