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Goodell refuses to rule out 2014 NFL playoff expansion

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL American football league, has said the prospect of expanding the playoffs for the forthcoming season has not ended, despite team owners declining to vote on the issue at the latest league meetings.

Speaking in January, Goodell revealed that the NFL is “seriously considering” expanding its playoffs by adding two more teams in both the AFC and NFC conference post-season schedules.

Goodell has been seeking an 18-game regular season schedule, up from the current 16 games, since before the signing of the last collective bargaining agreement in 2011. He has encountered opposition from players and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), but the league and team owners are said to hope the prospect of expanding the current 12-team post-season playoffs may be more attractive.

Following this week’s owners meetings, Goodell said: “It (playoff expansion) is not out of the question, but we did not make that decision at all. We have more work to do. I wouldn't rule it out but that's not the direction we are headed right now.” He added, according to USA Today Sports: “We had a good discussion on the floor with owners and other executives this week. I think there is a tremendous amount of interest in it, possibly even to the point of support. But there are things we still need to make sure we do right.”

Goodell’s comments come after newly-elected NFLPA president Eric Winston last week stated that any bid by the league to expand its season would be “dead in the water” during his time in the role. USA Today said the potential addition of two more playoff teams will be discussed with the NFLPA at a meeting on April 8, while talks will be held with the league’s broadcast partners for playoff games ahead of the next set of league meetings in May. “We have been very incremental in this, and we believe competitively it could make our races toward the end of the year even more exciting, with more teams vying for playoff position,” Goodell added. “We still want to do some additional work.”

In other news, Goodell said the future of the Buffalo Bills franchise is not an immediate priority for the league. The team’s founder and owner Ralph Wilson passed away at the age of 95 earlier this week, raising more speculation over its long-term direction. The Bills’ current lease in Buffalo, approved by NFL owners last year, extends through 2023. The lease is said to have a $28m (€20.3m) buyout after the 2019 season. “We know they have a lease,” Goodell said. “We know the terms of that lease, and we know we have to find a long-term solution to keep the Bills there, and that is what we'll work to do. But that's not our priority now, in the next few days.”

The Bills are one of a number of teams that have been linked with a move to Los Angeles in recent years. Goodell said the league continues to consider options that could result in a franchise playing in the city, which has been without a team since it lost the Raiders franchise in 1995. However, he said there are no immediate plans to put a team there.

The commissioner added: “If we had the right opportunity to be back in Los Angeles with the right formula, meaning a stadium most importantly, we know the fans want a team there. We would love to do that, but it has to be successful. We're going to do it right if we're going to do it. There are different proposals that are out there, and different opportunities, but not one that we're focused on as, 'This is the right solution.'”