NFL team owners’ greed drives push for 18-game season 

The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl despite losing star receiver Donald Driver (high ankle sprain) and cornerback Charles Woodson (broken collarbone) in the first half.

This was nothing new to the Packers, who lost 16 players, including six starters, to injured reserve during the season. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers had two concussions during the season.

That’s not surprising because football has become increasingly violent as players have grown bigger and faster — the NFL’s steroid testing policy is a joke — so the collisions are more fearsome. It’s the difference between two passenger cars colliding head on at 40 mph and two SUVs colliding head on at 60 mph.

The schedule has also grown longer, with additional playoff games. The Super Bowl was the 20th game of the season for the Packers.

And now, the owners want to extend the regular season to 18 games.

Can we spell G-R-E-E-D?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is neither negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement nor deciding on a plan of action. Nonetheless, he has to present the owners’ case, which makes him look ridiculous.

Lately, he’s been insisting that the owners are staying within a 20-game framework by asking for 18 regular-season games and two preseason games.

But that’s not at all the same thing. Everybody knows that the teams only take one of the current four preseason games seriously: the third one, when the starters play most of the game. The starters play no more than a series or two in the final game, and have limited exposure in the first two games. Those games are mostly tryouts for draft picks and undrafted free agents.

Independent polls have shown only 45 percent of football fans want the 18-game regular season. The NFL claims its polling shows support for it.

Of course, poll results depend on the way the question is phrased. I’m betting the questioning on independent polls is straightforward, just asking fans whether they would like to see the regular season extended to 18 games. The NFL polls probably ask, “Would you like to see two preseason games dropped so the season could be extended to 18 games?”

If you ask the second question, of course you’re going to get affirmative responses. The preseason games have long been a sore point for season-ticket holders because they have to pay full price for meaningless games. Cutting a couple of them would be a very good idea. But not to add two regular-season games.

When I started covering pro football in the late ’60s, players had no free agency and were regarded as disposable parts, often forced to play despite injuries.

That ended when Charlie Krueger successfully sued the 49ers after he suffered crippling injuries because he had been forced to play when he was already injured.

But now, owners are prepared to go back to a “players-be-damned” policy by adding two more games in which they will be injured. It’s also a “fans-be-damned” policy because the football won’t be as good.

So if the owners get their way, be prepared for a Super Bowl in which reserves will be the key players, as the injured stars watch.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on E-mail him at

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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