Jerry Jones Acknowledges Talks Have Taken Place Regarding More NFL Thursday Games
Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones said the NFL is discussing playing two games on Thursday nights, though nothing is imminent. That contradicts statements from NFL PR execs, who on Tuesday shot down a story in the Wall Street Journal quoting a source saying the NFL was considering a Thursday night doubleheader. In an interview Thursday at his team’s HQs, Jones, who also chairs the NFL Network Committee, replied affirmatively to a question about whether the NFL was discussing the doubleheader concept. He said, “We could easily have a doubleheader on Thursday. I don’t think that is out of the realm of thought, we haven’t set up how we will do it.” When asked if a second Thursday night game would also air on NFL Network or elsewhere, he said all options are open. Currently 15 Thursday games air in separate weeks on NFL Network. Asked when a doubleheader could occur, Jones replied, “Easily within the timeframe of our current television contracts,” which run through ’21. Jones also said the NFLPA would have no say in whether the NFL moves another Sunday afternoon game to Thursday night. The union has to agree whether the schedule expands from 16 games, he said, but not how those current 16 games are scheduled. Like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has contended, Jones believes there is no evidence of higher injuries with Thursday night games. However, many players have criticized the NFL’s commitment to safety for scheduling games on such short rest (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). Eagles President Don Smolenski also chimed in, saying, "There's interest in making Thursday night another destination night for football. So I think it’s something the league is looking at and you may see more games on Thursday in the future" ("Squawk On The Street," CNBC, 10/18).
IS THERE ENOUGH INTEREST? The Wall Street Journal's Matthew Futterman, who co-wrote the original story about additional Thursday night games, said, "This is a league that denied any connection between long-term health effects of concussions and football for 20 years, so you have to take their denials with a grain of salt." He noted the NFL "is not so pleased with the performance of those Thursday night games." Futterman: "This is a league that sort of has taken over Sunday night, taken over Monday night and then you have these Thursday night games that are sort of off on an island where they receive a lot of excitement in the markets where the teams are participating, but not so much elsewhere in the rest of the country." Futterman said in an attempt to increase ratings, "the idea is to create this as another sort of 'Football Night In America,' sort of destination viewing." The problem is that the league does not have a "critical mass of people across the nation who are interested in NFL football on Thursday night." He added the "traditional partners and the traditional sort of cable companies that do show sports" could be interested in acquiring a Thursday night package. Futterman: "The NFL, which really wants to see itself and wants other people to see it as a cutting edge business, would like to have potentially some sort of non-traditional programmer to gather that new generation of fans. Maybe somebody who is going to stream these games online, some partner like Netflix or maybe down the road YouTube, people like that. It doesn't have to be a traditional television partner" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN2, 10/16).