Goodell: NFL to review practice of sitting starters

Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL will consider offering
incentives to teams playing late-season games to discourage them
from resting their starters for the playoffs.

Goodell said the league was sensitive to criticism of the
Indianapolis Colts’ decision to use backups a week ago in a game
they lost, ending their bid for a perfect season.

“It is something we’ll look at,” Goodell said Sunday. “We
heard the fans loud and clear. It’s something our competition
committee has looked at in the past, but we’re going to ask our
competition committee to look at it again in the future. We want
every game to be competitive.”

The league’s position has been that playoff-bound teams enjoy
the right to rest their starters to prepare for the postseason.
Goodell said he didn’t blame the Colts for their decision.

The commissioner spoke before the game between the Dolphins
and Steelers. Later, in an interview with CBS, Goodell said various
incentives to prevent teams from benching starters will be
considered.

Such incentives could include awarding draft choices.

“We are considering a lot of different things,” Goodell said
on CBS. “I don’t think you can punish them for not playing. The
other thing that has to happen is you have to make it clear to the
public that you are not going to be playing someone, like we do
with our injury reports.”

The Colts already had clinched home-field advantage
throughout the AFC playoffs when coach Jim Caldwell sat Peyton
Manning and other starters in the second half, and the Jets rallied
to win. NFL purists were upset the Colts didn’t go all-out with a
shot at a perfect season.

“We want to make sure the integrity of the NFL is first and
foremost in everyone’s mind, and try to find ways to make sure our
games are competitive at all points in the season, including the
preseason,” Goodell said.

Goodell was in Miami to take part in an 80th birthday
celebration for former Dolphins coach Don Shula, who won an NFL-
record 347 games and two Super Bowls.

“He’s an extraordinary guy,” Goodell said. “You don’t like to
define people in terms of numbers. But when you talk about 347, you
talk about two Super Bowls, and now he has added 80 to that list —
he’s a special guy to the NFL and we’re proud of everything he has
done.”