Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered a solution to shorten the NFL preseason and limit exposure to concussions: an 18-game regular-season schedule.
Jones said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News that adding two games to the current regular season model could bring $1 billion in player revenue.
“I can make the case that we have an uptick in concussions in the preseason,’’ Jones said. “If you look at it, I would contend there would be less exposure.’’
Jones said his plan would also reduce training camp. Most teams are in camp in the final days of July, which is six full weeks — often even more — ahead of Week 1 of the regular season.
The Canadian Football League uses an 18-game schedule with two bye weeks per team.
If the $1 billion uptick is spread over all players on each team’s 53-man roster, each player could make $589,000.
However, the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement runs through 2020, and commissioner Roger Goodell said as recently as February there was no plan to change the format of the regular season. The NFLPA also resisted suggestions for a longer regular season during the last round of contract negotiations.
When the debate sizzled in 2012 over adding games to the regular season, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was also firmly on board with the Jones plan.
“I really think going to an 18-game season is critical to us getting a labor deal,” he said. “There’s not a lot of ways in this economic environment we can generate incremental revenues. That’s the best way. The other thing — our fans have said pretty loud and clear they’d like us to have fewer preseason games.”
During the current preseason, many teams have curbed playing time for their first-string players. The Los Angeles Rams have gone to the greatest extreme, and several key starters — including running back Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff — will not take a single snap. The Chicago Bears sat the majority of their key personnel last Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs in the name of preservation for games that count.
Even so, fans are being charged at or near regular-season ticket prices for the exhibition games, which is one reason the majority, as mentioned by Kraft, would support adding games that count in the standings.