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Expanded Regular Season Looking More Likely

The 2010 NFL Kickoff Guide includes a section headlined 'Enhanced Season Gaining Momentum.'

Love the word the NFL is choosing to use -- Enhanced. Not longer, or expanded. Enhanced. As in 'better.' At least in the opinion of Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL bean-counters.

Here is part of the NFL's kickoff release regarding the push for an 18-game regular season.

The 20-game structure would remain intact with 18 regular-season games and two pre-season games being played annually. The concept "has a lot of momentum among the clubs," says Green Bay Packers President Mark Murphy, who also has been involved in discussions with the NFLPA about the enhanced season. "It addresses a real problem we have in our league, quality of the pre-season.

In addition to strengthening regular-season and preseason games, the enhanced season would provide more value to the fans and create opportunities to grow the game to benefit everyone."What it represents to us is a way to grow the game and grow the opportunities, not only for our fans and our business partners, but for the players as our partners," says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "We have to continually look at ways to improve what we're doing. It's been very clear to us from not only our fans but also from our players that the quality of the preseason and the desire to participate in the preseason is not at the level it should be."

The NFL is looking into how players train - during both the season and off-season - to reduce wear-and-tear on players. The size of the active roster and practice squads also could be increased, which would give coaches more flexibility and depth. In addition, injured reserve procedures could be altered, which would enable a player to return during a season after being placed on IR. "Player safety and injuries are an issue, whether we play 16 regular-season games or 18," says Murphy.

Personally, I am not a big fan of the 18-game regular season. If you look at NFL rosters by the end of the season, the product is often tremendously watered down from what it was at the beginning. Expanding the season to 18 games does not help that situation at all.

In fairness, however, the NFL is hinting at a few things in conjunction with an 18-game regular season that I am a huge proponent of.

  • Expanding the size of the active roster and practice squads. Personally, I have never understood why teams have a 53-man roster and are forced to only dress 45 of those players on game days. The eight guys who are not playing get paid the same, anyway, so you are paying guys not to play. Plus, without those eight players you are probably exposing players to injuries on special teams when you would rather be using someone else. As a first step, let all 53 players be active on game days. As a second step, expand the roster to 55 when the season goes to 18 games. Push practice squads up to, maybe, 10 players. I would also like to see the NFL go back to 85-man rosters at the beginning of training camp, lessening the amount of snaps some players now take simply because there is no one else to take them.
  • Altering the injured reserve rules to allow players to return during a season. If you have been around Big Blue View for a while, you know I have been campaigning for changes to this rule for quite some time. Too many times current NFL rules force teams to IR who will be healthy by season's end, just because they can't afford giving a roster spot to an injured player for 10-12 weeks.

    I favor a baseball-style 'disabled list,' which would allow teams to put players on an injured list for varying periods of time, such as four, eight or 12 weeks, replace them on the roster during that time and bring them back when they are ready to play.

    In my view, this would help improve the quality of rosters at season's end -- especially for teams making a playoff push.
  • Formation of a developmental league. Also a good idea, with the loss of two pre-season games and the folding of NFL Europe. Teams need some way to find out what young players can do, and get them game-ready. Even if it's only a four-game developmental season I think it would be a good thing.