The NFL has abandoned its push for an 18-game regular season in early negotiations on a new collective-bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, but a longer schedule isn’t off the table just yet, according to multiple reports.
Instead, the league’s 32 owners are set to propose a 17-game season, up from a current slate of 16 games for each team, The Athletic reported, citing ownership sources familiar with the matter. The expected proposal would offer to cut down on the number of preseason games as a concession to players’ union representatives.
“Not enough owners support [for] 18 and players would not go for it either,” a source told The Athletic.
While NFL owners have repeatedly pushed for a longer season in recent labor talks as a means of generating more revenue, the NFL Players Association has long opposed the idea. Critics on the players’ side have sought a larger percentage of league revenue and raised concerns about the heightened injury risk associated with a longer season – especially while players lack guaranteed contracts.
Under the NFL’s current labor agreement, players are entitled to a maximum of 48.5 percent of the league’s revenue, which includes earnings from media rights deals, corporate partnerships and other sources. The NFL earned roughly $16 billion for its 2018 league year.
The NFL and union representatives began preliminary talks toward a new collective-bargaining agreement over the summer, but so far have made little progress. The current agreement expires after the 2020 season.
The length of the NFL’s season and terms of player compensation are expected to be key issues are negotiations progress.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hinted at a charity event in June that schedule changes were a possibility.
"I feel what we should be doing is always to the highest quality, and I'm not sure preseason games meet that level right now," Goodell said at the time.