Football fans in Philadelphia and across the country won’t need the NFL Sunday Ticket to have more choices of games to watch this season.
As a test run, the league is experimenting with eliminating the “single-header rule,” which has been around since the 1966 NFL-AFL merger as a way to ensure home teams like the Eagles have broadcast exclusivity in their own market. Starting next season, every television market across the country — including Philadelphia — will be guaranteed to air three games on Sunday afternoon during the regular season: two at 1 p.m., one at 4:25 p.m.
The rule won’t be eliminated entirely — the NFL is capping the amount of times hometown teams will compete with other games at two weeks, unless a team agrees to relax the rule for more games. The league is approaching the change cautiously to make sure it doesn’t have a significant impact on a home team’s ticket sales or television ratings.
The change means that for the first time, fans across the region will have a choice to tune out the Eagles during 1 p.m. home games three possible times this season: Week 3 against the Detroit Lions, Week 5 against the New York Jets, and Week 9 against the Chicago Bears.
“What if the Eagles are up 21-0 at halftime? Fans might start turning off the TV,” Michael North, the NFL’s vice president of broadcasting, told the Inquirer. “Another game in the market is unlikely to impact Eagles ratings, but more football on TV [means] more fan friendliness.”
The tweak will be more impactful in markets with multiple teams, such as New York City, where fans were forced to watch every Giants and Jets home game despite the two teams combining for just nine wins last season.
In addition, the league is moving back the kickoff during the playoffs for its divisional round games, which will now start at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Previously, the games had mimicked the NFL’s regular season afternoon schedule, starting at 1:05 p.m. and 4:40 p.m. In addition to a boost in television ratings, the move offers the league more flexibility when it comes to scheduling west coast playoff teams.
Finally, the NFL is reducing the number of commercial breaks during the Super Bowl, starting with Super Bowl LIV in February 2020 on Fox. The move — which cuts the number of commercial breaks per quarter to four from five — is intended to eliminate interruptions to the flow of the game that fans have complained about for years. But don’t worry about Fox, CBS or NBC making less money in ad revenue — the total number of commercials that air during the Super Bowl will remain the same due to longer breaks.
On Tuesday, recently retired Eagles defender Chris Long opened up about using marijuana during his playing career, arguing that it’s time for the NFL to reform its views of the drug.
“We should be headed to a place where we allow players to enjoy what I would not even call a drug,” Long said on the Dan Patrick Show Tuesday. “It’s far less dangerous than guzzling a fifth of alcohol and going out after a game. Chances are the player won’t even make it to the club."
Long is well-known for his openness on Twitter, and didn’t hold back his criticism of how his comments were covered by national outlets like the New York Post and Complex. The Post went with the headline “Chris Long reveals longtime marijuana use, how he beat NFL tests," while Complex deleted a tweet that focused on how Long got away with using marijuana rather than his larger point — that the NFL’s testing is “arbitrary” and “silly,” and reform is overdue.
Long also said there appears to be a misunderstanding of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. As Long pointed out, the NFL only gives players drug tests once a year, while it randomly test players for performance enhancing drugs throughout the season. The only exception is when a player violates the substance-abuse policy, which then allows the NFL to randomly test the athlete as often as 10 times per month.
Of course, Long is far from the only former NFL player making the point. ESPN Radio host and former Eagles defensive lineman Mike Golic said the NFL “absolutely needs to look into pain management with marijuana” on Golic & Wingo Thursday morning. Retired offensive lineman and current SiriusXM NFL host Geoff Schwartz said he hopes the NFL eliminates the ban on marijuana entirely.
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