The enduring subject of an 18-game schedule has resurfaced. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith confirmed a Wall Street Journal report (subscription required) indicating the NFL has broached the subject of an 18-game season, with 16-game limits per player, during the CBA talks.
As has been the case for years when this subject has emerged, the union is not on board with adding two more regular-season games.
“I don’t see an 18-game schedule — under any circumstance — being in the best interest of our players,” Smith said, via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. “If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we’ll look at it. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that it would be good for the players.”
The NFL has used a 16-game schedule since 1978. It moved from 12 to 14 in 1961. Packers president Mark Murphy (via Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio) floated the idea of a 17-game compromise, with teams having eight home games, eight road games and one neutral-site contest — which would be a gateway to more international games. The Packers president, however, is not in favor of a 17- or 18-game schedule that limits players’ participation to 16 dates, calling it “gimmicky.”
Murphy added that he would not rule out the prospect of two byes, which the league tried in 1993, and a revised schedule moving the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend — which Florio adds the NFL has long supported. All of this would be contingent on the preseason being slashed by at least one game.
Potential issues with salaries, roster construction, additional work commitments and players’ pensions could arise with the 18/16 format, not to mention certain fan dissatisfaction for when top players must sit out certain games.
“Why is it our job to figure out how to make 18 games work as players? You tell someone you’re going to work longer and you figure out how to make it work? That doesn’t work,” Smith said. “It’s not our job to put that square peg in the round hole.
“If a coal miner is willing to spend more time in the hole, does it likely result in more money? Yeah. Is that a good thing for him as a person? Probably not. That’s the question nobody confronts. It’s easy to say it’s more money. But is it good for us? The answer is no.”
The NFL and NFLPA will reconvene from July 17-19 on their latest round of talks. Smith characterized the talks as “positive” but would not provide a timeline on their prospective conclusion. The sides want to reach an agreement before this season begins. This would come after years of Smith warning his workforce to save money in the likely event of a 2021 lockout.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.