Bill Polian Backpedals on 18-Game Season 'Fait Accompli'
Just two days after terming the NFL's push to expand future regular seasons to 18 games a done deal, the Indianapolis Colts president and league competition committee member backtracked on the assessment.
"I created a headline that was 180 degrees from what was right," Polian said Wednesday on ESPN Radio. "Bad job by me in answering the question."
The answer he gave Monday during his weekly radio show in Indianapolis did a good job of grabbing headlines and getting the attention of the NFL Players Association.
"I think that the owners, and principally the commissioner, have decided that it's the way to go, and so the debate, such as it was, is over," Polian said Monday. "I've heard recently, and I'm sorry that this didn't get more coverage earlier, some really, really interesting commentary on it. ... I wish some of that dialogue had taken place earlier."
Commissioner Roger Goodell is at the forefront of the push for an "enhanced" season that would expanded the regular-season schedule from 16 to 18 games and cut the preseason slate from four to two games. An 18-game schedule would mean more revenue at the gate and from television. Ownership is almost unanimously in favor of the expansion.
But with the NFL and its players union locked in contentious negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement -- the current CBA expires in March, with a work stoppage a very real possibility -- any assumptions made public by one side are, at best, premature; at worst, irresponsible.
"My knee-jerk reaction is I didn't know Polian had the authority to make announcements on his own," NFLPA president Kevin Mawae told The Boston Globe Tuesday, reiterating the union's united opposition to expanding the regular season. "From the players' perspective this is not a done deal. It's not a matter of paychecks, it's about the toll on a player's body and his future health. Look at me, a 16-year vet. It would mean 32 more games."
Following Mawae's public remarks (and probably some private ones from the commissioner's office in New York), Polian was in damage-control mode Wednesday. To his credit, he took responsibility for speaking out of school and said the issue must be discussed further and eventually voted on my the league's 32 owners.