18-4 season has been part of CBA for almost three decades

The current labor deal between the NFL and its players’ union contains a provision that allows the league to increase the regular season to 18 games, The Associated Press reported today. AP said that as the sides try to negotiate a new contract, they are talking again about the possibility of making such a switch.

“An 18-game regular season is not uncharted territory,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to AP on Wednesday, referring to the 2006 collective bargaining agreement and noting that the CFL and USFL have played schedules of that length.

(In fact, the provision giving the NFL the right to go to 18 games upon 90 days written notice to the union first appeared in the 1982 CBA.  That provision has been included in all subsequent CBAs.)

“The key,” Aiello continued, “is to approach it the right way and work closely with our players and clubs to come up with a year-round football calendar that will be better for everyone, including the fans.”

The AP story goes on to say:

League owners and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell want to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18, and cut the preseason from four games to two. The NFL presented the NFL Players Association with its first detailed proposal covering that issue at a bargaining session in Washington on Tuesday.

Goodell has pointed out that the old CBA already left room for the league to extend the regular season, but he also says he wants to work on any such switch with the union.

The 2006 contract says the NFL would need to give the NFLPA 90 days notice in writing before increasing from 16 games to as many as 18. That agreement also says the league would have to negotiate “with the NFLPA with regard to additional compensation to be paid to players for additional regular season games,” and that “if the parties are unable to agree on additional compensation … (an) arbitrator will have the full authority to decide the amount of additional compensation to which the players will be entitled.”

In a joint statement about their latest bargaining session, the league and union said Tuesday’s negotiations “focused on several matters,” including a longer regular season, a rookie wage scale and improvements for retired players.

“Both sides look forward to continuing these discussions and reaching a new collective bargaining agreement,” the statement said.

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