Here Are the Big Themes to Look for in the Next N.F.L. Season

From the Super Bowl to the scouting combine in a few weeks to the start of free agency in March and the draft in April and the preparation for the new season a few months after that,

the drumbeat of attraction and attention never seems to stop. With the 2022 season in the books,

with a thrilling victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl,

here are some of the issues that will be the talk of the N.F.L. even before the next season starts on Sept. 7.

The post-Brady, Mahomes era Assuming Tom Brady really has retired after 23 seasons, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be the most recognizable player in the league. 

His leading his team to a second-half, comeback win over the Eagles, 38-35, only cements his standing as the next thing.

Like Brady, he has piled up wins — Kansas City has the most wins in the league since Mahomes became a starter in 2018 —

 and his creativity and flair for dramatic plays makes him the envy of fans, sponsors and broadcasters.

“A lot of what makes the game as exciting as it is are the dual threat quarterbacks” who can run as well as throw, said Mike Mulvihill,

the executive vice president and head of strategy and analytics at Fox Sports which, like all of the league’s broadcast partners,

is eager to show Kansas City’s games. “Mahomes is probably the best representation of that.”

The toll of high-profile injuries Injuries dominated the news last season, particularly to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who sustained at least two concussions, 

and to Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest on the field after a routine tackle.

Their scary episodes again highlighted the brutality of the sport, and how many N.F.L. players,

despite the money made during the careers, can struggle to get help afterward.

Doctors have called on Tagovailoa to stop playing to avoid risking long-term brain damage, and last week,

10 former players sued Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s disability plan for, they claimed, systematically denying them health benefits.

Buffalo Bills players surrounding Damar Hamlin while he receives attention from medical workers.

The Buffalo Bills were roiled by the cardiac arrest of Damar Hamlin, who was at the Super Bowl weeks after the life-threatening medical episode.Credit...Jeff Dean/Associated Press

The league “portrayed this image like, ‘we care about the players, we’re doing all this stuff for player safety,’” said Eric Smith,

one of the plaintiffs who played for the Jets for seven seasons and now has a host of physical and mental ailments.

“And then as soon as you’re not on the roster making them any money playing out on the field, they’re like, ‘OK, we’ll give you five years of insurance, now go leave us alone.’”