NFL Unplugged: From 16 To 18 Games A Season


The NFL owners meeting is wrapping up as I type this. The owners will decide whether or not to vote upon an 18-game regular season schedule with two preseason games cut out.

There are plenty of pros to doing this from an entertainment and business standpoint. However, there are just as many cons in terms of the players themselves.

The NFL is an $8 billion business. Increasing the regular season by two games would increase revenue by about 12% or $900 million. That’s a huge win for Commissioner Roger Goodell and the business. Could this, however, bite the league in the rear end in the future?

On the one hand, I would love to see the NFL cut the preseason in half and add two more games to the regular season schedule. From a fan’s point of view, preseason games can get boring. The starters play approximately half the time while 2nd and 3rd string players get evaluated and get the reps in. All players are more susceptible to injury before the regular season even begins.

If the league changed to the 18-game system, training camp would likely be cut short. Instead of three weeks, it might be cut to a week and a half or two. This gives teams less of a chance to evaluate the young guys or the guys that are on “roster bubble.”

Conditioning also takes a hit. Many players all around the league (I won’t name names) have come into training camp with the remnants of too many offseason cupcakes in their bellies. It’s not the league’s fault that this happens. It’s absolutely the player’s fault. Right now, training camp and preseason games are used to get players in playing shape for the regular season. I think the reduced amount of time for conditioning combined with fewer reps in practice will dramatically reduce the quality of play in the first few weeks of the regular season.

Now, let’s look at this from the most important perspective, the players’ perspective.

Some of the veteran players don’t need as much training camp and preseason play because they’ve got enough experience under their belts to get back in the groove fairly quickly. Brett Favre has got enough experience under his belt to feed two rookies through camp just fine. That’s why he holds out until the end of training camp to make his decision about whether or not to play. I digress. The new system would favor the current veterans. It would cut down on the risk of injury and general wear and tear before the season begins.

However, once the season begins, the risk of injury would dramatically increase. For the teams that make it to the Super Bowl, they could potentially play 22 meaningful games. As it is, most players can barely make it through a 16 game season.

Most of us only see players suit up on Sundays (or Mondays). We don’t see the bruises, cuts, muscle tears, torn ligaments, and broken bones that players practice through and play through week in and week out. We don’t see the amount of treatment they receive or how they can barely get out of bed the day after a game.

My eyes were opened to the amount of pain NFL players go through after I read NFL Unplugged: The Brutal, Brilliant World of Professional Football by Anthony L. Gargano.

The book is due out in September, but I was given an advanced copy as a promotional tool.

For those of you who want to get to know the game as much as you know your mother, girlfriend, or brother, pick this book up as fast as you can.

The synopsis reads:

"“Behind every glittering NFL game on television is a world of happy pain for a hundred men. NFL Unplugged lets you see that world through the eyes of the pros who live and sweat in it. Here are the places the cameras don’t go: the locker room where coaches’ speeches can deflate or motivate, the huddle where fart jokes vie with playcalling, the training camp where locusts and heat conspire to break the strongest bodies and shake the most determined minds. Now you can experience it all up close and unplugged.”"

This book is every fan’s dream. Current and former players and coaches speak about their NFL experience. Do you want to know how the Dallas Cowboys felt about Terrell Owens when he was playing for the Big D? Do you want to find out what dirty tricks players use when fighting for a fumbled ball? Do you want to know just how brutal training camp is? Do you want to know what kind of hazing went on a decade or two ago? Do you want to get a sneak peak at a players’ pregame ritual from throwing up to praying?

I was surprised to find just how many players such as Michael Strahan and Bill Romanowski got personal with their accounts of time spent in the league.

I think anyone who reads NFL Unplugged will get a better sense of what the game of football is all about and how changing to an 18-game season would have a profound impact on the players, coaches, and league in general.

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