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NFL to Begin Push for Expanded Season

Jun 15, 2010 – 7:30 PM
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Dan Graziano

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The NFL and its players' union will meet Wednesday in New York for the latest round of collective bargaining negotiations, according to sources close to the situation. And at that meeting the league is expected to present its proposal for a new agreement, which will include plans to expand the regular season from 16 to 18 games while eliminating two preseason games.

The league is applying the euphemism "enhanced season" instead of using the word "expanded," and it is also planning to have an NFL Network TV crew covering the negotiating session. That would seem to indicate that the NFL will make commissioner Roger Goodell's case for an 18-game season in the court of public opinion, where the players' concerns about increased compensation to correspond with an increased workload are unlikely to get a fair hearing.

Union head DeMaurice Smith and the players don't necessarily oppose an expanded season outright. But if the NFL is determined to put one in place, the players want to make sure the league makes concessions to reflect its concerns -- chiefly, the increased injury risk brought on by changing two preseason games in which players don't play all four quarters at full intensity to regular-season games in which they do. So, while the league is likely to make its proposal for the expanded season today, the union is likely to counter with a proposal that addresses the issues from its end.

The problem for the union is that by resisting the idea of the expanded season, it's almost certain to find itself on the unpopular end of an idea for which the football-crazed public is likely to go nuts (i.e., "MORE FOOTBALL!!!!). And as the CBA negotiations hinge at least in part on each side's ability to win the public relations battle, the union fears that the expanded-season proposal will work to the owners' advantage.

It's been quite a while since the sides have met to exchange ideas, so in one respect it's good that they're meeting Wednesday at all. But given the state of the relationship between league and union, depending on the way in which the owners' proposal and the expanded-season idea are delivered, this session could end up doing more harm to the process than good.
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