No one likes the NFL preseason schedule.
Season-ticket holders are annoyed that they need to pay for the two preseason home games along with the eight regular-season games in their package. Fans are not interested in watching their team play four preseason games. Nobody wants to see a player get injured in a game that doesn't count in the standings. But the owners are not interested in doing anything to reduce their revenues.
There was some hope that improvements might have been made in last year's labor negotiations, but that did not happen.
One approach considered was to expand the regular season to 18 games and reduce the preseason to two games. However, the injury risk of playing a longer season seemed to win the argument. Even the idea of restricting each player to only appear in 16 of the 18 games didn't help.
Some teams still favor shortening the preseason schedule to two games.
So what are some things that the commissioner can do to address this situation without breaking the contract with the players association? Here are some possible ideas.
Make the First Preseason Game a Rookie Game
The definition of "rookie" would be expanded to mean any player that had not appeared in five or more NFL regular season games. The obvious advantages of this would be that the teams would be able to take a longer look at younger players, and valuable veterans would be spared any risk of injury in such a game.
Allow No More Than Four Players to Rush the Quarterback in Preseason Games
This could provide an extra measure of protection for quarterbacks, while allowing offenses to try out new offensive linemen. If a defense wanted to drop off a lineman and rush a safety, that would be fine, as long as the total did not exceed four.
Eliminate Kickoffs in Preseason
Give the offense the ball on the 30-yard line to start each series when a kickoff would normally occur. Since the kickoff can be an injury-prone play, this should be a well-received change for preseason games.
Reduce the Total Number of Preseason Games to Three
It would be hard to get the approval of the owners for this. So it might only work if the number of regular-season games was increased to 17. Perhaps this could win the approval of the players in light of the two risk-reduction steps suggested above. The total number of home games for each team would still be 10, including preseason and regular-season games.
Half of the teams would have nine regular-season home games, and the other half would have eight regular-season home games. This would rotate from year to year. An uneven schedule is always problematic, but it might be the only way to break the stalemate and make some initial progress in the matter.