Several Pro Bowl players polled this week said they are still firmly against the NFL adding a 17th regular-season game to its annual schedule if proposed, according to an ESPN report published Saturday.
While in Florida for practices and promotional events before the Pro Bowl is played on Sunday, very few players supported the idea of the league potentially adding another game to the schedule. Players' safety and overall health were the primary concerns.
"I don't have the answers, but I think if the NFL says they care about player safety and tell the parents of kids in youth football how much they care about player safety, then it doesn't make sense to play football without more rest," Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper told ESPN. "So it'll be interesting to see if their actions align with their words.
"... I mean, the NFL is coming under a lot of player scrutiny -- there's a lot of former players taking their own lives and having a lot of issues -- and their answer now is to play more football and have more traumatic brain injuries. If they care as much as they say they do publicly, I feel that they should add another bye week."
Commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken publicly in the past of his desire to push for an expanded NFL schedule, but has thus far been met with substantial player and owner resistance. While most ideas to make a plan work involve cutting back on the number of preseason games, many players pointed out that established veterans would not enjoy any decreased workload under those scenarios.
"Most of the starters don't play in that last [preseason] game anyway, so if you take away that one preseason game, you're not taking away anything for us," Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. "You're just adding a game. I'm not for the extra game. I think the game's long enough. It's physical enough, tough enough on people's bodies to play 16 games and also playoffs, so I'm just not for that.
"I understand that it's going to be hard to stop it, but I'm not for increasing the games at all."
A proposed 18-game schedule was first brought up by owners formally last July. The owners even proposed expanding rosters and limiting players to 16 games in the 18-game season in an effort to simultaneously add games and address player-safety concerns.
But the union has said players don't want an expanded regular season, particularly without getting a "significant increase" in their percentage of revenue generated by the games, according to past reporting by ESPN's Adam Schefter.
--Field Level Media