The NFL has had a 16 game season for 41 straight seasons. That 16 game season is now under threat as the league’s team owners look to increase their billions of dollars in profits and add two more games per regular season.
While the league’s owners want to add more gridiron action, the NFL Players’ Association is against the addition of the games. Long-term player health and injuries are two reasons the NFLPA are against the added games.
The NFL regular season
The NFL’s teams have played a 16 game season since 1978. For over four decades, the seemingly arbitrary number as stood the test of time. Prior to 1978, the league had a 14 game season from 1961 to 1977. Additional NFL teams and the chance to make more money led to more games being added to the season’s schedule.
When the gridiron league changed to its current 16 game format, the league had 28 teams. It has only increased by four teams since then with the league’s 32 teams only competing against 10 different clubs over the course of the season.
An increase in games has been mulled over in the NFL for several years now. However, it has only really gained traction recently. Perhaps one reason for the league’s interest in it right now is the upcoming rebirth of the XFL. The renegade league, which has been defunct for nearly two decades, will bring spring gridiron to the airwaves and could attract fans from the NFL for at least part of the year.
The NFL season is quite short compared to other major sports leagues. The regular season lasts four months with the playoffs adding another month of action. Major League Baseball plays 162 regular-season games while the NBA’s teams play 82.
Would two more games really affect the players?
One of the big issues with adding games is player health. The idea that two more games would impact the players’ well-being more than just the initial 16 games played.
To reduce the impact on players, the NFL and its owners are willing to increase the size of teams. One plan is to limit players to competing in just 16 games per season which would see more players needed during the year. However, the problem with this is star players would be forced to sit out two games.
The number of injuries and especially the long-term neurological issues of players will most likely be affected greatly. In addition, players’ careers could be shortened due to the injuries suffered. It seems likely those issues were brought up in 1978 (perhaps they weren’t), yet the regular season was increased by two more games. Players adapted to the season and it is likely they would once more.
According to research, more NFL injuries actually occur at the beginning or before the season starts. The issues that occur during the season are typically wear and tear on the body.
The average NFL career is just 3.3 years across the entire league. It is theorised the longer regular seasons would decrease that figure even more.
Although the argument against the increase in the NFL regular season has been made clear, it is more likely the NFL’s owners will do whatever it takes to add those two games.