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18-game season remains a real possibility

Super Bowl XLVI

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05: Commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell talks during the trophy presentation after Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Though recent comments from Commissioner Roger Goodell to ESPN 1000 in New York regarding the league’s lack of an intention to expand its number of teams have gotten the most attention, it’s important to point out what Goodell said -- and didn’t say -- about the still-looming possibility of expanding the regular season.

People want more football,” Goodell said, via “I think they want less preseason and more regular season and that’s the concept we are talking about here.”

Actually, the more accurate statement seems to be that the fans want less preseason and the same regular season. Only season-ticket holders endorse the prospect of fewer fake games and more real ones, for obvious reasons.

“We wouldn’t add an extra two games without reducing the preseason and we are not going to do it without the players support, so we did that in the Collective Bargaining Agreement instead of having the unilateral right, which we had,” Goodell said. “We determined that we were going to do this together. We are going to make changes in the offseason and during the preseason and during the regular season to make the game safer. If we can accomplish that we’ll look at the idea of restructuring the season and taking two preseason games away and the potential of adding regular season games, but I don’t think that will happen until at least 2013 or 14.”

Well, obviously, it won’t happen in 2012. If the season were going to expand, plans already would have to be made for finding a way to wedge two regular-season games into a schedule that has 17 weekends of the regular season (with one bye per team) and one dormant weekend between the conference title games and the Super Bowl. (Unless, of course, the league would be interested in starting the regular season before the weekend after Labor Day.) And if it’s going to happen in 2013, the NFL will have to work around the February 2, 2014 date for Super Bowl XLVIII in New York/New Jersey.

Regardless, the 18-game concept remains on the table. And even though the league no longer has the unilateral right to expand the regular season, the current CBA gives the league the unilateral right to cut the preseason in half.

As we’ve previously explained, that’s how the players would eventually be squeezed into agreeing to expand the regular season. The league would tell the players that two preseason games are going to be dumped due to the poor quality of play and the unacceptable risk of injury in games that don’t count. Given the current revenue-sharing model, the players then would realize that they’d be losing a ton of money if the preseason gets chopped in half -- and they’d also know (thanks to the league’s detailed studies on the matter) the extra revenue that would be generated by the addition of two regular-season games.

And so the players eventually would choose to add two regular-season games to replace the two preseason games.

Whether it happens in 2013, 2014, 2015, or beyond, the league most likely will exercise the right to dump two weeks of the preseason, and then the players will have a big decision to make.

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