Although the majority of NFL players (not to mention the majority of PFT Planet) oppose an 18-game season, one prominent NFL player says he could live with playing two more games — as long as the owners are willing to do their part.
Steelers receiver Hines Ward says that the key to his support of an 18-game season would be the owners improving health care for retired players. Ward’s position is reasonable: More games means more opportunities for injuries, and so the owners should be willing to give the players better health coverage in retirement.
“If they do, we still have to go out there and play it,” Ward told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It depends on how they do retirement plans. If you add two more games and talk about safety, you have to do something on the back end.”
NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has been adamant that the players oppose adding games to the regular season, but Ward thinks his fellow players will agree to lengthening the season if the owners agree to take care of their health insurance in retirement.
“We’d jeopardize our bodies for two more regular-season games so if they can do something special with health insurance I think the players will go for it,” Ward said. “If we have to play 18 games, along with that you have to take care of us on the back end, it’ll be all right.”
Ward was just speaking for himself, not on behalf of the union. But his feeling is likely shared by a lot of his fellow players: The door isn’t completely closed on lengthening the regular season, but if the players are going to make that sacrifice, the owners had better be willing to do their share.