Hines Ward OK with 18-game season if owners improve health care

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.

25 responses to “Hines Ward OK with 18-game season if owners improve health care

  1. Heres an idea—

    Split the money from the 2 extra games 3 ways.

    1) owners
    2) current players
    3) retired players

  2. Only if NFL players made enough money to pay for health insurance after their careers. I mean it is an absolute crime. The players are so fiscally responsible on how they spend their money and they invest it so well!

  3. Is it just me, or does anyone else find it ironic that Ward’s focus on health comes after a season in which he suffered a concussion?

  4. No you don’t, Hines. The real world of economics has already shown us that forcing companies to subsidize employees health care is a tax that inevitably hurts everyone. The owners should not be taxed that way. Hines, you and the other players can better handle your finances for health care and you damn sure can handle an 18-game schedule, so tell DeMaurice Smith to stop being unreasonable.

  5. I know many of you disagree on this, but here’s my opinion for better or worse. I don’t think any deal needs to have a 18 game season, I’m fine just the way it is as long as it happens. That aside, this whole heath care idea seems like nonsense. These players must be very bad at managing finances. There’s players that only play a few years, I don’t expect them to have any significant medical needs that would need to be covered over a long-term. Also, I doubt any coverage would cover a player that wasn’t in the league for at least a certain span of time (5 years maybe). So lets assume the absolute minimum, 1 player in the league for six years at 500 thousand per year. Thats 3 million for the absolute minimum contract available. I know health care is expensive, but thats more than the average person might make over 60. I just don’t buy it, and I doubt its the sticking point thats holding up the new CBA from being produced.

  6. For once in my life, I can side with Hines Ward. Geez…I can’t believe I just typed that. (Yuck)

    That was one of the most succinct arguments either for or against an 18-game season thus far. If the league is serious about player safety, then they SHOULD take care of it’s players on the back end; with amounts of money the NFL takes in it’s highly feasible.

  7. This is the same guy that said people who are asking to be benched for concussions are wimps?

    Not that I disagree with his current sentiment (additional health benefits should be provided, imo), but it does seem odd.

  8. i would have never thought that i would EVER agree with Wines Hard… i mean Smiles Ward… Dirty Sanchez… ahem… Hines Ward… (sorry had something stuck in my throat)

  9. I’m confused. If the schedule goes to 18 games the players will make more money because the pie is bigger. Ward has the same chance of getting injured playing 16 games this year and the first 2 next year so he isn’t increasing his chance of getting injured, just when. Careers may be shortened but the money they make won’t be as new contracts would take into account the larger compensation pool.

    ex.
    5 years at $6 million = 80 games, $30 mill
    4 years at $7 million = 72 games, $28 mill

    And that’s assuming their careers are shortened. If they aren’t, the players make more money because they’ll be making more per season.

    I just don’t understand the health care for retirees requirement in relation to an 18 game schedule. There shouldn’t be an increase in injuries per game. I don’t see the additional health hazard I guess. What I see is players who want the same health care they get during their playing career paid for them for the rest of their lives. Paying for players healthcare for the rest of their lives is just stupid. That’s $12,000-$20,000/yr per retiree on top of their other benefits.

  10. kellyb9 how do you propose we handle cases like Kevin Everett who are injured as a special teams player making the league minimum after only a couple seasons?

    Your assessment that “There’s players that only play a few years, I don’t expect them to have any significant medical needs that would need to be covered over a long-term.” is not correct as plenty of players suffer injuries early in their career that in one way or another affect their long term health.

    I agree wholeheartedly that a 16 game season is much better for the players, fans and union. The only people that want an 18 game are the owners because of money, and I dont think they see paying thousands of players health insurance for years after they retire as “good for business.” They cant have it both ways, and thats exactly what Hines is saying.

  11. It’s already set up so that they work half a year in an industry that if they do AVERAGE they should be financially set for life after a 7 year career –

    and he wants more

  12. @Mike Tomlin – Listen, all I’m saying is that these players put their bodies at risk, and they are very well compensated for it. Kevin Everett is a very unique case, I’m sure theres some kind of worker’s compensation contingency that could be put into place. I don’t feel sorry for the players nor do I feel sorry for the owners. I feel sorry for the fans who are going to get these costs passed onto them.

  13. eagleswin says: Mar 10, 2011 1:30 PM

    I’m confused. If the schedule goes to 18 games the players will make more money because the pie is bigger. Ward has the same chance of getting injured playing 16 games this year and the first 2 next year so he isn’t increasing his chance of getting injured, just when. Careers may be shortened but the money they make won’t be as new contracts would take into account the larger compensation pool.

    ex.
    5 years at $6 million = 80 games, $30 mill
    4 years at $7 million = 72 games, $28 mill

    And that’s assuming their careers are shortened. If they aren’t, the players make more money because they’ll be making more per season.

    I just don’t understand the health care for retirees requirement in relation to an 18 game schedule. There shouldn’t be an increase in injuries per game. I don’t see the additional health hazard I guess. What I see is players who want the same health care they get during their playing career paid for them for the rest of their lives. Paying for players healthcare for the rest of their lives is just stupid. That’s $12,000-$20,000/yr per retiree on top of their other benefits.
    ———————–

    What you’re confused on is the fact that (1) the league is okay with retirement medical benefits. It’s only a matter of how much the team/league pays into it. (2) The players ALREADY have money deducted from their salaries for state/federal taxes, SSI, etc. They also pay a percentage of their own benefits; just as any company who offers medical benefits. You may not “see it” on your check, but it IS deducted/withheld pre-tax. (3) Players even have a percentage of their salaries put into a retirement plan. Whether or not the league matches dollar-for-dollar or not is irrelevant.

    The math still favors the league and it’s owners. The money pain out for player retirement/medical benefits is FAR less then what the teams and the league makes in profits and even player’s salaries. Then again, this is what the current CBA argument is all about and most recently, why the league won’t open “certain” parts of their books because the league and the teams know that there is more money in the pot than what is already known.

  14. Mike Tomlin – who’s trying to have it both ways – the owners or Ward? Players are supposed to handle their health care finances, not have them subsidized by the owners.

    16 games isn’t enough anymore and the case against the 18-game schedule makes zero sense. The players can handle it, it brings in more revenue, and it will create more comebacks in the standings.

  15. Hines says, “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.”

    I’m not for an 18 games season, but I don’t buy the whole healthcare thing.

    If you gave each player a $200k bonus for playing the 2 extra games and then told them, “Now you can take $100k and the other $100k is going to be put into an NFLPA escrow account for player healthcare costs”…most would complain they want the money.

    I would have to think I could find healthcare coverage for myself and my family for the rest my life for $200k.

  16. Its easy for Hines and older players to agree with an 18 game schedule because he only has 1, maybe 2 years left, yet he would have the benefits of health care for the rest of his life. What about 2nd and 3rd year players’ opinions? I think that’s Hines’ mentality: suck it up for one more year and benefit with great healt care for the rest of my life. Im not saying thats a BAD idea. I’d do the same. I just think he might have a different opinion if he were barely coming into the league. And if current rookies are hitting the “rookie wall” with 16 games, how are they going to handle 18 games? Im all for more football, but I respect a players decision if they feel its unsafe to add more games.

  17. shallowfan says: Mar 10, 2011 2:43 PM

    Hines says, “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.”

    I’m not for an 18 games season, but I don’t buy the whole healthcare thing.

    If you gave each player a $200k bonus for playing the 2 extra games and then told them, “Now you can take $100k and the other $100k is going to be put into an NFLPA escrow account for player healthcare costs”…most would complain they want the money.

    I would have to think I could find healthcare coverage for myself and my family for the rest my life for $200k.
    ———————————
    You ASSUME that “most players” would want the cash vs. health care. “Most players” have families and with families comes a NEED for health coverage; dental, wellness checks, the occasional f/u for a bone break or a need for stitches from playing kids sports, etc. Then you need to add in the fact that “most players” are only in the league for an average of 3 years. Then add in the fact that the average salary of “most players” is $300,000 – $600,000. Once that player “buys a house” or allots money for mortgage payments, there isn’t a whole lot of money left over.

    The league and the player’s union have been stepping up their efforts in educating the players about not only saving their money, but how to invest WISELY, and making their money work for them as well as learning how to say “no” to leaching family members and friends and hidden money schemes.

  18. The union has great power to use the 18-game schedule to leverage meaningful changes to the game, if they would only use that power, and use it constructively – not destructively.

    First, they can demand a linkage of more games to more teams, by making the awarding of Los Angeles (and one other city) an expansion franchise, rather than trying to prod an existing team (Jacksonville?) into moving to L.A., a pre-condition for accepting the 18-game schedule. They can also demand an expansion of the playoff field – to 14 teams in a 34-team league, and 16 if and when the NFL goes to 36 teams – as another precondition.

    Another thing the union can do is call out the owners for hypocrisy in wanting to eliminate “meaningless” preseason games while tolerating end-of-the-regular-season “Siesta Bowl” games in which playoff-bound teams rest all of their first-stringers – and the only conclusive “cure” for this “disease” is to award home-field advantage in the Super Bowl to the team with the better record. Had this been in effect in the just-concluded season, for example, the Eagles would have battling to finish ahead of teams like the Jets, Chiefs and Colts (whom they had narrowly defeated at home during the 2010 season while having lost their last two in Indianapolis by 24 and 27 points respectively), in case they ended up facing one of them in the Super Bowl, and would not have emptied their bench Jan. 2 against Dallas – and the NFLPA’s counterparts in baseball have in fact sounded off on the corresponding issue in their sport, calling for the home-field advantage in the World Series to be awarded based on record, rather than the result of the All-Star Game – an utterly ridiculous procedure.

    If I saw this kind of leadership from the union, I for one might be more inclined to sympathize with them on the dollars-and-cents issues.

  19. He has every right to be concernced:
    He might pull up lame doing a piroette on his new career.
    LOSER !

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