By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Oh, boy. Here we go.
Football is, of course, a very dangerous sport, one where any one play can lead to a devastating injury for any of the 22 players on the field. It stands to reason, then, that more exposure to this risk would naturally be less safe for the players on the field.
According to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, though, the opposite is true.
Jones joined 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday and made the case for the NFL to expand from a 16-game season to an 18-game season. The replacement of two preseason games with regular-season games would, in Jones' estimation, make for a safer environment for the players.
"[An 18-game regular season is] very doable," Jones said on the appropriately titled Jerry Jones Show. "And I think that, very candidly, it's probably physically better for players than it is to have the longer preseason, the longer practicing. Our studies show that we actually have a ramped-up injury situation with players during preseason as opposed to the injury factor in the regular season."
The hosts of the show asked Jones for clarification on an 18-game schedule being safer than a 16-game schedule.
"First of all, now, this is debatable. It all has a certain spuriousness to it. But it, I think, is defensible," Jones said of his claim. "And really, I did present it on the basis of that as something that I think that it does, and that is create a safer game for the players."
Also, in a story that ran Monday in the Dallas Morning News, Jones said this: "I can make the case that we have an uptick in concussions in the preseason. If you look at it, I would contend there would be less exposure [to concussions in an 18-game regular season]."
It is, to be sure, an interesting opinion from a powerful person in the National Football League. And there are a few things we should unpack.
For one, if there is data that shows an uptick in injuries in the preseason compared to the regular season, there are a number of obvious explanations. Chiefly, the timing of the games would likely be No. 1. Players may not have their bodies in peak condition -- aka midseason form -- in August, which could lead to any number of muscle injuries. Secondly, teams carry 90-man rosters in the preseason, compared to 53 in the regular season. With nearly twice as many players playing in the games, the number of potential injuries increases as well. There's also a certain randomness to football injuries. For example, despite an added focus on rule changes on helmet-to-helmet hits and defenseless receivers, concussion data has fluctuated from year to year in recent seasons.
But that paragraph of suggestions may be entirely irrelevant to this particular conversation, because this is something that Jerry Jones said in 2016: "It's absurd [to] say there's a relationship [between] CTE and playing football. … We all know how medicine is. Medicine is evolving. I grew up being told that aspirin was not good. I'm told [now] that one a day is good for you."
This is not a man whose medical advice players are actively seeking, to say the least. So for him to cite studies and data? It reveals that he's willing to push for data only when it suits his needs and desires.
Which brings us to the point of the whole matter. Here's some more of what Jones had to say on the radio.
"The demands, the price our fans are paying -- ultimately not only for the ticket but the coming to the game, the coming out and participating -- has increased over the years to the point that I think we all are looking at it very carefully," Jones said. "My solution is real simple, cut back on preseason games. Have one at each team's home, and play a couple of them, and then you need to add two games to the regular season, which I've been a proponent of for several years. That's a better equity or a better way of players using what they bring to the table, their talents, their skills, their professional time in pro sports. That'll give them a bigger pay day, that's fair. The other thing it does is it certainly gives our fans what we all think they deserve and that is a competitive game."
An NFL owner taking on the plight of the average fan. What a poignant moment in American history. If only that NFL owner had some type of role in the over-charging of fans for preseason games ... perhaps something could change. If only it was within the NFL's power to ... charge less for preseason games ... and parking ... and concessions ... or anything of the sort. Then maybe this terrible conundrum could be simply solved. (Sarcasm aside, it's unreal to hear Jerry Jones lend a sympathetic ear to fans when he personally profited from moving other franchises to new cities.)
Alas, Jones feels the pain of the consumers who pay him hundreds of dollars to watch fourth-stringers run around for a few hours, and so he wants to help.
And his magnanimity does not stop there. No sirree, Bob. Not only does Jones hope to help out the poor fans, but he also wants to give more money to the players. What a guy!
In that Dallas Morning News article, Jones said this: "[Adding two games to the regular season] would provide more than $1 billion to the players. It's certainly worth considering. It would direct more value for what the players expend to the players."
The players. The players make more money. That's great for the players. Hooray for the players.
Noticeably missing from that commentary ... is the fact that the owners would be making a lot more money. And the owners would be making a lot more money without really having to do anything, except for making the players play two extra games. Two extra safe games, though, of course, certainly.
And that now brings us to the kicker. Jones explained in the radio interview that he pushed for an 18-game season prior to the last round of bargaining in 2011. It wasn't adopted ... but Jones explained that the NFL does not need cooperation from the NFLPA in order to enact an 18-game schedule.
"Prior to the last [CBA] that we made with the players' association, this could have been a unilateral decision by the league. You didn't have to play the players bode or buy in to do the 18 games prior to our last labor agreement," Jones said. "In the last labor agreement, we included it as a caveat of the collective bargaining, and so this has to have everybody's agreement as we sit right here. Now in the new labor agreement that we catch later on here in the next three or four years, that won't necessarily be in the agreement. So it could be a unilateral thing by the league."
And there you have it. If the NFL decides it wants to enact an 18-game regular season, then the NFL can go right on ahead and enact an 18-game schedule. The owners don't need to hear from the players on it, and if the new CBA in 2021 doesn't end up forcing players to play 18 games? Well, then, consider that a concession made by the NFL for the NFLPA in negotiations, a "concession" which will need to be matched by the players' side on another issue.
Such is the nature of the bargaining process between the league and the union, a process which has apparently already begun to play out in front of the public's eye. And it's happening with the promise that making players play more football will be safer for them. If that's the logical basis for what lies ahead, we all might as well start preparing now for another lockout.
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