SBD/Issue 238/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Players Wary About 18-Game Schedule Due To Injury Concerns

Goodell's Proposed 18-Game
Season Greeted With Skepticism
NFL players are "leery" about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's proposal to play an 18-game regular season and are treating the proposal with "widespread skepticism," according to Tim Sullivan of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. Chargers G Kris Dielman: "I see what they're trying to do. They're trying to make more money. That's all great and dandy (but) I don't want to be sitting on the bench because my knee got busted up in the 17th game. Sixteen games is a grind. Eighteen would be really rough. If you go to 18 games, I think the quality of the game will be affected. I don't think it would be good for the sport." Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson added, "Physically, it's just so much more (wear) on you. I just think the value of a lot of players (would) go down. You'd have more injuries." Chargers K and alternate player rep Nate Kaeding: "How many weeks and years is that going to take off your career in the end? I know that's what these guys are taking into the calculation (and) I don't blame them. You look at the injured list as the season progresses and the numbers are growing. Guys don't want to put themselves in harm's way for two more weeks" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/28). ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said, “Seventeen or 18 games will kill some guys. … It takes everything in your power -- everything -- to play 16 games plus the playoffs.” He noted after winning Super Bowl XXXV with the Ravens in '01, when the team played 24 games including the preseason and playoffs, it took months for him to feel right physically. Dilfer suggested maintaining the current regular-season set up, with the preseason cut back to two games and two scrimmages after training camp with teams outside of their division. Dilfer: “That solves all the problems except the money problem, and that’s what this ultimately stems from.” Pro Football HOFer and ESPN analyst Tom Jackson noted he began playing in the NFL while the 14-game schedule was in place and said 16 games is a “lot of games to play” (Rick Ellington, THE DAILY).

PRESEASON ALSO HAS INJURY RISKS: SI.com's John Lopez noted after "just two full weeks of preseason games, 22 NFL teams already have at least one front-line player listed as out, doubtful or questionable for the start of the regular season." As a result, a "long-needed change to the preseason, shortening the schedule by at least one game and lengthening the regular season, clearly will be on the way the next time NFL owners address the issue." Lopez: "It's about time. Where once the preseason was vitally important for teams and a nice money-maker for owners, today it is unnecessary and a hazard." The value to owners of adding regular season games is "obvious, with more regular-season games leading to increased revenue via TV and radio contracts, and gate revenue and season-ticket income," but the "key component to making it happen would be making the schedule change equally as attractive and valuable" to the NFLPA. Lopez wrote adding one game to the regular season "conceivably gets both sides what they want -- money." The owners "get theirs via more streams of cash flowing in," and players "could get theirs by negotiating that with a longer season, rosters would expand by at least one or two players per team and rookie and veteran minimum-salary levels would increase as well" (SI.com, 8/27).

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