NFL Owners' Desire for 18-Game Season Is Only Good for Them

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NFL Owners' Desire for 18-Game Season Is Only Good for Them
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Eagles QB Kevin Kolb was unable to finish the season opener after suffering a first half concussion

From one game on the opening week of the NFL season, Philadelphia placed Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver (torn ACL) and center Jamal Jackson (torn right triceps) on injured reserve, QB Kevin Kolb and LB Stewart Bradley suffered concussions, while Green Bay lost defensive lineman Justin Harrell to a season-ending ACL injury and RB Ryan Grant for the year with an ankle injury.

And the NFL owners want to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games.

It’s going to be a contentious negotiation between the NFL Players Association and the league owners after the 2010 season. As important as issues like a rookie salary cap and the player pension are, increasing the length of the regular season will be the most divisive.

The owners are unified in making the extended regular season part of the new CBA. The players, who have to play the games, will dig in their heels. While some players will demand more pay for playing more games or expanded rosters, others will outright refuse a longer season. Their bodies are on the line. They already pay a heavy price and they don’t want to increase the physical toll they’ll absorb.

The injury report after one week was lengthy with some notable names. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford separated his shoulder against Chicago. Buffalo LB Paul Posluszny will miss about three weeks with a knee injury. The New York Giants will be without TE Kevin Boss (concussion) and tackle William Beatty (broken foot) for Week 2, and Cleveland QB Jake Delhomme is in a walking boot after a severe ankle injury.

As the week progressed, the injury list kept growing.

The owners say exchanging two preseason games for two regular season games is giving fans what they want: more value for their hard-earned dollar. Attendance at preseason games is dramatically lower than regular season games for obvious reasons. No one wants to pay full price to see practically worthless games.

Truthfully, the two-for-two trade isn’t about giving the fans more of what they want, but getting more for the owners. They make money off of every ticket sold, every parking spot, and off of every concession sale of food, drink, and souvenirs. The easiest way to increase revenue is to get more butts in the seats that could make ancillary purchases.

That better way to draw more fans to the stadiums than with more meaningful games? Turning two preseason games into regular season games equals two more games with a much better chance of selling out.

But where’s the value when teams who clinched playoff spots sit starters as the season winds down? With more games, Indianapolis could rest QB Peyton Manning, WR Reggie Wayne, DE Dwight Freeney, and others for more than the final two games of the season. The fans won’t get what they paid for, but the owners will still cash in.

For the players that strap on the pads weekly, the additional games will take a toll. For those fortunate to have long careers, two more games per week will add up. If they make it to eight seasons, it would be like they played nine years on their bodies.

It’s hypocritical for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to stress player safety to the point of having posters placed in every locker room for concussion awareness while being the voice of the owners’ push for 18 games. The players pay a high enough price playing 16 games. The Week 1 causalities are proof.

Randolph Charlotin writes a New England Patriots blog at www.randolphc.com.

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