18 games will be a very tough sell

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The NFL has wanted an 18-game regular season for a long time. Last year’s opening of the floodgates for state-by-state legalized gambling served only to enhance the league’s determination to give fans more football to consume — and bettors more football on which to wager.

Throw in the possibility of bumping the calendar by enough weeks to put the Super Bowl on President’s Day weekend, and it’s no surprise that an expanded season will be in play during the negotiations for a new labor deal.

But that doesn’t mean it will happen.

I don’t think our position’s changed,” NFLPA president Eric Winston told Dan Patrick last August, regarding the prospect of two extra regular-season games. “[Players] don’t see the positive tradeoff, the guys don’t see it as something that is good for their careers, good for their bodies.”

And the lure of more money to share via the salary cap won’t be enough, standing alone, to get the players to bite.

“[The] cap is going to get tilted heavily to the star players.” Winston said at the time. “The people that I’ve talked to on how that money could be spread, wouldn’t go to your role players, your middle-of-the-road guys.”

Then there’s the ever-present safety angle.

“Let’s look at it from a common sense standpoint,” Winston said. “Does anybody think playing two more games is safer for players?”

The league had been trying to set the stage for more regular-season games through Commissioner Roger Goodell’s periodic assaults on the quality of preseason games, laying the foundation for a seemingly easy shift of the current 20-game slate from 16 and four to 18 and two. Once it became clear that the union wasn’t interested, Goodell coincidentally (or not) stopped badmouthing the quality of preseason play.

That doesn’t stop the league from putting the issue in play during CBA talks, but it won’t be easy to turn the league’s longstanding (but in recent years muted) obsession into reality. And it will fall on the league to devise creative, attractive proposals that would get the players to go along with growing the pool of games that count from 256 to 288.

It surely will take more than reducing the Commissioner’s authority to discipline players and/or offering to drop the marijuana prohibition. Whether it’s a larger slice of the revenue pie or a significant bump in the salary floor or expanded rosters or a reduced path to free agency or an elimination of the franchise tag or some combination of those elements (and more), the union knows that the league badly wants to expand the regular season. Thus, the union will (and should) leverage that desire into something substantial.

Some have suggested expansion to 17 games, and maybe a renewed push for 18 games is aimed at setting the stage for an increase by only one.

Also, don’t forget about the lingering musings regarding the adoption of an 18-game schedule with a rule limiting all players to 16 games per year. Some in league circles are fascinated by that possibility. If that’s the only way the NFL can get to 18 games, that may be the eventual formula.

However it plays out, everything is negotiable. Whether the league can negotiate this one to the point where the union will say yes is a different issue, and the union fully understands that, in an industry where ownership holds most of the cards, the players have a very strong hand.

15 responses to “18 games will be a very tough sell

  1. I dont think the league would want to give up money, even preseason money, so I believe they would want 18 regular season and still 4 preseason games.

    There is value in rounding out your 53 man roster with those 3rd and 4th “meaningless” (to some) games. With that I say, keep 4 but put in a rule no one can play more than 2 preseason games. In that regard you actually get more time on the field to evaluate those that need evaluation as they would actually get more playing time as other players have played their max games.

  2. 18 regular season games is too much, I know making money is part of the business but it seems Roger Rabbit is more concerned about money (and not player safety) than the game itself. CHange the playoffs to 8 per conference, then you’ll have more meaningful games.

  3. There’s a smart way to do this with no effect to player safety. Expand the roster to 65 players. No player plays more than 16 games max in a season which would allow more value and game experience for key backups like quarterbacks. You could increase divisional games by 2 making more exciting games throughout the season. Increase player revenues to 49%. Owners still make more but players get a slight pay bump. Eliminate 2 preseason games and expand practice squad. More jobs, more revenue for both sides, better games for fans, more meaningful football, and no added safety concerns. A win all around.

  4. One mutually agreeable solution would be to go to eighteen games and a 20 week season, where each team would have two Sundays off instead of the one they have now. The teams would have two 14 day periods in which to heal and rest and the league would get yet another Sunday to broadcast on.

  5. An 18 game schedule with players only playing a max of 16 seems like a no-brainer. You would need to expand roster sizes, which the union would like. Two extra byes per guy per year and filling in two more weeks of football in an otherwise dead zone in the sports calendar.

    Sports media would love it too. Just think of the stories being written when the Patriots rest Brady against [insert team name] and the disrespect shown that team. Also it forces development of back-up players.

    All in all, I am down with it.

  6. I don’t understand the controversy. At the beginning of the every season, 32 teams are hoping like hell they can play 19 or 20 games that season.

  7. Yep 2 more games will do a lot to eliminate the concussive disorder for NFL players!
    One way to help may be, expand the teams roster by 20 to 30 players to rotate them.
    One thing for sure this is going to be a very bad contract negotiation.

  8. 16 games is plenty… a shorter preseason makes sense also. Too many injuries as it is. I don’t think adding 2 more games changes much except prolonging an already long season.

  9. They might be able to pull that off with an extra bye week and getting rid of TNF… I think the vet minimum has to go up significantly as well as all the rookie deal values to make that work.

    And I’m not sure fans will want two more weeks of football. Worth talking about, but not digging in their heels over it.

  10. The league will have to agree to stop testing for marijuana and allow it’s use for “Pain Management”. With that as a bargaining chip they might be able to get the 18 game season.

  11. These players say they love the game, BS, the less they have to practice and play the happier they are, they love the money they do not love the game

  12. Seems so simple to me. Drop one preseason game, go to 17 games with 2 bye weeks. Fewer tied records. More money for all and you sell the same extra two-game weekends to the networks. Give the teams the full 53 on game day.

    Done, now just spread the money so the players buy into its good for them. Maybe qualify for retirment with fewer games active or some other enhancements alogn with more money.

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