As NFLPA braces for 18-game push, plenty of younger players have no problem with it


The NFL has wanted to expand the regular season to 18 games for years. It accepted 17 as a compromise, a stepping stone toward more.

And it’s just a matter of time before the NFL makes its move to move the line between regular-season and preseason games from 17 and three to 18 and two.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL Players Association is already bracing for it. And one of the things the NFLPA has to ponder is whether and to what extent the players want it.

There’s a sense, we’re told, that plenty of young players are fine with it. Their votes count the same as the older players who bristle at adding to the workload.

Although comments from the Commissioner in late April boosted the conversation, the truth is that the issue first returned to the front burner when Browns G.M. Andrew Berry explained on PFT Live from the Scouting Combine that Cleveland had proposed a two-week delay in the trade deadline to account for the 17th regular-season game — and in anticipation of an 18th.

After the chatter first resurfaced in late February, new union president Jaylen Reeves-Maybin didn’t dismiss the possibility when asked about it, saying simply that “when the time comes, we’ll address” it.

The time seems to be coming.

An item posted Thursday morning by Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com gathers quotes from various players as to the possibility of adding another regular-season game. Players like Colts center Ryan Kelly have spoken against it. Steelers safety Damontae Kazee sounds far more pragmatic.

“It can be positive for both sides,” Kazee said. “People look at it as another week to feed your family. . . . I love it.”

More games will mean more money, that’s for sure. The challenge for the NFLPA will be to use it as a springboard for more than an expansion of their fair share.

The basic reality is that the question ultimately would be resolved through a fight that isn’t fair. The owners are willing to shut down football for a full season to get what they want. The players are not. This imbalance ensures that, when push comes to shove, the union will cry uncle.

The question becomes whether the league can get the union to accept the inevitable before the expiration of the current CBA, in 2030. What can the league offer the players to get them on board? Will the league do what the union wants?

Ideally, the league would implement an 18th game as of 2030, since that will be the first year of the next broadcast contracts. If/when (when) the league pulls the plug early on the existing TV deals, it will have another 16 regular-season games to offer in the next wave of billion-dollar arrangements.

So, yes, it’s coming. And, yes, plenty of players will welcome the extra game check.



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