With major issues including a revenue split and a rookie wage scale reportedly worked out, and the NFL lockout apparently almost over, it’s worth noting one frequent topic of pre-lockout conversation that never became a major issue: The 18-game season.
Given the heated rhetoric from both sides before the lockout, most NFL observers figured the owners would make their demand for an expanded regular season a centerpiece of any deal — and many figured the players would eventually cave in. Some NFL insiders, including Colts President Bill Polian, went so far as to say an 18-game season was a done deal.
But from all indications, the owners have been the ones to cave in on the 18-game season. The animosity on this issue is mostly gone, not because the players are any less opposed to it than they were before, but because we rarely even hear about the ownership side bringing it up anymore.
We don’t know whether and to what extent the next Collective Bargaining Agreement will leave room for the possibility of expanding the regular season in the future, but based on everything everyone is saying about the state of the negotiations, it’s no longer a front-burner issue, and it might not even be a back-burner issue. It’s more like a non-issue.
For NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, that has to be considered a disappointment. Goodell consistently said a two-game preseason and 18-game regular season is the way forward for the NFL, and he consistently claimed he had the fans on his side. But the fans consistently said otherwise, and it appears that the owners decided to listen to the paying customers. The 18-game season may reemerge some day as a major issue of contention in the NFL, but it never emerged as a major issue of contention during the lockout.