The league undoubtedly sees the “enhanced season” as an opportunity to grow the financial pie that currently is shared with the players. On the surface, then, the players should support the notion of creating more opportunities to generate more money.
But it’s not that simple. Adding two regular-season games in place of two preseason games results in 20 total non-playoff games, but it results in greater exposure by starters, who play sparingly in the preseason, to potential injury.
And so the players are cautious. Two of the higher-profile members of the NFL fraternity have chimed in on the matter.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. “If fans want to show their love, they should let everyone know that we are not machines. I’ve been blessed to play this game for so long, but it’s time to start thinking about what legacy and impact changes like this will leave for the players of tomorrow and us after we retire.
“I know our fans may not like preseason games and I don’t like all of them, but swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games — when players already play hurt — comes at a huge cost for the player and the team.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has taken a more active role in union matters, spoke on the situation as well. “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games,” Brady said. “The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did.”
And so the notion of an 18-game season isn’t something that the players will automatically accept, even if the current CBA already authorizes it. The fact that the league is now pushing the concept aggressively suggests that perhaps the NFL possibly hopes to use this issue as a way to get the general public on the side of management.