My knees feel destroyed. After a grueling intramural flag football game over the weekend, it feels like someone took a hammer to both my knees. And so when I came home after the game and watched NFL players suit up and tackle each other on the field ruthlessly, I could only imagine how they would feel the next morning. In fact, after many years playing football each week, I can only imagine how they will feel for the rest of their lives.
It’s clear that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has not put much thought into this concern. Recently, he has been pushing for extending the NFL by two more games to an 18-game season. Two “meaningless” preseason games would be removed so that more meaningful games could be played near the end of the season.
To the commissioner, the new extended season could make some sense. Preseason games usually do not feature many of the starters and the scores of these games do end up meaning nothing. More games could end up making playoff races more intense and exciting for the fans. More games also gives the fans more games to watch. And when more people are watching games, the owners and the commissioner can earn more revenue.
However, even with all these reasons, the 18-game season still makes no sense for the NFL. Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with all honesty that “the 10-year guys, you won’t see anymore, except for your quarterbacks. The running backs, they’re going to see a short lifetime span.”
What he’s saying is probably true. Of all the receivers in the NFL, Ward has the credentials to make this claim as he has played 13 years in the league and has only missed a measly three games. He understands that when games 15 and 16 come by, his shoulders hurt intensely and his legs just don’t want to run any more on tough artificial surfaces. Although he’s had a long successful career so far, adding two extra games on top of that will make it tough for the next generation of players to build such a career.
More games will also mean more opportunities for the players to get injured. Already, there have been concerns about concussions and head-related injuries for football players. It is a known fact that football players on average have shorter life spans than not only ordinary people, but other athletes as well. Making the season longer to put the players at risk for longer just makes this issue even worse.
The quality of any extra games is also in question. If there are more games to be played, which equals more opportunities for players to get injured and more wear and tear for the players to accumulate, the players will not be able to perform at their highest. The quality of the game will severely be damaged and fans might not end up watching anyway. By playoff time, players will be so banged up that they might not be able to give their all in the postseason.
Retired Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has also spoken on this topic and has given an interesting point of view. Although Elway does agree about the physical concerns regarding the players, he is more concerned with how the preseason games will be taken away. Often, these games are the only chances that unproven players have to get on the field and show coaches their hidden –– or just unfound –– potential. Because of these games, players who might just barely make the team may mature into key players. Even for top prospects, the preseason games serve as good practice and testing ground for players to grow.
I can feel reassured that with Fall Break coming up, I can rest my knees and just take some time off. NFL players who have worked infinitely harder than me and still have to for many more years are faced with the exact opposite as two games might be tacked onto an already long season. The longer season might make sense to some people, but I’m still not following the logic here.