Hines Ward thinks players could go to 18.

I was in the middle of writing a new mock draft post when I saw this article come across Twitterville.  I was so surprised that I had to stop and react.

In a birthday interview with PPG’s Ed Bouchette, Hines Ward says that players could very well go for an 18 game schedule in the next CBA – as long as the players are taken care of.  Rewind the clock a bit to anytime during the past two years, and you would recall that Ward was one of the more animate players being dead set against an extension of the regular season.  If Ward has a possible change of heart now, does that mean most of the other players are ready to give in to the proposal?  More after the jump.

Take these little green pill$

It definitely appears money is the cure-all to what ails ya.  Why else would a player like Ward be so vocally against extending the season because of long-term health reasons and then say it could work?  1 billion dollars and two more paychecks.  As I stated in a previous post, the players need to oppose vehemently this proposal.  But Ward says:

“If they do[extend the season], we still have to go out there and play it.  It depends on how they do retirement plans. If you add two more games and talk about safety, you have to do something on the back end.

“We’d jeopardize our bodies for two more regular season games so if they can do something special with health insurance I think the players will go for it.”

“If they do add 18, you won’t  see guys like myself and and James Farrior playing this long. Only quarterbacks. The life span of running backs will definitely be shortened. If we have to play 18 games, along with that you have to take care of us on the back end, it’ll be all right.”

Back end?  So a longer health care plan is all you want in order to agree to 18 games?  So the idealogical difference here is NOT that you don’t want to have long term head trauma and phantom pains and real pains; it’s that you just want for someone else to be able to pay for the pills you need to pop to counteract those sensations?

What’s a football player worth?

Let’s also address the lifespan of players that Ward mentions.  This could be in an article all on its own as there are many things to break down how shortened careers could effect the league over a long period of time.  But let me just ask, are the players knowingly ready to shorten their own careers – which could then greatly impact their legacy as great players?  As a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers I want to be able to cheer on and admire ‘the greats of the game’ for a long time.  I don’t want to just see Mendy run like a beast for about 5-6 years then retire because he’s played almost an entire extra season by then (this is of course ignoring the possibility that in Week 18 or 19 he doesn’t receive a season or career ending injury that effects his playability during that time).  Teams could end up looking like a carousel continually replacing players every few turns.  This devalues the worth of a player in the eyes of the owners.  How can the players ever come out and hold the league accountable for the overall safety and health of its players if they agree?  And therefore, how will the owners ever value their players as much as their own money they make from those players?

I think the players need to seriously consider the long term effects going to 18 games has.  They need to do this for the sake of their own health for the sake of their own legacy of potential Hall of Fame football players.

  • http://www.adammeckler.com Adam

    Hey Craig, nice post. I was surprised to read this story myself when I was surfing my twitter feed this morning. Peyton Manning said something interesting about the possibility of an 18 game season that I think is worth repeating. As we all know, one of the proposals for the 18 game season is to lower the preseason games to two instead of four. Peyton made the case that without the 3rd and 4th preseason games, Jeff Saturday, his probowl center, doesn’t make the team. He wondered how many other great players would be left on the cutting floor because the NFL owners want to make an extra buck.

    Also, I agree with your ideas on player safety (ideas that were once Hines’, don’t know what happened there…). I think it’s sad that these guys will throw away their health, jeopardized by adding 2 games to the regular season, for an extra buck and some health insurance down the road. I hope they realize health insurance doesn’t fix traumatic brain injury, and its subsequent side effects…

  • Todd

    Hi, Craig,

    I didn’t think another entire article would be in order. You covered the salient points very well.
    I did want to add my two cents, however.
    I have a problem with an 18-game schedule on so many levels that I’m not sure even where to start.
    First, there is the safety of the players and the toll on their bodies to play two more meaningful games. Plus, there is the length of player’s careers, which will most assuredly shorten.
    From a strictly fan perspective, how is the schedule going to work with two more games? It seems to me that the schedule is just about perfect and completely predictable now. You know you are playing your division twice, that division in the NFC, this division in the AFC, and the teams that finished in the same rank as you in their divisions within your conference. (Admittedly, I didn’t make it sound all that simple, but fans know what I mean)
    It may sound sacriligous to say, but I really believe the players need more off-season time to allow their bodies to recover from what is a very violent sport.
    Would I rather see two more meaningful games than four exhibitions? Absolutely, but in a perfect world, they would simply drop two of those pre-season games, keep the 16-game schedule and show the players, and the fans, that player safety and the quality of the product are the most important things to the NFL.
    Not the almighty dollar.
    Just sayin’.

  • mikereese

    Its really not adding on 2 games, its making 2 of the pre-season games count. They would have to play more minutes earlier in the season is all. Not to diminish the fact that any play could be their last. Hines has a GREAT point about extra healthcare retirees should receive. The NFL wants to give them minimum coverages after they are retired while their bodies deteriorate early from injuries suffered at work. I saw a guy on Realsports on HBO who said they have to pay for their own healthcare right now.

  • Craig

    You are correct about their healthcare. It’s pretty crappy for what they go through for on the job related injuries. It needs to change no matter WHAT the CBA says about 16 or 18 games.

    Technically you are right – the same number of games will be played. However, you are talking about pre-season vs. regular season. How many minutes does and average player have on the field in pre-season games 1-4: Game 1 – 2 series worth, Game 2 – 1 quarter worth, Game 3 – one half worth and Game 4 potentially a half to full game. Not many minutes. And if you are an already perceived starter like Hines Ward – how hard does that starter play in those minutes? Regular season’s energy is ramped up a hundred times more than the pre, which means harder hits and more explosiveness from players. I just think it’s more wear and tear on the body and competitively unnecessary. 16 games makes the math easy on who plays who how many times in the division and conference/non-conference games. Just doesn’t seem to make any sense other than to grab more money. Owners say fans want more games – who doesn’t want to see more football? But fans are smart enough to know what 18 games mean in the long run for the players.