GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said Tuesday that he no longer supports any move to an 18-game, regular-season NFL schedule.
Murphy said he backed the idea of two preseason games per team followed by the 18-game schedule during last year's negotiations with the NFL Players Association on a labor deal. He has since changed his stance.
"I was in favor of it during the bargaining process because I saw it as a way to bring the parties together and reach an agreement . Now, to be honest with you, I couldn't support a move to two (preseason) and 18 (regular season). I just think with all the focus on player health and safety, it would be really hard to do that," Murphy said. "And actually, I would be in support of a move to two (preseason) and 16 (regular season)."
Murphy acknowledged that such a change could be a tough sell for some teams, most of which play four preseason games each season.
"The challenge there, obviously, is you're losing revenue," he said at the team's annual stockholders meeting at Lambeau Field.
Murphy also said it could impact coaches, since it would reduce the amount of time they could spend developing young players. Murphy said he figured the starters would play roughly the same number of snaps in two preseason games as they do in four games now, so "I don't know if you'd gain that much from a health and safety standpoint. But I think those are things we have to look at. What kind of things could we do to make sure the game is as safe as possible for our players?"
Murphy, who played eight seasons in the NFL as a safety for the Washington Redskins, made it clear that he is against the proliferation of concussion-related lawsuits being brought by ex-players. He said the lawsuits are "a real concern for the league" and questioned the motivation of some of the plaintiffs.
"Unfortunately, the reality is as a league we're successful, profitable and you've got a lot of people looking at it saying, `Maybe there's a chance to get some money or to change things,'" Murphy said. "The former players with concussions, if players have problems — whether it be concussions, injuries (to their) back, knee, whatever — and it's directly related to their participation in the NFL, we need to do everything we can to help them. But I'd rather have those things resolved by working together than (with) lawsuits.
"As a former player, almost on a daily basis now I'm getting letters and emails from attorneys asking me to join lawsuits against the NFL. So they're obviously not doing their research. It shows you there's an active market out there. The attorneys are almost shameless in terms of their pursuit and marketing of lawsuits."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is walking a fine line with rule changes, fines and suspensions because the league wants to improve player safety without significantly altering the game, Murphy said.
"Roger has to protect the future of the game and the integrity of it. I do think there's a little bit of a tension there," Murphy said. "You want to strive to make the game as safe as possible, but you don't want to turn it into a 7-on-7 flag football game. So part of what makes the game so exciting is it's so fast and physical. I think it's finding a balance there.
"We've talked about it on the league level, it wasn't that long ago that boxing was one of the most popular sports in America, and I think people just got turned off by the violence, the impact that it had on boxers. My concern in the long-term is that parents look at the game and say, `It's too violent, too many risks involved, I don't want my son playing the game.' And that really starts to erode at your fan base in the future."
The Packers had been expecting a record crowd for the meeting after the team sold 268,000 shares over the offseason, earning the team roughly $64 million. Instead, the announced crowd was 12,500, roughly half of the expected gathering.
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