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League, union discuss 18-game season

UPDATED (10:22 p.m.)...

Representatives of the NFL's franchise owners made a presentation to the players' union Wednesday about the possibility of extending the regular season to 18 games per team.

The presentation by members of the owners' bargaining committee was made during a meeting in New York as the two sides resumed their labor negotiations.

The change, if approved by the union, could take effect as soon as the 2012 season, according to Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy.

"We made a presentation," Murphy, a member of the owners' bargaining committee, said during a conference call with reporters. "That was really it.... We haven't officially voted on it [but] there's a lot of momentum [among the owners] in meetings I've been in."

The union declined to comment through a spokesman. But a source on the players' side said the union has concerns about the prospective 18-game season on issues including players vesting for benefits, post-career health care, offseason workout rules and the schedule.

Players also have cited injury risks that would accompany additional regular season games.

"Don't get me wrong, I love the game of football," Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said in a written statement posted Wednesday afternoon on the union's Web site. "If fans want to show their love, they should let everyone know that we are not machines. I've been blessed to play this game for so long, but it's time to start thinking about what legacy and impact changes like this will leave for the players of tomorrow and us after we retire.

"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. I know our Union is on top of it and players need to stay in touch with the Union and our Executive Director to stay informed."

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said in a written statement on the union's Web site: "I've taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans."

Those concerns apparently were raised by the union during Wednesday's meeting.

"The length of the season was an issue the players did raise," said Murphy, a former safety for the Washington Redskins. "They have concerns about safety."

The union's Web site referred to the owners' presentation about an 18-game season as a "proposal." The league did not call its presentation a formal proposal to the players for an 18-game season.

The owners appear to favor expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games per team while reducing the preseason from four to two games per club, although they have not voted to officially approve the measure.

"I think this is an idea that is really gaining momentum, particularly within the owners," Murphy said. "It's something we've talked a lot about in the last year."

Murphy said he has received "a lot of complaints" from fans about the quality of preseason games, adding that the average starting player participates in about five to six of the 16 quarters in the four preseason games.

"There really isn't the same value there," Murphy said. "... I think there's a real issue we need to address.... I think it's very clear to many of us the players and teams don't need four [preseason] games to get ready for the regular season."

The owners do not intend to put a longer regular season into effect without an agreement with the players on the issue, Murphy said.

"Anything we can do to grow and improve the game, the players will see the benefits of that," Murphy said. "... This is something we want to reach agreement with the players on.... We have an issue with the preseason. There's not a lot of fan interest. They don't like the preseason. We're not providing value. But we also have concerns about the safety."

Murphy said it's possible that the NFL could establish a developmental league for players in conjunction with the potential move to a longer regular season. That would be an attempt to address any concerns by coaches about having fewer chances to evaluate younger players, given the possible reduction in preseason games.

There also could be rule changes such as increased roster sizes and alterations to the injured reserve procedures to enable a player to return to play in a season after being placed on the IR list.

Currently, each NFL team can have 53 players on its roster, of which 45 can be on the active list on game days. A player placed on the IR list is ineligible to play for that team for the remainder of the season, under current rules.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players enabled the owners to increase the number of regular season games if they chose to do so. Under the terms of the existing labor deal, the two sides would have had to negotiate compensation for the players for the additional regular season games if the owners had made that move.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners chose not to exercise that provision in the current labor deal, however. Instead, Goodell has said that discussions with the union about a longer regular season would come only in the context of bargaining for the next labor deal.

The current labor agreement expires after the upcoming season. DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and players have said they expect the owners to lock out the players in 2011. The upcoming season is to be played without a salary cap, which expired after last season.

Wednesday's meeting was the first formal bargaining session between the owners and players since February, according to both sides.

Earlier in their deliberations about lengthening the regular season, there also was some talk among the owners about the possibility of a move to three preseason games and 17 regular season games per team.

By Mark Maske  |  June 16, 2010; 7:52 PM ET  | Category:  League , Union Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Sounds like a great way to kill pro football.

Posted by: hammeresq | June 17, 2010 10:50 AM

Another point: if the freakin' CFL can play an 18 game season then we should be able to as well...

Posted by: ozpunk | June 17, 2010 10:02 AM


sjakemuzik wrote:
Typical, modern, black athlete.

ged0386 wrote:
Whats wrong? were you teased by the black jocks in high school. Thats usually the case with white guys who as grown men have a grudge against black guys. They were bussed to the black neighborhood schools and got beat up by the black kids. And they cant let it go. Even as adults.

sjakemuzik wrote:
And as an African American male, I can say whatever I want about the young black generation. The majority of them are spoiled and don't wanna honor their commitments. ie, Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo HALL, ETC.

Don't you owe sjakemuzik and all white adult males an apology? It's time you grow up ged0386.

Posted by: hessone | June 17, 2010 9:12 AM

Bad idea. Of course an 18-game season appeals to the owners because it would add an extra home game (read: more revenue) to the schedule. Despite the sentiments of Mr. Lewis, there might even be some players on board too, because two extra games would presumably amount to two extra paychecks. Fans might even be on board with this because of the two guaranteed extra games and, lets face it, the worst form of withdrawal is "football withdrawal."

So at first blush it seems like everybody - owners, players, fans, sponsors, networks, etc. - has an interest in making the season longer. But the most important question that the NFL seems to be disregarding is the the question of whether the human body (even a supremely conditioned human body) can withstand that much football. If the 18-game season becomes a reality, I predict that there will be more injuries, and careers overall will be shorter. The only way, in my opinion to mitigate these potential effects is to expand the active roster size and shorten the preseason by at least two games. Or better yet, just keep the length of the season 16 games...

Posted by: MEssex | June 17, 2010 9:11 AM

I'll bet all the concern about safety, length of season and blah, blah, blah goes away when the $$$$ get surfaced...the NFL has gone to the dogs and in Washington, no longer of interest to me.

Posted by: outrbnksm | June 17, 2010 7:00 AM

Baseball has had spring training, with equally meaningless and mediocre games for decades. Why does the NFL not accept something similar?

Is it because fans are finally sick of paying regular season prices for preseason tickets? How about lowering the price of tickets for preseason games?

Posted by: ah___ | June 16, 2010 4:26 PM

Like him as a player or not, but Ray Lewis's quote nailed it, in my opinion.

Posted by: AnnandaleAnnie | June 16, 2010 4:03 PM

I say go for it, more football is never a bad thing and players can get hurt in pre-season games already. But, they should add more roster space so teams can add more depth since they won't have the 4 games to evaluate prospects and journeymen. The downside is that every player and their mom will want a new contract...

Posted by: ozpunk | June 16, 2010 3:05 PM

Money grubbing idiots. Why not focus on a more competitive balance. Do we really want to see back-ups playing in the last two weeks of the season? The fact that the Union is evening opening their ears to this is preposterous. This is one of those have your cake and eat it too scenarios. We all know how those work out.

Posted by: smfoster3 | June 16, 2010 1:05 PM

No, No, No...No on the 18 game schedule. 16 games is tough enough even for the best conditioned pro athlete...2 additional games would wreck havoc on the league's competitive balance and is a bad idea overall. I love NFL football, but the beauty of the pro game is that less is sometimes more. I believe one of the things that maes the NFL game great, is its relatively short (compared to the NBA, NHL and MLB) season, which feeds the fans' craving that builds up during the year.

Posted by: AnnandaleAnnie | June 16, 2010 12:31 PM

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