Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to: email@example.com
There's talk of moving Philadelphia's game at the Rams to Sunday Night Football. Who makes that decision and what goes into it?
Farmer: That would require "flexing" — or moving — the Dec. 10 game from an afternoon game on Fox to the only-show-in-town night game on NBC, and it's not a decision the NFL takes lightly. That's part of the answer: It's the NFL that ultimately makes the decision, although it listens to the input of the networks and the teams. At the end of the first month of the season, Fox and CBS, the networks that broadcast day games on Sundays, are each given the right to "protect" five games from being flexed. The NFL will do everything it can to honor those requests, although the league reserves the right to override said protections, as it did once for a game between Kansas City and Denver.
In theory, the point of flexing a game is not to give NBC the best game but to extricate it from a bad one. So it's essential to look at the Sunday night game currently scheduled for Dec. 10: Baltimore at Pittsburgh. That's typically an attractive rivalry game, although it's diminished this season with the Ravens (4-5) miles behind the Steelers (8-2) in the AFC North. Eagles-Rams showcases two NFC powerhouses and pits quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, the top two picks in the 2016 draft. Even though flexing isn't about getting the best game on NBC, this one might be too good to keep off primetime.
Because flexing changes the visiting team's travel schedule, not to mention that of fans traveling to the game, the NFL announces such decisions two weeks before kickoff.
Also: There are rumors swirling that USC has an agreement that bans NFL night games at the Coliseum, thereby precluding such a flex. That's not the case according to the NFL, Rams and Coliseum general manager Joe Furin.
How many former players, if any, have become NFL referees?
Farmer: It's rare, but does happen. Referee Steve Freeman played 13 seasons as a defensive back in Buffalo and Minnesota. Head linesman Phil McKinnely, a former UCLA tackle, played seven seasons with Atlanta, the Rams, and Chicago. Before them, there was umpire Ron Botchan, who played in the AFL for Houston and San Diego. Although umpires were repositioned to the offensive side of the ball for safety reasons, they used to stand around the linebackers. For Botchan, his playing instincts would kick in.
"They used to tell us to be like bullfighters and to avoid getting gored by the bull," Botchan said. "But when I first got in there, instead of taking a step backward, I'd step forward in an aggressive way like I was trying to make the tackle."