Per a league source, the NFL quietly has resumed its push to persuade the NFLPA to expand the regular-season to 18 games.
The players consistently have declined to agree to an expanded regular season, even though the players would realize roughly half of the additional revenue. And while the NFL still has the ability to unilaterally slash the preseason in half, which at one point was viewed as the leverage necessary to persuade the NFLPA to agree to add those two games to the regular season, the league is unlikely to do that, for various reasons.
Apart from losing the revenue with no guarantee the NFLPA would take the bait for replacing the money (and then some) by adding a pair of regular-season games, stadium lease agreements typically require at least 10 games per year. So if the NFL opts to drop a pair of preseason games and the union calls the bluff, the NFL could end up in breach of multiple stadium deals.
If the players continue to refuse to play more than 16 games, the only way to add two games would be to expand the season while limiting each player’s participation to 16 per season. This would require coaches to make often difficult decisions about when to rest each player, twice.
Injuries would make those decisions easier. Lions running back Reggie Bush, for example, already would have one of his two games off in the bank after Sunday’s decision by the team to play it safe with his knee injury.
Likewise, exceptions could be made for specialists and quarterbacks, who already have greater in-game protections and compensation than other players.
The concept would cause strong reactions, in both directions. Though a union source has described the possibility of an 18-game season with a 16-game limit per player as “fascinating,” many fans would disagree. Loudly.
Millions of fantasy football owners wouldn’t be thrilled about it, either. Loudly.
With the league intent on adding regular-season games and the players intent on not exposing themselves to additional physical risks, the shift from 16 to 18 games will happen only if the NFLPA blinks or the two sides come up with something creative. And the league will keep pressing until one of those two things happen.