By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
The NFL and NFLPA are headed to the table to work on the next collective bargaining agreement as the current one ends after the 2020 season. Both sides have already started talking, but negotiations will ramp up over the next few months and into the next season.
One of the big items on the table is adding one to two extra games. I took a few minutes after the end of Saturday’s Pro Bowl practice to talk to a few players about how they felt about adding more playing time to their season.
There are a lot of things on the table when it comes to this next CBA. Guaranteed salaries, increasing minimums for veterans and rookies, drug policies, revenue sharing, lifetime health insurance… it’s a long list. One of the biggest changes the owners would like is to add at least one game to the season. And it’s not something the players are necessarily happy about, but may not have a choice in.
Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints tight end, feels that if they are going to add the extra game, extra compensation should go right along with it.
“I do think there is a problem with players and compensation for that extra game. You know, we already put our bodies through a lot, we put our minds and time away from our families, its a lot, so playing that extra game, or extra two games they are talking about, I feel like there needs to be some extra incentive that comes with it.”
Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper agrees and thinks its also about player safety. “If the NFL says they care about player safety, playing more football isn’t good for your body. So if they really care about player safety, they should add another bye week. So we’ll see if their actions line up with their words and what they tell parents.”
Jason Kelce, Center for the Philadelphia Eagles, brought up another issue with adding more games. He said that injuries are an issue, but also because an NFL season isn’t as long as other sports, each game counts more.
“I think one of the unique things about this sport is that because there are only 16 games, only 8 home games, only one game a week, the fans really get revved up for those game days. If we played like these baseball or basketball schedules, you’re playing 3 -4 games a week, the regular season games become a lot less meaningful. Fan involvement goes down. Viewership goes down.”
“Obviously adding one or two games isn’t going to hurt that much, but one of the unique things of this sport is regular season matters a whole heck of a lot. You only get a very small amount of opportunities to go out there and be successful as a team. And I don’t want that to change.”
All the points brought up are valid and completely true. As fans already know, it’s not rare to lose multiple starters every year to injury. Adding in more playing time would probably make that even worse. All the players I talked to agreed that if the NFL added in games, it would also have to add in an extra bye week.
“I think if you’re going to have an extra game, you definitely need to have an extra bye week,” said Tyron Smith, tackle for the Dallas Cowboys. “Its a lot on these guys to play as long as we do, so an extra bye week would help us with that extra game.”
And as for Kelce’s point about wanting every game to count, I can see his point. Let’s be honest, we already kind of discount the first few games of the year, knowing that teams take a while to settle in and get their rhythm. However, if they add two more games, we could end up discounting them even more. If a 12-4 record is a great record now, a 12-6 record might still be considered great. Fans might not worry if their favorite team dropped a few games at the beginning of the season.
The other topic brought up was the preseason. Did they think they should shorten it by two games? The players were split.
Hooper points out that getting rid of the extra preseason games wouldn’t change much. “Most of the veteran guys don’t play in preseason anyway so that doesn’t really change half the locker room.”
Kelce saw it a little differently. He thinks that shortening the preseason isn’t a good idea. “Young players get a little bit out of them (the games) because they get to go up against a different team, different schemes. For older guys, you’ve kind of seen all the schemes before, so you’re just kind of working yourself back into it.”
“But there is a big emphasis on the amount of practicing we do, the amount of padded practices we do, and building the cohesion with the people next to you. I worry if the preseason were to get any shorter than it already is, then it would really affect the product on the field. So if you want to scale back on preseason games, I understand that, but the preseason practices are necessary to have a team fully ready to go by game one.”
With the collective bargaining agreement negotiations right around the corner, these conversations will be had more often. No one knows the game better than the guys on the field, so my hope is the NFL and NFLPA take time to listen to these players, and take their ideas, worries, and concerns into account.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG