Enhanced 18-2 season: What’s the status?

As discussion continues both publicly and at the bargaining table, it is a good opportunity for a reminder that the status of the proposed 18-2 enhanced season format has not changed. It is still a concept under review among NFL clubs, the NFL Players Association, and NFL business partners. Following are Commissioner Roger Goodell’s comments on the enhanced season from his August 25 press conference following a league meeting in Atlanta. These comments continue to be accurate.

Commissioner Goodell: The most significant discussion of the day was the enhanced season and restructuring our season from 16 and 4 to 18 and 2. There was overwhelming support for the concept and that we want to continue to address a variety of issues. We are putting together a specific proposal, which the negotiating team will provide to the union’s negotiating team. There is tremendous support for it.

Do you have the right to unilaterally impose the enhanced season and did you not because of sensitivities with the players?

As you know, in the Collective Bargaining Agreement we have the right to go to 22 games. The ownership does not think that’s the right step to take. We want to do this the right way and make it good for everyone, including the players, our fans, and the game in general. From our standpoint, we think we’ve moved this concept along. There’s a tremendous amount of momentum for it. We think it’s the right step to take. But we want to do that with our partners, including the players.

On expanding OTAs and other training to prepare for the season:

It’s got to be a comprehensive solution. That’s why we’re taking the necessary steps here and taking the time to address the concept and all of the aspects of this that will make it successful. That’s our focus. How do we make this successful for everybody? But we had a lot of discussion on the Competition Committee analysis about offseason training, what we would do with rosters, what we would do with injured reserved rules. All of those things would allow us the ability to do this correctly.

On comprehensive proposal to union, how will it be different than previous discussions?

What we’ve done to date is show all the analysis that we have shared with the ownership.  We have shared all of that with the players from the first negotiation session in June 2009 to the more recent discussion in June and obviously the negotiating session of just 10 days ago. Right now we have to get more specific about what exactly we are talking about, how we think it can be successful and work with the players to make sure it’s done the right way.

Do you think the players will buy into this idea?

I do because I think there are a lot of benefits to the players.  We understand the player health and safety issue. They’ve identified the issues in our discussions that they’re concerned with. We are aware of all of those. And we want to make sure we address them appropriately.

Is there a timeline for a vote on the enhanced season to happen in order for it to be in the new CBA?

No. We’d like to do it in the context of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. At some point we’ll need to move forward. We have a good opportunity here to do something that is good for all parties and make this a smart decision for everyone. 

Are there any negative voices against an enhanced season?

I’ve made the points before that I think the fans have spoken very loudly. They want less preseason and more regular season. I think the game has changed and the way we prepare our players. I don’t think four preseason games are necessary from a football standpoint for the game. This is an opportunity for us to take this labor agreement and some other opportunities here and do some good things for the game and for the fans, and create a platform that’s going to benefit the league for several years going forward. That’s how we’re looking at this.

On financial gain for players with enhanced season:

If we’re all smart about this, there will be an opportunity to grow the revenue. It will be better received by everybody. That’s where the potential is for all of us. That’s what we have to use as an opportunity for the players and the owners to reach a new labor agreement and the fans to continue to get great quality football and more of it that they find meaningful.

Is there general agreement on the concept from the owners and now it’s just working out the details?

All of the questions were really focused on what is best from a fan perspective. Our clubs rightfully are focused on how their fans will react. So if you are in a cold-weather city, how will they react to games in January? Or if you are in a hot-weather city, how will you react to games in September or late August. The start of when you would go into that is of particular importance. The second would be the quality of the game. Making sure that we maintain the quality of the game. The safety of our players. Those are all the focus of the discussion that we’ve had today and over the past couple of years.

How much of the focus was on what is best for the players?

A significant portion of it. There’s an opportunity here to do something that’s great for the players in the context of this.

On expansion of rosters:

It obviously was discussed today and is something that will be discussed and will be part of the proposal being made to the union.

Have any decisions related to roster size and injured reserve been made?

No.

Could enhanced season be a big tool in reaching an agreement?

Anything we can do to improve on the quality of what we’re doing helps.  If it grows the game, that should help also in a negotiation. If there’s an opportunity, and you mentioned rosters before, if there’s an opportunity to increase rosters, that’s a good thing in today’s environment that we’re creating more jobs. Not many unions can say that. That’s a positive. If we can create greater revenue, that means more compensation for the players. They will be the biggest beneficiary from that. That’s also a good thing. I think there are a lot of positives that can come out of it. I do think it will help us address some of the issues that we are facing. That has to be done in the context of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

On coaches’ sentiment about enhanced season:

With anybody, you have to go through all the dialogue and try to understand the positives and negatives and how the game is changing. I’m a big believer, and I hear it from coaches all the time, that the game is changing now.  And it’s changing and we’re not. That’s why I think we need to look forward now and do things necessary to keep our game competitive, keep the quality up, and make sure we keep the focus on the fans. I think our coaches understand that. I just spoke to a coach yesterday about it and spent some time on it. Every time I speak to a coach I raise it and get their perspective on it. That’s healthy for us. At some point we’ll be able to come to a better conclusion and solution that works for all.

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