Welcome to kickoff weekend.
The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, wrote a letter to fans on Wednesday morning — the eve of the 2017 regular season opener. In it, he highlighted a variety of changes for the upcoming year, focused primarily on the pace of the game and overall fan experience.
Goodell focused on the following categories in particular:
The league is introducing the addition of full-time game officials to "enhance consistency between officials." Plus, the NFL will now make replay decisions under a centralized model in New York.
"Accuracy and consistency are imperative to the quality of the game," Goodell wrote. "...As part of this, the referee on field will continue to play an important role in the consultation process and will be aided by the use of a handheld Surface tablet."
Health and Safety:
Secondly, the commissioner discussed a number of changes to reduce the risk of injuries, especially to the head and neck. This year, teams will be introduced to a new helmet with "a soft outer shell designed to reduce impact forces" and will see enhanced Concussion Diagnosis and Management Protocol during game days.
This year fans will once again be treated to a variety of celebrations on field. "We heard from our players that they should be able to express themselves more on field," Goodell explained, "so we've relaxed our rules to allow players to have more fun after they make big plays."
Finally, in an effort to make the game "more engaging" the league will be implementing changes to the game's pace, minimizing the amount of unnecessary disruptions on field. Additionally, Goodell expressed his excitement at exploring new ways to deliver games to fans at home.
"We are excited to partner with Amazon on Thursday Night Football to better serve our fans and welcome those abroad in more than 200 countries and territories."
The NFL regular season kicks off tomorrow night as the Chiefs take on the Patriots. The Rams will open up their season at home on Sunday against the Colts.
To read the commissioner's full letter, click here.