The NFL can’t stop getting in its own way.
The league has already had a rocky season, highlighted by the potential relocation of the Los Angeles Chargers to England and a sham tryout for the disgraced quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Both instances violated the NFL’s mission and values, and now the proposed central bargaining agreement (CBA) betrays the organization’s efforts to lower injuries all for monetary gains.
The CBA would expand the playoffs to include seven teams rather than the six it currently accommodates, and would increase the regular season to 17 games. It would also decrease the preseason from four to three games.
Fans and players alike have advocated for a shortened preseason for some time now, claiming that the extra injury risk is not worth the low entertainment value. For the NFL, which has aimed to decrease injuries in recent years, this part of the CBA makes sense. They have altered kickoffs numerous times in the past few years to avoid big returns and big hits, outlawed several high-impact drills in May 2019, and are constantly tinkering with helmets to make them safer.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, all parties involved in the CBA have already agreed to the revised playoff format. The players must still approve 17-game regular season, and the final vote has been delayed largely because of the opposition to the lengthened season. However, the CBA carries a great incentive for players: the proposed deal would increase the players’ revenue share from 47 percent to 48.5 percent — a $5 billion swing — it seems more than likely that the extended season will happen.
A reduced preseason makes sense. The rest of the CBA, however, does not. Increasing the regular season to 17 games neither makes sense for logistics nor for safety. For one, an odd-numbered regular season would grant some teams an extra home game, creating an unfair advantage in tight playoff races.
More importantly, an extra game welcomes greater opportunity to injure. For stars who often do not play in the final few games of the preseason, adding an extra game to the regular season after removing one from the preseason would actually raise the risk of injury. Expanding the playoffs also makes little sense for the same reason.
The underlying motivation behind the new CBA is clear: profit. More games equal more revenue, and since the players would receive a higher portion of the NFL’s revenue under the proposed CBA, it only makes sense for them to eventually support its passage.
I’m sure that most fans will love the extra football, especially for the playoffs. However, when the NFL says that it’s working to reduce injuries, only to propose a CBA that would increase the risk for players, it becomes clear that the league’s focus remains fixed on money, rather than on its players.