The proliferation of high-scoring offenses and nail-biting finishes has been a hit with fans, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters Wednesday at the conclusion of the Fall League Meeting in New York.
A total of 504 touchdowns and 4,489 points have been scored this season -- the most in league history through six weeks, per NFL Research. In addition, 54 games have been decided by one score, tied with the 1999 season for most through Week 6, and 12 games have been won on the final play.
"We see so many great young players establish in themselves very quickly as great players, and the excitement that comes from that," Goodell said. "You see all the fans metrics follow that very quickly. And they are all up and very strong and showing tremendous growth, and I think that is a reflection of the game itself and our players and the work of our coaches."
"I don't think there has been a better time to be an NFL fan. The quality of the games and the enjoyment that comes from that, I hear that from fans all the time, is No. 1 for that."
The strong on-field parity through the first third of the season coupled with the overall response from fans has helped ease concerns over how the league's new safety rules would affect gameplay. Rules banning the lowering of the helmet on hits in conjunction with changes on kickoffs and hits on defenseless players have made a positive impact on player safety, Goodell said.
Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, told reporters Tuesday that concussions decreased from 91 in the 2017 preseason to 79 this past preseason. In addition, NFL officials called 53 roughing the passer penalties through Week 6, a sharp increase over the 38 they called in 2017 over the same period.
Goodell said maintaining consistency in all calls remains one of the most critical aspects associated with the new rule changes.
"I think there was a very strong view with the competition committee as well as all of us [owners], and I believe the ownership feels, listen, they always want consistency in officiating, but you're going to have calls that aren't always going to be clear, you want to have multiple angles and slow motion -- those are things that get debated," Goodell said. "But I think the focus of trying to protect defenseless players, and that includes quarterbacks, is something that is very important and there is a strong commitment to do that.
"We want to make sure officials see the entire play, we want to make sure defensive players are implementing the techniques we've identified to try to move to the side, to try to brace themselves so they are not putting the quarterbacks in harm's way. Those are the things that we focused on and I think there's been a great adjustment and you're seeing the impact."
Here are some other topics Goodell touched on Wednesday:
- Enforcement of the NFL's national anthem policy remains on hold amid ongoing talks with the NFL Players Association, but Goodell says the league and its teams remain committed to addressing social issues important to players.
"The focus is on the efforts that our players continually brought is their issues on their communities and how they can make their communities better," Goodell said. "They have been incredibly passionate on that. They have brought these issues greater awareness, and they are working in their communities to try to make their communities better."
"Frankly, we were out of the [L.A.] market for a long time, and we have to earn our way back with our fans," Goodell said. "We have to build that relationship back with our fans, and make sure we do it right. And I think both teams are committed to that. It will be something that we have to work at over a period of time. They both have very excited young teams and I think that will be helpful also. But I think all of those of things will come together, but over the next two years there is some work that needs to be done."
"It is extraordinary," Goodell said about the stadium. It's going to set a new standard for stadiums, I think, on a global basis. I'm confident it will be not only the best stadium, but also the best complex in the world. And that excitement is going to build as we get closer -- we'll still two years away."
- Goodell said the owners did not talk about the Seattle Seahawks' ownership situation in the wake of Paul Allen's death out of respect to Allen's family and the team. Allen died on Monday of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 65. Allen never married and had no children. "At the appropriate time those things will be discussed," Goodell said.
- Goodell also said owners didn't talk about where the Oakland Raiders might play next season. The team remains in negotiations with the city to play at the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum next year.