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Chargers skeptical of expanding NFL season

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 27, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    Chargers skeptical of expanding NFL season

    5:50 p.m. August 27, 2009
    By Tim Sullivan

    SAN DIEGO – Preseason football is overpriced tedium. It is “A Chorus Line” without the catchy tunes – a glorified cattle call for bit players trying to break into show business.

    It's hard to attach much meaning to a game decided by the coverage of a soon-to-be-cut cornerback on a receiver destined for the practice squad. It's hard to generate much enthusiasm for a spectacle in which star players are confined to cameos and the final score pales in significance to the injury report.

    So if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is interested in slicing some of the fat from these excessive exhibitions – specifically, in trimming the number of preseason games from four to two – it's exceedingly hard to object.

    Yet because this appetizing bait arrives with a hook, players are treating the proposal with widespread skepticism. Since what Goodell envisions is replacing two preseason games with two additional regular-season games, his heavily bruised labor force is leery.

    “I see what they're trying to do,” said Kris Dielman, the Chargers' Pro Bowl guard. “They're trying to make more money. That's all great and dandy (but) I don't want to be sitting on the bench because my knee got busted up in the 17th game.

    “Sixteen games is a grind. Eighteen would be really rough. If you go to 18 games, I think the quality of the game will be affected. I don't think it would be good for the sport.”

    With the NFL's owners and players staking out their negotiating positions for a new round of collective bargaining, Goodell's trial balloon might ultimately prove to be filled with hot air. It's certainly possible the commissioner is floating an expanded season to create a bargaining chip management can use to extract other concessions.

    Deception is fundamental in football, after all, and particularly at this point in the negotiating process. It's still too soon, then, to tell whether Goodell's stated preference is a high priority. It is not too soon, however, to know that the idea entails some tough yardage.

    “I'm not a big fan of that,” said Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson. “Physically, it's just so much more (wear) on you. I just think the value of a lot of players (would) go down. You'd have more injuries. You'd have to have a deeper team, more guys at more positions, just so you could survive a full season.”

    Pro football already takes a frightful toll on its players. Injuries cost the New Orleans Saints' starters a total of 209 games last season. The Cincinnati Bengals, meanwhile, set a team record with 23 players on injured reserve. With so many players so beat up by January, the prospect of adding two more real games could be a recipe for diminishing returns and abbreviated careers.

    “It all works except for one thing,” former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick says in his new book, 'More Than A Game.' “Every single football person you talk to is not just opposed, but vehemently opposed.”

    Management's argument is that audience demand is strong – NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league polling indicates nearly 70 percent of fans would prefer more regular-season games – and that the additional demands on players are really more of a redistribution.

    Eliminating practice games to expand on the real deal is a principle NFL players previously embraced before the 1978 season. Then, the preseason schedule was sliced from six games to four to accommodate a regular-season shift from 14 games to 16.

    “We have a 20-game season, so we're staying within the 20-game format,” Aiello said. “We also want to improve the quality of what we're doing. Fans are showing that they're not terribly excited about preseason games (and) overwhelmingly support more games that count.

    “The networks would say the same thing. The NFL is the most valuable programming they have.”

    You don't have to follow the money very far to appreciate that an 18-game season would increase television revenues, subtract unsold seats, afford the NFL the opportunity to stage more games abroad and put more cash in the pockets of the players. At issue is whether the players see enough incentive in expanding the league's pie to risk diluting their own personal product.

    “How many weeks and years is that going to take off your career in the end?” asked kicker Nate Kaeding, the Chargers' alternate union representative. “I know that's what these guys are taking into the calculation (and) I don't blame them. You look at the injured list as the season progresses and the numbers are growing. Guys don't want to put themselves in harm's way for two more weeks.”

    Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd said he was “50-50” on the idea, embracing the appeal of fewer two-a-day practices while expressing concern for a heightened risk of injury.
    “I think different positions would have different feelings,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “If I'm not very banged up, I'm all for it. I like to play. But I don't know. The setup (in place) has obviously been successful for a long time. But there are certainly times I wish the regular season got here sooner.”

    With two preseason games remaining, the Chargers are eager for the regular season to start. Whether they are prepared to prolong it is another matter.
     

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