Last week, the NFLPA elected Eric Winston as the new president, and one of the first things that came up was the proposed 18-game season.
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The NFL offices in New York City can talk about their continued commitment to player safety and new policies that will help players in the future, but as soon as Roger Goodell and all his cronies speak of an 18-game season and take the "that's what the fans want" route, the hypocrisy reigns supreme.
If there is going to be an 18-game season, the owners are then going to have to make some major concessions with the roster numbers and the amount of guys you can dress on game day. Currently, once the season starts, you have 53 guys on your roster and dress 46 on game day. If the owners aren't willing to expand the rosters by the second half of the season, teams will be signing guys off the streets, and the quality of the games will suffer. Another idea along the same lines is expanding the practice squad roster, which currently consists of 8 players.
Bye weeks are yet another major issue that the NFLPA and the owners would have to hash out if an 18-game season happens. One of the ideas that has been proposed is that each team would then get 2 byes at some point between the 3rd and 16th week.
Salary cap issues have been brought up by both sides in this battle, and with the cap increasing by $10 million this year, future major increases would have to happen; especially if the rosters are expanded by 10 to 15 guys. Minimum salaries could also be changed. As of right now, the league minimum ranges from $420k for rookies to $950,000 for 10-year vets.
The reaction of the fans to the proposed 18-game season has varied. The ones who simply love the sport and can't get enough don't care if it's played on Monday, Thursday or Saturday, and those are the fans Goodell and the owners are directly attempting to cater to. Many people have taken to the idea that they don't want to put even more money in the pockets of the owners, and that there's no sense in changing something that is fine as is. There is definitely a "don't fix it if it ain't broke" mentality to this segment of fans.
Put me in that second camp.
I believe the owners have gotten away with being greedy for years, especially during player negotiations, and they aren't called out on it. When a player holds out or attempts to renegotiate his contract, he is often viewed as greedy, but when an owner uses heavy-handed tactics or opts to cut a player a few years into a 5-year deal, it is almost always seen as good business. We have to remember that the players are people, not just pawns on a chessboard that can be moved around on a whim.
In the end, the players probably won't win this fight. You can see it by simply looking at the current collective bargaining agreement. The NFLPA has the worst CBA of any of the four major sports leagues by far, so there is little reason to believe the owners won't eventually get what they want. But if the league office and the owners want to at least keep up the appearance of caring about player safety, they'll have to make major concessions to get their 18-game season.