The labor negotiations need to be negotiated a bit, due to recent comments from an owner suggesting that an extra game can be added without impacting player health and safety.
Albert Breer of SI.com reports that the remarks from Cardinals chairman Michael Bidwill became “a problem,” and that “some fences needed mending” based on the claim.
Said Bidwill, appearing on 98.7 FM in Arizona: “I think our fans would like more. We have surveyed our fans. The heath/safety data plays out that we can do 17 games and it’s not going to impact the safety and the health of the players.” The Cardinals and the league have acknowledged that, as it relates to fan preferences, the evidence was “anecdotal.” As to health and safety data, Bidwill presumably was referring to comments from 49ers co-owner John York, who said in November that the addition of a regular-season game combined with the elimination of a preseason game will not significantly impact player health and safety.
“What I will say is that the engineers, our statisticians, the health and safety committee have looked at an extension of one game and other scenarios, and the changes in health and safety are minimal,” York told TheAthletic.com at the time. “In fact, in some cases, it’s a minimal decrease. Others it’s a minimal increase.”
Of course, non-starters most likely will benefit from reduced preseason reps. Starters and regular contributors will be exposed to 17 not 16 games that count, which definitely will increase the impact on their health and safety.
In the end, none of that matters. The NFL wants to expand the season to 17 games, and 18 likely will be the next step. Unless and until fans vote with their wallets and/or players vote with their feet, the change is going to happen.