Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks through the crowd during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Goodell resurfaces potential 18-game season at NFL meetings

At the NFL annual spring meeting in Nashville, commissioner Roger Goodell resurfaced the idea of playing 18 games.

Goodell closed the three-day rules and planning session Wednesday with another round of discussion about the potential of an 18-game regular season. The NFL season as constituted is 18 weeks with one bye week and 17 games for all 32 teams.

But Goodell shared at the draft last month his thoughts on expanding to 18 regular-season games, trimming the preseason from three games to two and shaping the calendar to play the Super Bowl in February on the Sunday before Presidents Day — a no-school, no-work Monday holiday for some — to shift Super Bowl Sunday closer to holiday status.

“Moving to quality and making sure that we’re doing everything possible to give the fans what they want,” Goodell said in a detailed answer to how the topic came up and its focus.

There is a considerable bridge to cross to make it all happen, Goodell admitted Wednesday.

“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. … That’s No. 1.

“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.”

No existing committee is pushing the potential plan for 18 games per season forward. Goodell said he first broached the topic as a reaction to playing the Super Bowl on a Saturday night.

“I wasn’t floating something we were actively thinking about. It is something that we think about in long-term context,” he said.

On another subject, Goodell said he hasn’t received an update on internal tampering investigations related to the Eagles signing Saquon Barkley or the Falcons landing Kirk Cousins.

But the NFL is planning to finalize a plan toward establishing rules around private equity of a franchise by the end of 2024.

“I think it’s fair to say that they agree with the direction that we’re going,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Apr 25, 2024; Detroit, MI, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks through the crowd during the 2024 NFL Draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh to host 2026 NFL Draft

Pittsburgh will host the 2026 NFL Draft, the league announced Wednesday at its spring league meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

“The NFL Draft is one of the biggest, most-anticipated sporting events of the year, and we’re thrilled to partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers and VisitPITTSBURGH for our 2026 event,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We have a unique opportunity to spotlight this wonderful community on a global stage, benefiting Pittsburgh’s economy and entertaining football fans from all markets. We know this pride of Pennsylvania will shine bright in 2026.”

Pittsburgh will serve as the 10th NFL city to host the draft since it moved from New York in 2015. The 2025 NFL Draft will be held in Green Bay, Wis.

The 2024 draft, held last month in Detroit, drew a record crowd estimated at 775,000 over the three-day event.

“We are excited that the City of Pittsburgh has been selected to host the 2026 NFL Draft,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said. “This will be an amazing event that will highlight everything the region has to offer on a national and international level. … We look forward to football fans from all across the country coming to enjoy our city’s culture while also showcasing our rich football history and tradition in the region.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Charlottesville, Virginia, USA; A detailed view of the ACC logo on the down marker used during the game between William & Mary Tribe and the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Report: ACC teams up with Big 12 in House vs. NCAA case

The Atlantic Coast Conference will be working alongside the Big 12 in House v. NCAA, and it will vote to settle that case in addition to other antitrust cases related to it, ESPN reported Tuesday.

A settlement is expected to pass, which would create a framework that would allow schools to give millions of dollars to athletes in the future. Former athletes who couldn’t sign Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals would also have access to a fund of over $2.7 billion.

There will be four more votes this week, with three coming from Power Five conferences and the other coming from the NCAA board of governors.

Presidents of ACC schools voted in-person in Charlotte on Tuesday, the same day that presidents and chancellors of Big 12 universities met virtually to vote. Texas and Oklahoma, the departing members of the Big 12, stayed away from that vote, which resulted in unanimous approval.

ESPN’s report indicated that conferences are putting forth little resistance to the settlement, and the NCAA is also in the same boat.

The Pac-12 will be voting as a 12-team conference, the way it was when the House v. NCAA case was filed.

As part of the settlement, the NCAA would have to pay over $2.7 billion in back damages over a decade. About $1.6 billion of that won’t be given to the schools.

Schools are trying to settle to avoid things spiraling further out of control in the future, something that legal experts foresee happening because of the NCAA’s poor track record in court cases, per ESPN’s report.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams (23) scores a rushing touchdown during the second half in front of New York Giants safety Dane Belton (24) at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Rams RB Kyren Williams (foot) missing OTAs

Though his coach insisted there was “nothing to worry about,” Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams will miss voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) with a foot issue.

Coach Sean McVay said Williams will return in time for training camp.

“He’ll be ready to go for training camp, but there’s a little issue when he was training,” McVay told reporters “And (I’ll) kind of just leave it at that. But nothing to be concerned about.”

Williams broke his foot during 2022 OTAs and missed seven weeks near the beginning of his rookie campaign. Then, he missed four games in the middle of last season with an ankle injury and also sat out Week 18 when many starters rested.

That didn’t stop him from ranking third in the NFL in rushing, as Williams put up 1,144 yards and 12 touchdowns on 228 attempts despite playing just 12 games (11 starts).

Williams, 23, figures to be the Rams’ No. 1 running back again in 2024, though the team drafted Michigan’s Blake Corum in the third round.

“(Williams) is doing an excellent job physically, feeling really good,” McVay said. “He’ll be ready to roll and be a consistent producer for us this year.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA;  General view of the Big 12 logo on the field at TDECU Stadium before the game between the Houston Cougars and the Texas Longhorns. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Big 12 first to agree to House v. NCAA settlement

The presidents and chancellors of the Big 12 Conference voted unanimously to authorize the settlement of House v. NCAA, Yahoo Sports and ESPN reported Tuesday.

The Big 12 is the first power conference to take that step, with the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC expected to join it in the coming days.

If and when the settlement is approved, athletes will be given a much larger share of the pie of college sports revenue. According to the reports, one of the chief features of the settlement is a fund of nearly $2.8 billion in back damages for former college athletes who were not allowed to capitalize on their name, image and likeness (NIL) rights before 2021.

The NCAA would pay those damages out over 10 years and about 60 percent of it will come from payments withheld by the NCAA to member schools, according to Yahoo.

The settlement also would establish a revenue-sharing model, likely in the fall of 2025, that forever changes how college athletes can make money. The cap would equal 22 percent of the average of a power conference school’s media rights, ticket sales and sponsorship income, Yahoo reported.

The third major change the settlement would bring roster limits to power-conference sports.

The power conferences believe settling House vs. NCAA is the right decision in order to avoid being on the hook for an even larger number in damages in the future, reports said.

The move is not universally popular. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman told member schools of her “strong objection” to the settlement proposal in an email this weekend, Yahoo reported. At issue was how much the Big East, a non-football playing school, would be responsible for in back damages when the FBS conferences’ liability is “disproportionately high.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 8, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws a fourth quarter pass under pressure from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Alex Highsmith (56)  at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 29-27. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers’ Justin Fields ‘definitely competing’ to be QB1

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Justin Fields credits Bears general manager Ryan Poles for staying true to a promise by trading the former first-round pick to his preferred destination.

Fields landed in Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional sixth-round pick as potential competition for Russell Wilson after the Bears decided to use the No. 1 overall pick to select USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Once that decision crystallized for Chicago, Poles personally committed to “doing right by Justin Fields.”

“Shoutout to Poles,” Fields said Tuesday after organized team activities with the Steelers. “We communicated to him through my agent, and I told him where I wanted to be and this was a place I wanted to be, so he honored that and I appreciate him for that. Nothing but love for the city, the fans, my teammates and coaches.”

If Fields plays more than 51 percent of the total snaps for the Steelers in 2024, Chicago’s draft compensation in return is upgraded to a fourth-round pick.

They cleared the depth chart in a matter of weeks, dealing former starter Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles and allowing Mason Rudolph to join the Tennessee Titans in free agency.

Fields, the No. 11 pick in the 2021 draft, had 40 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in three seasons with the Bears.

It’s also a fresh start for Wilson, who enters Year 13 with something to prove. He signed with the Steelers after being released by the Broncos despite a total cap hit of more than $80 million.

Fields said he’s grateful to be in Pittsburgh and declined to answer whether the Bears did everything they could to facilitate his growth on the field.

“It is what it is. That’s in the past,” Fields said.

As for his next chapter with the Steelers, Fields said his intentions are clear inside the building.

“I’m definitely competing. Russ knows that,” Fields said. “We’re competing against each other every day. I definitely don’t have the mindset of me just sitting every day. I’m pushing him to be his best and he’s pushing me to be my best each and every day.”

Fields said he’s not the same quarterback he was last year.

“I have a lot more room to grow,” Fields said. “I’m going to continue to get better each and every day. I’m nowhere near my ceiling.”

–Field Level Media

Feb 8, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen on the Pac McAfee show on radio row at the Super Bowl 58 media center at the Mandalay Bay resort and casino. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bills QB Josh Allen celebrates 28th birthday with WR intros

Bills quarterback Josh Allen celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday by slinging passes to supporting cast members and introducing himself to new wide receivers.

Buffalo enters the seventh season with Allen under center with a number of changes in the program, specifically the wide receiver depth chart. Gabe Davis left in free agency and Stefon Diggs was traded to the Houston Texans.

Allen has passed for 22,703 yards with 167 touchdowns in his career while embracing becoming the face of the franchise. When the Bills flipped a considerable portion of the roster in the offseason — in part due to Allen’s market-aligned pay consuming 22.4 percent of the salary cap — head coach Sean McDermott challenged Allen to dig further into a leadership role.

“Tremendously impressed, proud,” McDermott said of Allen’s growth. “The type of person he is. The type of character he possesses. The things that he is — like most franchise quarterbacks probably — has to do, beyond the field. And how he handles those things, to me, that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Signed as a free agent after winning two Super Bowls with the Chiefs, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is still getting to know Allen. But his initial takeaway had nothing to do with Allen’s rocket launcher for a throwing arm.

“Josh is normal,” Valdes-Scantling said. “One of the best quarterbacks in the league might have an ego. But the best thing is, Josh is a normal dude.”

The Bills also added Keon Coleman with the No. 33 pick in the draft, giving Allen a pair of 6-foot-4 targets to help ease the loss of the reliable Diggs. Allen said he can sense Coleman has plenty of tools to work with before he ever takes the field.

“He can move and he can jump,” Allen said.

Allen said the 29-year-old Valdes-Scantling and fellow veteran newcomer Curtis Samuel are very good leaders in the wide receiver room and Coleman has shown the willingness to study and learn.

“It’s a fun process to get to know some of these guys on and off the field. Get to know their body language, where and how to throw the football. That’s the fun part,” Allen said.

–Field Level Media

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) participates at training camp at Baptist Health Training Complex, Sunday, July 30, 2023 in Miami Gardens.

Dolphins stress communication with absent QB Tua Tagovailoa

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel can deal with an occasional absence from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, even during negotiations toward a long-term contract extension.

Tagovailoa was excused from Tuesday’s team workout after attending Monday. He played in former Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s annual charity golf tournament, a date previously cleared by the Dolphins.

“I think what’s important in the player-coach relationship is communication,” McDaniel said after noting Tagovailoa doesn’t have perfect attendance and has “been here and not been here,” during OTAs.

“I think however things play out, as long as we’re communicating and we’re on our P’s and Q’s in what we need to get accomplished, then we have a fighting chance. It’s been a good exercise in our relationship this offseason.”

This is the final season on the rookie deal Tagovailoa signed, a fifth-year team option worth $23.1 million. But the going rate for plus starters in the NFL is more than double that rate annually.

McDaniel said Tuesday he wouldn’t speak for Tagovailoa regarding specific reasons or rationale behind other absences.

The Dolphins drafted Tagovailoa fifth overall in 2020 and he led the NFL with 4,624 passing yards in 2023. He also tallied 29 touchdown passes and largely stayed healthy. For the first time in his pro career, he played all 17 games in the regular season after concussions impacted his 2022 season.

Last summer, Tagovailoa dedicated himself to martial arts in an effort to promote safer landings — thus avoiding head injuries from helmet-to-turf contact. This offseason is all about getting cut, improving agility and being more of a threat outside of the pocket.

McDaniel said Tagovailoa, 26, is down “10 to 15 pounds.”

“The results speak for themselves,” McDaniel said. “He’s svelte.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA;  Houston Texans wide receiver Tank Dell (3) jumps in the stands and celebrates his touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Recovered from injury and gunshot, Texans WR Tank Dell at OTAs

Houston Texans wide receiver Tank Dell took part in the team’s OTAs on Tuesday, less than a month after he suffered a minor wound in a shooting in Sanford, Fla.

In the incident, Dell, 24, was shot in the leg and hospitalized briefly.

Dell was one of 10 people wounded in a shooting outside of a nightclub, according to media reports from Florida. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said none of the victims’ injuries were life-threatening. A 16-year-old was arrested and charged with attempted homicide and other charges.

“Happy for Tank to get back out there. He went through a very tragic situation,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans told reporters Tuesday. “We’re just happy that he’s here, happy that he’s back out being able to do what he loves doing and that’s playing football. It’s fun to see him running around. Being that same player he’s been before, making plays and being a dynamic player for us. Everyone is excited to see Tank.”

The Texans selected Dell in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and he went on to have a strong rookie season with 47 receptions for 709 yards and seven touchdowns over his first 11 games (eight starts). He suffered a broken leg early in a Week 12 game against Denver and missed the rest of the season.

–Field Level Media

ASU quarterback Jaden Rashada (5) throws a pass during a spring practice at the Kajikawa practice fields in Tempe on April 16, 2024.

Jaden Rashada sues Florida’s Billy Napier over NIL deal

Former Florida recruit Jaden Rashada is suing Gators football coach Billy Napier and a prominent booster over a $13.85 million name, image and likeness deal that went awry.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida alleges that they made “false and fraudulent promises” to induce Rashada to sign with the program in 2022.

Rashada initially committed to the University of Miami, where he reportedly had a $9.5 million NIL deal on the table. He flipped to Florida after agreeing to a $13.85 million deal with the now-defunct Gator Collective.

The lawsuit claims that Napier promised a $1 million “partial payment” to Rashada’s father when the quarterback prospect signed his national letter of intent, but that the payment never was received.

“As the first scholar-athlete to take a stand against such egregious behavior by adults who should know better, Jaden seeks to hold Defendants accountable for their actions and to expose the unchecked abuse of power that they shamelessly wielded,” states the lawsuit, according to a copy obtained by USA Today.

Florida booster Hugh Hathcock and a former Florida staffer, Marcus Castro-Walker, are named in the lawsuit along with Napier.

“Once Jaden committed to UF, rather than make Jaden ‘rich’ as promised, these people — with Hathcock leading the charge — changed their tune and went back on their word. The amount of UF-affiliated NIL money available for Jaden decreased drastically,” the lawsuit states.

Florida athletic department spokesman Steve McClain issued a statement on Tuesday.

“We do not comment on ongoing litigation, and neither the University Athletic Association nor the University are named in the complaint. The UAA will provide for Coach Napier’s personal counsel, and we will direct all questions to those representatives,” read the statement.

Rashada ended up withdrawing his letter of intent with Florida and enrolled at Arizona State. He appeared in three games for the Sun Devils as a freshman in 2023, passing for 485 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

He transferred from Arizona State to Georgia for the upcoming 2024 season and has four years of eligibility remaining.

–Field Level Media