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Hurley: Everybody Seems To Have Fallen For Jerry Jones' Trick With 18-Game Schedule

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Jerry Jones may be wrong. Very wrong. Often. But you can't question the man's influence.

That much has been clear over the past 24 hours, after Jones' nonsensical statement managed to become a national story -- and not just for the purposes of mockery and derision. Jones' statement that forcing football players to play in two extra football games is safer than having preseason games (where many players don't even play) has somehow managed to burrow its way into actual debate and discussion on national and local sports shows. After an initial reaction, the debates and discussions have shifted toward opinions on whether the league should adopt Jones' proposal of 18 regular-season games and two preseason games. Mike Florio even cooked up the potential of an 18-game schedule where each player is only allowed to play in 16 games.

This is all based on a baloney statement made for some B.S. posturing and thinly veiled threats for the next round of negotiating for the collective bargaining agreement.

Really, it didn't take a rocket scientist to discern what Jones' purpose was with his comments. He took up the plight of the fan who has to pay hundreds to see preseason games, which was an absolute joke. And when he spoke about the benefits, he only spoke of the monetary boost for the players (in addition to their increased safety), and made no mention of the increased profits for the owners (who would be risking zero to their own safety and/or finances by adding two games).

What Jones was really getting at was quite simple: CBA negotiations are coming up in a few years, and we the owners wield this power. We can enact an 18-game schedule if we want. We don't need the players' approval. If the players don't want an 18-game schedule, well, then they better be willing to make some sacrifices at the negotiating table.

Think about it. Jones said that adding two games will "provide more than $1 billion to the players." With revenue sharing, that means it would also provide $1 billion to the owners. And at last check, there are roughly 1,700 players. There are only 32 owners -- 31, really, when you eliminate the publicly owned Packers. Who stands to benefit most from such an influx of money? The players, who might make an extra $500,000, or the owners, who would stand to each make more than $30 million in extra cash?

So that's that. But as for the actual debate, where shows have posed the question of whether the league should keep 16 games with four preseason games or change to an 18-game schedule with just two preseason games, people seem to be missing this minor detail:

THOSE AREN'T THE ONLY TWO OPTIONS.

Just because Jones framed the conversation in a way that suits him best does not mean that this is a binary choice. Hardly.

One potential option is quite simple: Keep the schedule as is, but don't charge fans full price for preseason games. Make the tickets cheaper. Open up the parking lots (owners, avert your eyes!) for free. Offer some food and beverage deals -- a little buy-one-get-one action -- that still generate a profit but don't leave fans feeling pilfered.

Really, people don't outright hate the games. The TV ratings are strong, especially in New England. NFL Network replays many out-of-market games to fans, and those fans generally eat them up.

And don't tell the coaches that the games are meaningless. The games provide the only opportunity to see how bottom-of-the-roster players respond to game situations. They're important steps in the roster-building process.

The only people really losing out on this equation are the season ticket holders who have to pay hundreds of dollars for games where the final score doesn't matter. That's not fun.

But NFL owners could agree to make all of those changes, if they really cared about fans spending their hard-earned money on preseason games. Getting outside of how insulting it is in the first place for a billionaire to try to pretend as though he feels sympathy for the very fans he's charging through the nose, this is all very doable without really hurting anybody's bottom line.

And this could all happen without ever forcing NFL players to increase their exposure to risk of injury by 13 percent, all for a small percentage bump in pay.

So, 16 and four, or 18 and two? Don't fall into the trap that it's one or the other. Or that change is necessary.

How seemingly nobody sees this whole charade for what it is? I don't know. But perhaps when an NFL owner speaks and discusses CBA negotiations and says flatly that players' approval is not needed for a massive change to be made? Perhaps we can all agree that from now on, we'll know what the conversation is really about.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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