Prime time no longer special

St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first half of...

St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens runs the ball in for a touchdown during the first half of their NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in St. Louis, Missouri, January 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Sarah Conard)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

Once upon a time, playing in prime time meant you were an elite team.

Once upon a time, playing in prime time meant you would be praised by the great Howard Cosell and serenaded by the off-key warbling of Dandy Don Merideth, who would bust out into a verse of Turn out the lights, the party’s over whenever a winner seemed to be a lock with the clock ticking down.

Once upon a time, playing in prime time meant you were one of the special few who would take the field knowing most other players in the league were at home watching you.

My, how times have changed.

What once was viewed as a privilege by NFL teams now has become commonplace. Indeed, playing in prime time has digressed from being one of the chosen few to being a member of the general populous.

During his annual state-of-the-league news conference on Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced that, during the coming 2012 season, every NFL team will make at least one appearance in prime time.

Thanks Commish. Fans surely can’t wait for that much ballyhooed Rams-Bucs tilt to fill that three-hour void in their Thursday-night lives.

First came the iconic Monday Night Football. Then, a few years ago, NBC followed with its Football Night In America broadcast on Sunday nights. And, of course, in 2006, the NFL Network started running a handful of Thursday night games.

Now, get set for a whole lot more.

Thursday Night Football games will be played from Weeks 2 to Week 15 next season, increasing the number of contests broadcast on the NFL Network from eight to 13.

“This will result in every team appearing in Thursday football games and every team having a prime-time appearance throughout the season,” Goodell said.

The Commish said the new format is a win-win proposition for everyone.

“We think it’s great for the fans,” Goodell said. “We think it’s great for the teams because everyone will get that prime-time exposure, and we think it’s great for the network.

“The network continues to do an incredible job of promoting our sport, our game, and giving the fans an opportunity, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to get NFL football. They’ve shown how much they want to see football.”

One problem still lingers: Some cable carriers in certain markets still do not offer the NFL Network.

Once all is said and done, we just have the one following question for The Commish.

“They still are going to play games on Sunday, aren’t they Mr Goddell?”

Peyton’s Place

Normally a Peyton Manning update would be used as the lead item in this column.

Been there, done that.

Fact is, there has been far too much said this past week in this seemingly endless soap opera. Enough already.

Call us when Manning is ready to throw his first meaningful pass. Or, in a worse case scenario, give us a ring when he is ready to pass on returning to football because his neck can’t properly heal.

After Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay volleyed barbs back at each other the past week or so, the team attempted to show all grudges had been buried by issuing a statement on Friday.

“Peyton Manning, Jim Irsay and the entire Colts family remain close and unified as we continue to work through all the options that relate to his future with the Colts,” the statement said. “The present focus is on the Super Bowl and the great game that awaits.”

The statement included a photo of Manning standing with Goodell and Irsay taken at a bash hosted by the Colts on Thursday.

“A good time was had by all at the Colts party Thursday night,” the statement said.

The releasing of the statement completed a bizarre 24-hour span that kicked off Thursday when Manning’s surgeon, Dr. Robert Watkins Sr., issued his own statement indicating that Manning had been “medically cleared to play professional football.”

Irsay responded by tweeting that “Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts.” Team statement coming on Friday.”

For the record, Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, tried to clarify things by telling the NFL Network that the future Hall of Fame quarterback: “Certainly expects to return to play, and he wants to play; he’s enthusiastic about it.”

One favour, guys: Can we take a break over the weekend like most soap operas do?

Extra Point

Appearing on NBC’s

Sportstalk on Friday, Bills wideout Stevie Johnson claimed he did his controversial end zone celebrations during the season “to get my name out there.” At least he’s honest. Johnson added that those tactics are over. We’ll see.


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