About the Author
Recent posts by Mike Wilkening
ATLANTA — NFL owners want an 18-game regular-season schedule and will pitch the NFL Players Association on the plan, commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.
"There is overwhelming support for the concept," Goodell said of the owners, noting that there was a "tremendous amount of momentum for it." The NFL and NFLPA met in June regarding an expanded schedule, which owners envision as one with 18 regular-season games and just two preseason games.
Goodell said a "specific" schedule plan will be presented to the union by the NFL's negotiating team.
Goodell said he believed players would benefit from an expanded regular-season schedule, citing the potential for revenue growth. He said there was no strict timetable for when the new schedule might be implemented but said that owners would like to make the change "in the context of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement)."
The current CBA between owners and players expires at the end of the league year. Little progress has been made on an extension to this point, but Goodell expressed hope a deal could be done.
"I believe both parties want to reach an agreement," he said. "It's a matter of when."
Goodell said an expanded regular season, if implemented, would most likely be in place in 2012, not 2011.
The specifics beyond the proposed reconfigured schedule — one that would keep the NFL at 20 games (preseason plus regular season) — are still coming into focus. Falcons president Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said "adjustments to the offseason, training camp (and) roster configuration" will have to be discussed because of the proposed schedule change. McKay said the owners have asked the competition committee to look at a variety of issues that could arise from a move to 18 games. While the committee has made recommendations, McKay said, he declined to specify them, saying the committee has more work to do on the issue.
Still, the feeling among Goodell and the owners is a future with 18 regular-season games is preferable to one with just 16 regular-season games, so long as it is implemented correctly.
"I think two preseason games are enough," said Colts owner Jim Irsay. "I think 18 (regular-season games) is doable if you do it the right way. I think it's good for the game. I think it can work, but it has to be done in a way that you give a lot of thought."
Goodell said that fans have made it clear that they want more regular-season games rather than preseason games. Of the discussion of the 18-game regular-season slate Wednesday, Goodell said, "All of the questions and about all of the discussion was focused on how do we do it in a way that is fan-friendly?"
Players have expressed concern about the potential addition of two regular-season games. In June, after the league and union met about the expanded schedule, the NFLPA posted statements from Ravens LB Ray Lewis and Patriots QB Tom Brady — two of the league's higher-profile players — in which both players wondered about the physical toll that playing two more regular-season games would take.
"I know our fans may not like preseason games and I don't like all of them, but swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games — when players already play hurt — comes at a huge cost for the player and the team," Lewis said, according to the NFLPA.
The expanded schedule was the primary issue discussed by owners on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, owners approved E. Stanley Kroenke as majority owner of the St. Louis Rams. Owners were also briefed on the status of CBA negotiations. Player safety and health were also discussed, Goodell said, with an emphasis on players understanding they should use the best possible helmets.
For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.