An 18 Game NFL Season is closer to becoming a reality than you think. Earlier this afternoon, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the league ownership has shown overwhelming support of the change. They didn't approve an 18-game regular season at today's Special League Meeting, but opted instead to discuss options to propose to the NFL Players Association and business partners. The "enhanced" schedule would change from 4 pre-season and 16 regular season games to 2 pre-season and 18 regular season contests. The owners are formulating a comprehensive presentation to the players, but the lack of progress in the Labor Talks will prevent an 18-game regular season from taking place before 2012. The proposed augmented schedule would be part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, currently being negotiated between the league and the union.
Sure, there are ramifications involved. That is why the proposal is being carefully considered. The owners want an increase of revenue, but the Commissioner is trying to supplicate all sides. Appeasing season ticket holders with less preseason games they must pay for is a start.
"From our standpoint, we think we've moved this concept along," Goodell said. "There's a tremendous amount of momentum for it."
New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft:
"I really think that going to the 18-game season is critical to us getting a labor deal (with the NFLPA). There aren't a lot of ways in this economic environment that we can generate incremental revenues, and that's the best way. The other thing is, our fans have said loud and clear to have fewer preseason games. It's a win-win all around."
The current deal runs out after this season. Players are eager to see how much of the additional revenue they will receive with an expanded schedule, especially since it could increase the risk of injuries or health problems after they retire.
The increased playing time wear and tear would have on the players shouldn't be that significant. Most teams play their starters play most of the 3rd and 4th pre-season games. However, with a shortened preseason, Goodell said it could be a safe assumption that more joint practices between teams would be held in order for evaluation, particularly of younger players.
Expect a compromise on off-season work as labor talks progress. Given the likelihood of an enhanced season, the league calendar will need to change to compensate and allow more time for rest and recovery. The Commissioner previously talked about curtailing the amount and intensity of organized team activities and off-season work. And one idea that's gaining traction among players includes not starting the off-season work until mid-May. Brett Farve's annual skipping of OTA's and Training Camp reinforces the fact that players don't need the whole tear to prepare for the regular season.
Currently, players generally are asked to report for voluntary lifting and off-season work in March, in many cases just six weeks or so after the end of the season. Then, players usually have a month or so off (from mid-June to July) before training camps open. Opening in May would allow more down time and more of a true off-season, and off-season lifting programs could then lead to a shorter OTA-minicamp period in June. Teams could give players a week or so off around the Fourth of July, then camps would open. With the expected change to two preseason games, camps themselves could be shorter, which also would reduce wear and tear on players.
Under current League rules, rookies can't join their teams until after their graduation date, which in some cases is late May or early June. Starting off-season programs later would allow them to miss fewer meetings and installation sessions. The possibility of another "Developmental League" in the springtime could also be considered.
Another trade off the NFL Players Association would seek in regards to an 18-game season would be more revenue set aside for better long-term care and coverage for retired players. Concerns about the ramifications of concussions and possible ties to ALS have been issues raised within the union, and if the season is going to expand, there undoubtedly will be discussions about post-career care, payments and insurance coverage.
Under the 18-game format, there would be a "bye week" between the second preseason game and Week 1.
As for reaching a new labor deal with the current one expiring after the 2010 season, Goodell said both sides are working to reach an accord so there is no "disruption" in play for 2011.
More Bronco games that matter? I like it. What are your thoughts MHR?