NFL eyes 17th game to grow revenue, shorten preseason

Updated: May 21, 2008, 9:02 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell raised the possibility of having a 17th regular-season game as an option to help settle some of the league's future labor problems.

"We are actually looking at that as one alternative," Goodell said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting in Atlanta, the same day that the league's owners voted unanimously to opt out of their labor deal with the players' union two years early. "We think that may have an impact on some of the things we would want to talk to the players about. It's on the table."

A 17th regular-season game could replace a fourth preseason game and the possibility comes at a time that the league is not satisfied with the quality of the preseason. The league made a presentation to owners about ways to improve the current preseason Tuesday.

Under the current system, most NFL teams play 20 games -- four in the preseason and 16 during the regular season. Because of injury concerns to starters, many teams play starters for only a series in the preseason opener and often don't play starters in the final preseason game.

"We are not satisfied with the quality of the preseason right now," Goodell said. "We'd like to improve on that."

By adding a 17th regular-season game, more revenue could be created to help in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. NFL owners voted 32-0 on Tuesday to shorten the collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA to 2011, with 2010 being played without a salary cap.

"It would create new revenue," Goodell said. "Our thought process was we might reduce preseason by a game in return for that. Actually, the players would still play the same number of games. It could give us an opportunity to play a higher quality of football."

Goodell noted that the NFL used to have six preseason games.

"Now, it's become more of a year-round business," Goodell said. "Athletes come in better prepared for the season both physically and mentally. Is it necessary to play four preseason games to get the players prepared to play in the regular season?"

For competitive purposes, the ninth home game would alternate between the conferences every other year, should the NFL use the 17th game option.

NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw didn't seem thrilled with the possibility of playing 17 regular-season games.

"No, it's great to have more revenue," Upshaw said. "Any discussion we've had with them about playing another game, they've always said, they would like to do it, but they don't want to pay for it. They say, 'Why should you be concerned, you get 60 percent?' But we also get paid on games played.

"We're not going to agree to play an extra game and not get paid for it. That's what they want us to do," he said. "That discussion is going to be very short."

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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