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John Mara 'adamantly opposed' to Sunday to Thursday flex proposal

PHOENIX – NFL owners narrowly defeated a proposal that would have enabled late-season games to be flexed from Sunday to Thursday, an idea Giants president John Mara thinks is ludicrous. But the idea could be approved in two months at the next owners meeting.

"I am adamantly opposed to that," Mara said Tuesday in the lobby of the Arizona Biltmore, shortly after the owners voted on the measure in a session at the NFL Annual Meeting. "Flexible scheduling as it is is really inconsiderate to our season ticket holders who fill our stadiums every week. People have gotten used to going from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night. That doesn't mean that they like it. This year, we can be flexed to Monday night, which I think is really inconsiderate to our tickets holders. But to flex a game back to Thursday night is, to me, abusive, and I am adamantly opposed to it."

Regarding the vote, Mara said, "I don't want to get into what the numbers were. Let's just say it was close…Fortunately, it didn't get enough votes today, but it will probably be revisited in May."

Since 2006, the NFL has used flexible scheduling in an effort to get the best possible matchups for Sunday Night Football, the league's premier television window. Last season, flexible scheduling was used in Weeks 11-18. Additionally, in Weeks 5-10, flexible scheduling could be implemented in no more than two weeks.

For the first time this year, Sunday games can move to Monday night. Last year, the league's Thursday night package made its debut on Amazon. Some owners want the ability to move Sunday games to Thursday.

To Mara, that is an outlandish notion.

"At some point, can we please give some consideration to the people who are coming to the games?" he said. "I understand the ratings at the end of the year on Amazon were down a little bit. We probably had some bad matchups – let's pick better matchups."

The owners did approve a proposal that is no more palatable to Mara.

"The one compromise that was made was that you can now be asked to play two Thursday night games, which I'm not crazy about, either," he said. "I know the injury data has shown that playing one Thursday night game really doesn't increase the chances of injury. But now if you're going to get a second one, and it's going to be late in the season, when players' bodies are a little more beaten up than they were maybe earlier in the season, I think we need to look at that. I think it should have been vetted with the health and safety committee, it should have been vetted with the competition committee, and it wasn't." (Mara is a member of both committees.)

"They just try to push it through; it didn't pass today, fortunately. But I think it'll be revisited in May."

That is when the NFL's 2023 schedule will be released – which is not too late to implement Thursday night flex scheduling for this season.

"I guess they still could do it because you're going to flex games now," Mara said. "I guess they still could do it. We'll see what they come back with in May."

Mara was asked about probable backlash from players and coaches.

"Players don't like playing on Thursday nights," he said. "We get that. We've been doing it once a year. I think adding the second one is not going to be very popular.

"If they had done a poll of the 32 coaches, I think it would've been overwhelmingly against that, and the general managers as well. They don't get to cast those results."

Mara is also angry that the proposal was formally introduced on Thursday, just five days before the vote.

"That's another conversation," he said. "I just object to the entire thing. I understand T.V. ratings are important, and it was a challenge towards the end of the year last year, but there have got to be better solutions than this. People make plans to go to these games weeks and months in advance, and to say 15 days ahead of time, 'Sorry, folks. That game you were planning on taking your kids to on Sunday at one o'clock is now going to be Thursday night.'

"What are we thinking about?"


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