Jerry Jones has been in favor of an expanded 18-game NFL regular season for basically the entirety of his Dallas Cowboys ownership, which began in February 1989. An August 1993 story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, published when the league’s financial footing was much less sound, noted that Jones “is rumored to be among those pushing hardest for an expanded regular season” as a way to inflate the owners’ bank accounts.
And for nearly as long, the players have disagreed, saying the addition of two regular season games to the schedule would add to an already taxing toll on their bodies.
“The regular season should not be extended,” Troy Aikman, the quarterback who helped lead Jones’s Cowboys to all those Super Bowls in the 1990s, told the Daily Oklahoman in 1997. “Sixteen games are about all anyone’s body can handle.”
The players have only become more entrenched in their stance in light of recent research into the sport’s negative effects on brain health, but that hasn’t stopped Jones from trying to lengthen the regular season. His latest pitch, delivered to Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News, involves a longer regular season — combined with a two-game reduction to the preseason — actually being good for players’ health.
“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.”
The Cowboys owner doubled down on that assertion during a radio appearance Tuesday, saying that “it’s probably better physically” for players to play a longer regular season and shorter preseason, and arguing that change would “create a safer game.”
Oh, and he’s saying the players would make a whole lot more money.
“It would provide more than $1 billion to the players,” Jones told Cowlishaw. “It’s certainly worth considering. It would direct more value for what the players expend to the players.”
Jones’s latter assertion might be true: More games equals more money from the television networks, which view the NFL as one of the few sure things going these days. (Ratings have declined, yes, but not at the pace seen by other forms of programming). Networks would pay more for more games. How much of that money actually would be spread around to the players remains in question, considering that NFL owners don’t usually like to share.
But Jones’s prediction about an 18/2 regular season/preseason split having a positive impact on players’ health probably won’t get too many takers from the players themselves, especially considering that many coaches already seem to be getting wise to the fact that preseason games are needlessly risky and thus are sitting their stars. This preseason, as Cowlishaw noted, half of the 32 projected starting quarterbacks threw fewer than 20 passes. (One has to think none of those 32 will be throwing a pass Thursday, when this year’s final preseason games take place.) Some, like the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff, threw zero, as Coach Sean McVay sat his starters throughout the preseason.
Why would the players agree to add two more games to the regular season with the promise of a shortened preseason if teams already are shortening the preseason for many of their stars? It all seems unlikely, and it’s one of seemingly hundreds of arguments that will have to be settled when the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 regular season.
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