You know we’re approaching the next round of negotiations for the Collective Bargaining Agreement when you start hearing about the possibility of an 18-game regular-season schedule again. It’s something that is probably never going to happen, but the league continues to push it—probably knowing it will never happen—as a tactic to make it seem as though they are sacrificing to gain something else.
Commissioner Roger Goodell recently insinuated that there are too many preseason games, and you know what that means. “I feel what we should be doing is always to the highest quality, and I’m not sure preseason games meet that level right now”, he said.
“I’m not sure, talking with coaches, that four preseason games is necessary any more to get ready for a season to evaluate players, develop players. There are other ways of doing that, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about that”, Goodell continued.
Soon after these remarks, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ primary union representative, 11th-year veteran Ramon Foster, was asked about the idea of an 18-game regular-season schedule and, on the flip side, shortening the preseason down to two games. As always, he provided thoughtful answers.
“I’m not sure about the 18 game proposal, but I’m sure that’s something that’s going to be brought up”, he said of future negotiations. “Just health and safety-wise, keeping guys on the field longer and adding two more games, I just don’t know how it’s going to work. That’s probably just a negotiation tactic more than anything”.
It has been just that the last several times that the CBA has come up for renewal. The league has, quite frankly, been good at conceding false sacrifices such as this over the years in exchange for something they really want. They have some good chips on the table this time, including easing up on the drug policy and restrictions on practice and coach access to players early in the offseason.
I would be very surprised if we ever see the NFL actually shorten the preseason in the near future. Four games often seems to be just the right amount of time to get a clear understanding of where your roster is and who is going to make it. And a guy like Foster, given his background, can’t help but appreciate that time.
“I’m not opposed to four games at all”, he said. “I think taking away the two and adding two in the regular season, you’re going to get trashy football probably in the beginning in the first two games. Look at the way the schedule is now. Teams are struggling, they’re ice cold until after maybe after the first four games, you know, or something like that. Across the league, guys don’t really get their feet underneath them”.
“I’d rather the four, especially being an older guy, too”, he went on. “So, and then it just gives a younger guy like myself, who was an undrafted guy, more time to play more snaps if you’ve got four preseason games. And if you take away the two games, do you have a longer camp? Is that what you want? There’s a lot that goes in. I don’t think it’s realistic”.