Former players Flutie, Kelly recall 18-game grind
Wednesday, March 23, 2011; 3:22 PM
-- Doug Flutie remembers feeling how his arm was ready to fall off during his one year in the USFL. Nate Newton recalls how he did absolutely nothing but rest for an entire month after playing his two USFL 18-game regular seasons.
And former CFL quarterback Danny McManus can still see the telltale signs of blurry-eyed fatigue that set in on rookies when Week 13 rolled around in Canada with five games still left to play.
For those wondering what the effects might be if the NFL expands from 16 to 18 regular-season games, take it from those who've been through it: It's a grind.
"From week to week, game plan to game plan, there's the physical part, but the mental part of the preparation is what wears a guy down," said Newton, a former star offensive lineman, who began his pro career in 1984 with the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits. "You're going to blow a fuse. It's just bound to happen."
Newton got a taste of playing an 18-game season before going on to become a six-time Pro Bowl selection with the Dallas Cowboys.
McManus, who played for Florida State, spent 17 seasons in the CFL where 18-game schedules have been the norm since 1986.
"You'd see it around Week 13 through Week 16, these guys are just dragging themselves into the locker room," said McManus, who retired in 2006 and is now the head U.S. scout for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. "There's no doubt it's a grind to go 18 weeks. And we used to do it going 18 weeks straight."
Of course, that led to some unorthodox recuperating methods.
"The saying we have up in Canada is we ice from the inside out," McManus said, laughing. "And that's because of a lot of that Canadian beer up there. That's the quickest way to get into the muscles, to ice from the inside out."
These are among the sobering messages from several ex-USFLers and CFLers - rounded out by Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who broke in with the USFL's Houston Gamblers in 1984 before starring for the Buffalo Bills - with firsthand knowledge of playing 18-game seasons.
All agreed the expanded schedules required a big adjustment from players.
And Kelly even wondered whether the NFL is using the 18-game schedule as a ploy in labor talks, which are now on hold after breaking down two weeks ago.