There’s a belief in league circles that the NFL: (1) still wants to expand the regular season to 18 games; (2) knows it can’t ask the players to expand the regular season to 18 games because of the safety considerations involved; and (3) hopes to entice the players to offer an expansion to 18 games in order to secure other concessions, like neutral arbitrations and a bigger piece of the financial pie.
If that’s the plan, the NFL Players Association doesn’t seem to be inclined to take the bait.
“I just can’t imagine a world where you add two more regular season games at the end of a brutal season that we have,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on Friday’s PFT Live. “Certainly there’s been no proposal from the owners about increasing roster sizes or doing anything else to make sure that players’ health and safety is first and foremost. I mean look we are still in the middle of or the beginning of an investigation about how doctors handled the concussion protocol for the first game of the season and it seems to me that if you can’t successfully pull off a Hall of Fame game and you have what appears to be enough evidence to convince both parties to conduct an investigation of the concussion protocol, [it’s] probably not the right time to think about adding two regular season games.”
While hardly a kicking open of the door, Smith didn’t slam the door shut and barricade it with furniture. And that’s a smart play. If the NFL is willing to make major concessions and increase roster sizes and take other steps aimed at making the game safer for all players, maybe 18 games can happen. Smith’s point is that plenty of other issues need to be addressed before a two-game expansion of the regular season would be even a possibility.