A 17-game regular season will be one of the main items discussed when the league's new Collective Bargaining Agreement is hashed out next offseason. It was one of the topics that was brought up during NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's annual Super Bowl press conference. Negotiations between the league and players' union has begun in recent months under the premise of a 17-game regular season, according to The Washington Post.
On Wednesday, during an appearance on Arizona's Sports 98.7 FM, Cardinals owner/president Michael Bidwill said that he is in favor of the league extending its regular season for the first time since going from 14 to 16 games heading into the 1978 season. Bidwill also offered his reasoning behind his support of an extended regular season.
"I think our fans would like more (games)," Bidwill said, via the team's official website. "We have surveyed our fans. The health/safety data plays out that we can do 17 games and it's not going to impact the safety and the health of the players. I am really proud of the work the league is doing in terms of the health and safety. A lot of big strides have been made. ... We'll see where the players land."
For the 17-game regular season to be included in the upcoming CBA, two-thirds of the league's 32-member player representatives will have to vote in favor of the new CBA. Duper Super Bowl week, 49ers cornerback and player representative Richard Sherman said that he didn't think a 17-game season was "something that players are interested in."
"It's odd to me, and it's always odd, when you hear player safety is their biggest concern ... but it seems like player safety has a price tag," Sherman said. "Player safety, up to the point of, 'Hey, 17 games makes us this much money, so we really don't care how safe they are, if you're gonna pay us this much money to play another game.' And so that's the part that's really concerning for us as a union and us as players because they think that players have a price tag on their health and I don't think we're in the same ballpark in that regard."
As Goodell mentioned during his press conference, changes would be made to the entire league schedule if a 17th game was added. Along with a reduced preseason, there would also be further restrictions placed on teams' workout and player practice schedules. The league is also reportedly prepared to make other concessions in exchange for the players' help in signing off on an extended season. Two of those concessions would likely include changes as it pertains to player discipline and the league's drug policy, specifically as it pertains to marijuana use.
The league's desire to add a 17th game to its regular season is simple: NFL owners want a longer season as "a revenue-boosting measure." They also believe, per Mark Maske of The Post, that a longer regular season "would be valuable in upcoming negotiations for new network broadcasting contracts."
In a recent memo to NFL players, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said that a 17-game season may also lead to an extended playoff field. As it currently stands, 12 of the league's 32 teams make the playoffs, with the conference's top four teams receiving first-round byes.
It's also important to note that an extended season, under the league's new CBA, wouldn't necessarily start immediately. Based on current conversations between Smith and the players' union, the current discussion is that an extended season would happen "at some point" during the new CBA. And while several player reps have spoken out against a 17-game season, Goodell exuded confidence when discussing the current dialogue between the two sides.
"We've made a lot of progress at, now, seven or eight months since we began those discussions more formally," Goodell said. "In those discussions, it's been open dialogue. It's been thoughtful. We've addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward. Both the players and management and everyone at the negotiation have worked to try to find creative solutions to make the NFL better. And that's what you want."