Roger Goodell reiterates long-term plan for NFL to have 18-game regular season

An 18-game regular season schedule in the NFL isn’t imminent, but it’s certainly on the league’s mind.

Roger Goodell reiterated the league’s interest in possibly extending the regular season by a game when he spoke with reporters at league meetings in Nashville on Wednesday. The NFL commissioner said that while a switch to a longer regular season isn’t imminent, the league is thinking about it in a “long-range context” as it would likely mean a shorter preseason.

“We think that’s a good trade,” Goodell said. “Less preseason games and more regular-season games, most everybody would think that’s beneficial.”

Goodell explained that player safety would have to be kept in mind when increasing the regular season workload, mentioning that the league would have to come to a resolution with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) in order to have an 18-game schedule.

“The key thing for us is looking at making sure we continue to do the things that make our game safer — 17 games is a long season, so we want to make sure we look at that and make sure that we continue the safety efforts,” Goodell said. 

Although he expressed that the league isn’t “actively thinking about” extending the regular season by a game, Goodell believes it could serve what the fans want in the long run.

“Again, moving to quality and making sure we’re doing everything possible to give the fans what they want,” Goodell said. “And they want, obviously, more football. I’m not sure they want more preseason football.”

Goodell first expressed the idea that the NFL could expand its regular season to 18 games in an interview with ESPN in April. He also proposed the idea of having one fewer preseason game in favor of an extra regular-season game then, saying “I’m not a fan of preseason.” He added that Presidents’ Day weekend would be an ideal weekend for the Super Bowl.

The commissioner’s idea had seemed to gain traction among important figures in the league. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave his support to the idea when he spoke with reporters on Wednesday. 

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New York Giants owner John Mara told reporters that he thinks that the majority of his fellow owners fall in the same camp as Goodell and Jones. However, he expressed some reservations about moving to an 18-game regular-season schedule.

“I can’t say I’m necessarily crazy about extending the season,” Mara said. “I worry more about player fatigue and wear and tear on the players moving forward. That’s one of the reasons why we have to have the discussion with [the players union].”

As Goodell mentioned, extending the regular season would have to be collectively bargained between the league and the NFLPA. That’s how the NFL extended its regular season schedule from 16 to 17 games in 2021, with the players giving owners a three-year window between 2021-23 to accept the option to increase the regular season by a game when the last collective bargaining agreement was agreed upon in 2020. As a concession, players received 48.8% of the league’s revenue in a 17-game season, an increase from 48% when the schedule contained 16 games.

The NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement runs through 2030. 

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