Patriots Players Remain Skeptical of 18-Game Schedule Initiative


September 6, 2010

FOXBORO, Mass. — While NFL owners and the Players Association remain far apart on a resolution to a new collective-bargaining agreement, the players are at least willing to lay out a blunt fix to the major crux of the matter.

Simply enough, if the owners want an 18-game schedule, pay the players for 18 regular-season games.

Makes sense, right? To this point, it sounds like the owners are trying to pull a fast one on the players by asking them to play two additional regular-season games while subtracting two preseason games. Thus, with the same number of games — by math standards, anyway — the owners' initial pitch is to keep player salaries the same.

The players are perturbed about that logic for two reasons: First, the majority of the big-money players don?t see any action in that fourth and final preseason game. Second, the players aren?t morons. They know — more than anyone, and especially more than the guys who wear suits on Sundays — that regular-season games are far more physically taxing than anything that happens in the preseason.

There are plenty of other issues at hand, too. A source indicated to in July that owners want players to pay for their own flights, hotel rooms, police escorts and locker space on road trips. These ticky-tack demands won't ever fly with the players, and the owners, in all likelihood, know that. However, the owners also had to know these demands would infuriate the players.

Clearly, a lot still has to be worked out between the sides, and the 18-game schedule will be the most important item on the docket for a new CBA, which must be reached by March 2011. Plenty of high-profile players, including Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, have spoken out against the 18-game schedule, which has been strategically labeled as an "enhanced season" by the owners.

It's still going to be tough for the two sides to reach an accord, but if the owners reach into their pockets and pull out their most persuasive weapon, they'll at least be taking a step together in the right direction.

"If we're going to play 18 games," Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said last week, "we'll want to get paid for 18 games."

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