NFL to propose 18-game season to union
UPDATED (5:48 p.m.)...
ATLANTA--The NFL will propose an 18-game regular season to the players' union, Commissioner Roger Goodell said here Wednesday.
Goodell said there was "overwhelming support for the concept" when the sport's franchise owners discussed a possible 18-game season during a meeting Wednesday at a downtown Atlanta hotel.
The owners did not take a formal vote on the measure but Goodell said a proposal to the union will be made "rather quickly."
The owners seem to strongly favor increasing the regular season from 16 to 18 games per team, while reducing the preseason from four to two games per club, beginning in 2012.
Goodell and the owners have said they would discuss the measure with the union as part of the two sides' labor negotiations. The union has expressed wariness about the measure because of the increased injury risk that players could face. The owners previously made a presentation to the union about an 18-game season during labor talks, but the owners did not characterize that presentation as a formal proposal.
The owners have said they won't put an 18-game season into effect without the union's approval.
"We think we've moved this concept along," Goodell said at a news conference following the one-day owners' meeting. "There's a tremendous amount of momentum for it. We think it's the right step to take. But we want to do that with our partners, including the players."
Goodell has said the change should be made in part because preseason games are not up to the league's standards for its customers. Owners seem convinced that more regular season games would translate into increased revenues, particularly in the form of bolstered rights fees in future television deals.
"There's support for it," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said Wednesday. "There are a lot of questions. We have to see how this change would affect a lot of things. It's something we're not rushing into. But there's tremendous support, no question."
Said New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch: "This seems to be very much for the right reasons, fan driven. I can't guarantee anything going forward, but I think it's something that's on a fairly fast track right now. There will eventually be a vote. Questions are being brought up that are worthy of the league doing further research."
Among the details yet to be resolved are when the longer season would begin and end; how long training camp would be; how the number of permissible offeason practices would be affected; and how large rosters and practice squads would be.
"I think generally people are supportive," said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee. "I think people feel it's an idea whose time has come from the fans' standpoint. There are still a lot of issues to work through. And those issues have to be worked through before we vote on it."
Said the Giants' other co-owner, John Mara: "There's no consensus. But there's very good support."
George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFL Players Association, said the union had no immediate response to Goodell's announcement that a formal proposal would be made to the players soon. But Atallah said the players "are encouraged that the right questions are being asked, particularly about health care and safety considerations."
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