For as many years as I can remember, NFL season-ticket holders have complained about having to pay full price for exhibition games, when the league comes right out and tells you the games don’t mean a thing. So, what does the NFL propose to keep the gravy train going?
They have floated out the idea of a two-game exhibition slate, along with an 18-game regular season. So much for the NFL’s concern about injuries, including all the brain information compiled after numerous autopsies have been performed following the deaths of so many players.
To combat this problem while still being able to cash in, the NFL has suggested each player can only play 16 games in the regular season. Imagine the Cleveland Browns looking at their schedule with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in for a big game. Uh-oh. The Browns already decided what to do with the quarterback situation, knowing they can’t use Baker Mayfield once they set up the day schedule. The Browns decided to use Drew Stanton and the Steelers decided this would be a good time to rest “Big” Ben Roethlisberger.
What about the place-kicker, punter and long snapper?
I once had a discussion with place-kicker Lou Groza, who told me about the state of the game in the 1950s. He sold insurance before and after the season just to make money to scrape by. In those days, the Browns would play six exhibition games and 12 regular-season games. They would sandwich in two games in Los Angeles and San Francisco and a third at some neutral site over a 12-day period. And because there wasn’t a training schedule as we are accustomed to now, players had to use camp to get into shape, so it wasn’t unusual to have the first string playing most of the game — something totally unheard of today.
The NFL desperately wants some kind of agreement between the owners and players, but there doesn’t seem to be one in the works. The owners make too much money with their two exhibition home games and the players want no part of more chances for injury, despite the extra money they should get for the extra games.
This idea will never come into reality, nor should it. But one thing is sure: The discussion has begun. While we are at it, let’s get the season underway. It looks like we have a lot to look forward to, especially with so many nationally televised Browns games early in the season.