While NFL owners are looking for more football during the regular season, they aren’t receiving much support from the players.
Last week saw NFL Player’s Association executive director DeMaurice Smith shoot down a proposal tabled by team owners to extend the regular-season schedule from 16 to 18 games.
While two extra games would provide the league with billions of dollars in added revenue — as much as $2.5 billion according to the Wall Street Journal — concerns about the players’ longevity came into view.
The owners suggested capping each player’s participation to just 16 of those 18 games to ensure that their regular-season workload doesn’t change.
However, it would be controversial for a team in the thick of a playoff race to have to sit their best player because of league rules.
For Smith, it all circled back to the health of the players.
“We would never contemplate a world where even if you’re playing 16 games in 18, that’s still two more weeks of practice,” Smith told 106.7 The Sports Junkies in Washington, D.C. on Monday. “If the league wants to propose something that decreases injury, increases a player’s long-term health care, and decreases their exposure to the type of injuries that we know cause long-term problems, then we’ll hear it.”
The NFL has constantly fallen under siege by activists looking out for the health of players which is why Smith has taken such a stern stance on extending the regular season.
Campaigns to teach a correct way of tackling to avoid head contact or penalizing dangerous hits have done little to subdue the violence within the game.
“I know fans love to talk about ideas like this, but I live in a world where we want to decrease injury, we want to decrease exposure, we want to decrease the chances of long-term injury,” Smith said. “We want to increase the type of health care that we’ve got after football is over. I didn’t hear any of that into an 18-game proposal.”
The proposal was tabled during negotiations for the league’s next collective bargaining agreement. While the current deal expires before the 2021 season, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told CNBC that the league would like to have a new CBA in place before the start of the 2019 season.
Rather than add games, Smith is looking to do the opposite. Granted, not in the regular season.
“I look at preseason games as our guys being exposed to injury before the work begins,” Smith said. “In 2018, we had 79 preseason concussions before the work began.”