SBD/Issue 238/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Expanded NFL Season May Not Be Slam Dunk It Once Appeared To Be

Expanded Regular Season
Meeting Resistance From Players

While NFL owners are "still almost certain to push forward with their pursuit" of an 18-game regular season in CBA talks with the NFLPA, there is "sentiment among at least a few of them that approval is not the slam dunk it once appeared to be," according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. The proposal "has met with considerable concern from coaches, general managers and especially players." Ravens LB Ray Lewis: "I don't think it's knowledgeable to make us play 18 games. It's rough." Battista writes the fact that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is "not calling for a vote now may indicate that enough owners are not entirely sold on the advantages of an extended regular season, or that they have not been convinced there are ways to ameliorate the impact of the extra games" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/25). In DC, Mark Maske notes the current CBA "gives the owners the right to lengthen the regular season, but they would have to negotiate compensation with the union or that issue would be put before an arbitrator." The owners "have chosen not to extend the regular season unilaterally, saying they would put a longer season into effect only with the union's approval as part of the labor talks." The longer regular season "could produce an increase in roster sizes" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/25). In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck writes there are a "lot of details that would have to be worked out, like when the season starts and ends." Since it is "considered likely that the NFL would add a second bye week to ease the physical toll on the players, we're probably talking about a regular season that is three weeks longer" (Baltimore SUN, 8/25).

PLAYERS VOICE CONCERNS: Raiders DE Richard Seymour said, "I can't believe we're talking about 18 games when we don't even know the effects of concussions and all these things we have. And you want the players to go out even longer? It makes no sense." Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware: "Guys who may play for 12 or 13 years will be playing for only eight or nine years. I think it will have that big of an impact." But Falcons President and Competition Committee co-Chair Rich McKay said that he is "encouraged that data the committee will provide to owners conclude the risk of injuries won't increase." Meanwhile, Chargers C and player rep Nick Hardwick is "concerned about whether a longer season will add to long-term issues that might not surface until a player has retired" (USA TODAY, 8/25). Lewis said, "Sixteen games are enough. I mean, you're talking to someone who has been in this business for 15 years. The things that have to go into just keeping your body (in shape). We're not automobiles. We're not machines. We're humans" (Baltimore SUN, 8/25). USA TODAY's Bell notes many players contend that with "two additional regular-season games, they would expect a salary bump equivalent to the prorated value of a game-check." But owners "dispute that thinking" (USA TODAY, 8/25). Vikings G and player rep Steve Hutchinson: "From the union's standpoint, we have to figure out a way to compensate us for two more games. If it's cut and dried and there's two more regular-season games and they figure out the compensation, that's one thing. But somehow I don't think that's going to be the case. ... Right now, I don't think there's any doubt there will be a work stoppage" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 8/25).

LOCKOUT CONSIDERATIONS: ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote the NFL "can justify going to an 18-game regular season, but only ... if it means no lockout in 2011." Expanding the regular season "has its problems," but "more games means more revenue and more revenue can be the olive branch that could lead to long-lasting labor peace." Clayton: "What doesn't make sense is locking out players in order to force them into taking a much lower percentage and then asking them to endure two more games of pounding. Plus, a lockout could ultimately hurt revenues" (ESPN.com, 8/24). In N.Y., William Rhoden wrote, "How can the NFL wring its hands about player safety and health, then turn around and extend the regular season by two games? If owners add two games, they should compensate players by prorating their per-game salary over 18 games. Simple as that." Rhoden added season-ticket holders "should no longer be required to buy tickets for preseason games," as those games "are a sham and everybody knows it." The proposal for a longer regular season "will produce -- or should produce -- a significant public collision" between the NFL and the NFLPA. Rhoden: "As a condition of two added games, players must receive extra compensation and teams must have extra personnel" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/25).

OLD CBA TOO ONE-SIDED? The NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST's Andrew Brandt wrote of late NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw's "many legacies and accomplishments, the most enduring may be his negotiation" of the '06 CBA. Brandt: "In short, according to many owners, Upshaw did too good a job." Bills Owner Ralph Wilson and Bengals Owner Mike Brown were the only two dissenting votes against the CBA, and they were "seen as contrarians at the time." Brandt: "Soon after the ink was dry, however, more and more owners started to empathize with the initial doubt of Wilson and Brown" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 8/24).

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