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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday confirmed the NFL Draft will be pushed back to May next year, but "other proposed changes to the sport's offseason calendar are not yet set," according to sources cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The Draft will move to May for at least one year, and Goodell said that the league would "decide in the next week or so" whether to hold it May 8-10 or May 15-17. Radio City Music Hall is starting an "annual spring event that conflicts with the draft." Goodell said that the league has not decided "whether to keep the draft in May beyond next year." He added that the league will "explore the possibility of returning the draft to April but holding it at another venue," possibly in a city other than N.Y. Maske cited an ESPN report as saying that free agency could "begin prior to the scouting combine" in '15 and '16. But a source said there is “no deal" between the NFL and the union on the matter. The source also "expressed the view that such an agreement is not particularly close." Another source said that there had been "no in-depth discussions on the issue" between Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith. Goodell said that the possibility of "modifying other offseason events remains under consideration." Maske noted Goodell "technically could change the dates of the draft without the union's consent." But Goodell said that he wants the entire process to "be done cooperatively" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/22). FOXSPORTS.com's Peter Schrager cited a source as saying that there could be a "new NFL offseason calendar by the end of this week" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/22).
CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote it is a "mistake to push the draft back to May." The "problem is going to affect the coaches more than the fans." NFL fans would "follow the draft if it were held in July." The "concern is preparation," as coaches would have "three fewer weeks to prepare rookies for training camp." Coaches "would have a little less than a month to coach up the rookies." Under the current rules, rookie minicamps "can be held during the first two weeks in May," so a May 15 Draft would "all but eliminate" them. Except for the "problems with Radio City Music Hall, nothing is broken with the offseason schedule." The combine toward the end of February is "working well because prospects are running their 40s and doing their workouts, limiting the need for coaches and scouts to travel across the country." Moving the combine back "could interfere with players being available for their pro days in college" (ESPN.com, 5/22). FOXSPORTS.com's Schrager wrote any long-term calendar moves would "seriously alter the way football fans follow the game year-round." It also would "impact the way rosters and teams are constructed and the business of football is conducted." Schrager: "In an age when the desire for NFL news is a 24-7 craving and there’s an insatiable interest in the game, extending the pre-draft period should be celebrated" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/22).
18-GAME SCHEDULE COMING? Meanwhile, Goodell on Tuesday said that an 18-game regular season "remains a possibility in the future." Goodell: "I think the structure of the season is something that we consistently reevaluate. I have been quite open about (indicating that) we have to address the quality of the preseason. I hear from fans consistently that they want to make every NFL event more valuable. They see the preseason as being less valuable to them because they don’t see the best players and the games do not count" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 5/22).
PLIGHT OF THE JUMBOTRON: In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes, "Football’s blessing is becoming its curse. It’s a beautiful game on TV, and TV is only getting better." So the NFL's solution is to "bring TV into the stadium." It is possible the "next generation of football fans will attend the game and not see it." Daugherty: "If you can’t watch the game on TV when you’re at the stadium, what’s the point? Attending in person means nothing without your personal stash of quality electronics" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/23).
Golfer Lee Westwood recently said that the European Tour "has to consult its top players and work with the PGA Tour to stay viable," according to Alistair Tait of GOLFWEEK. Westwood, who is from the U.K., said that there "aren’t enough clusters of tournaments to attract Europe’s top stars to stay in Europe." This week’s BMW PGA Championship is the "only European Tour event in England this year," while 10 years ago there were five. There are more tournaments "outside Europe this year than there are in Europe, 26 versus 20." South Africa has "six tournaments alone." Westwood wants to see European Tour CEO George O’Grady "consult more with Europe’s top players when he sets the schedule." Westwood: "There’s got to be more dialogue between the top players or the players that play elsewhere and the European Tour. There’s no point in putting big tournaments on when the top players can’t attend." He added, “You don’t sell your tournaments on a person that’s 110th on the money list. You sell your tournament to sponsors on being able to attract top-50 players. So you’ve got to discuss the scheduling with those players. It makes sense.” Westwood "wants to see Europe do more to attract and keep its star players in Europe." He said that the "key is more big events in a row and working with the PGA Tour" (GOLFWEEK.com, 5/22).