Student journalist Zach Short covers the prospective changes to the NFL season and what they mean for the players.
For years the NFL has toyed with the possibility of adding more playing time to their schedule. Suggestions have ranged across a wide variety of possibilities, most of which died before they were even close to implementation. Recently, however, a new plan began showing promise of actually changing professional football. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) would not only add an extra game to the schedule, with no additional bye week, but would also restructure the postseason, raise salaries for players and adjust the way players are judged and penalized for their conduct off the field.
As perhaps the largest change, the additional game in the regular season typically receives the most attention. Supporters point at the potential of a colossal increase in revenue that would allow for more player pay, higher minimum pay for rookies and expanded rosters and practice squads. The proposed CBA directly stipulates the latter two changes while providing that 48 percent (eventually 48.5 percent) of new revenue must be shared with players, dictating an increase in player pay overall. Critics, however, point to the increased risk of injury and fatigue that comes with the additional game. More than that, player careers could shorten with the additional play — a big problem for the already brief stints of linemen.
In another part of the CBA, a new postseason plan would expand to hold 14 teams, as opposed to the current 12, and would only grant the top seed in each conference a first round bye. Arguments on this topic reflect similar ideas to the regular season change. Those in favor would point at the additional two games — playoff games, at that — capable of collecting immense amounts in additional revenue. On the flip side, the plan adds a single extra game to both conferences, most negatively affecting conference two-seeds who would no longer receive a first round bye. Whereas they would, in theory, have a relatively easy match with the new bottom seed, they would still have to play an extra game in the playoffs. Statistically speaking, teams who earn a first round bye are much more likely to make a Super Bowl appearance. While the high caliber of teams there likely contributes to that fact, some three- and four-seeds in any given postseason are always considered about equal to the higher seeds.
Not all of the plan seems so controversial, though. Few NFL policy analyzers have publicly come against the new plan for judging player misconduct off the field. First and foremost, the CBA promises to relax policies on player use of marijuana. As more and more teams exist in states with legalized recreational marijuana, the league needed to address the evolving political climate as it impacts its players.
The other half of the penalization policy would shift discipline overall out of the hands of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to a third party arbitrator. In all, the policy looks to address the frequent critiques of player policy. Domestic abuse charges against NFL players make news headlines with a frequency found in no other professional sport, and league action is often deemed too lax. If nothing else, inadequate penalizations of offenders would at least, in this plan, fall to the third party arbitrator and take the heat off Roger Goodell and the NFL.
Most, if not all, of the criticism for the new plan comes for the heavier burden placed on players. Fortunately, the players themselves currently possess the final say in the matter as the last step before implementation demands a vote of the players’ union at large, currently unscheduled. Should the union reach a simple majority in favor, the new plan will likely take effect for the upcoming NFL season this fall and winter.