““I’m in multiple car accidents every Sunday. You end up, for example, with a hyperextended knee, something that’s going to be there for several weeks or you’re dealing with other things; you’re always in these car accidents. On Mondays, I have to move, otherwise you get very stiff and it hurts more. Tuesdays are very hard, especially if we’re traveling back from another city. Thursday through Friday is when I start to feel like me again and it gets worse as the season goes on. If I’m not playing, I’m recovering,” George Kittle, 49ers’ tight end, talking on “This past Weekend”
This is not a good look for the NFL, a league that is constantly in the crosshairs for the physical and mental strain it leaves on its players. Former stars not being able to walk, long term injuries, irreversible brain damage... the list goes on and on. Playing in the NFL carries a ton of risks. It is because of those massive risks players are paid millions of dollars while they also get the chance to fulfill their childhood dreams and become idols for children through all the country. Furthermore, no one forces you to take part in the NFL, and you can retire anytime you want (just ask Andrew Luck). However, I think that there are some much needed changes to be made in order to take better care of the NFL’s most important component: the players.
The league went the exact opposite way last season, adding an extra game to what already was a grueling 16-game season, and there are rumours right now about the possibility of having teams play two Thursday Night Football games a year. TNF games are particularly challenging because of the absurdly short rest you have between games, and former players have been voicing out concerns about how there are considerably more injuries on these games.
The NFL is now allowing teams to have TWO Thursday Night Football games per year. A league that continuously says it is all about improving player safety continues to put the health of its players at risk. Playing 1 game with only 3 days rest isn’t smart. Playing 2 is RIDICULOUS— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) March 28, 2023
Now what is a solution I think could be viable and would work for everyone involved? Simply extend the season, giving each team three (or at least two) bye weeks throughout the regular season.
I understand the scheduling logistics, the travel arrangements, the changes in the CBA, the changes in contracts and plenty of other things have to be organized to accommodate a longer season, but it makes perfect sense because it works for everyone involved. The NBA regular season lasts six months, the MLB regular season also lasts six months, while the NFL does just four.
Why it makes sense for the players
Of course, it makes the most sense for the players because they would get more time during the season to recuperate and take care of their bodies. Also the NFL could organize so that TNF games involve teams that are coming off their bye weeks, meaning that they don’t put their bodies at an even greater risk. Some players might oppose this because they would have to be focused on the team and the NFL for a longer timeframe, but it would allow them to play at a much better shape.
Why it makes sense for the owners
The owners would most likely be the most reticent part in doing this change, as it is no surprise that they mostly see players as objects, as means to an end, but it would help them increase the quality of the product they own, and it would help solidify the sustainability of their largest asset throughout generations. If CTE and long-term injuries continue being such a big issue, then perhaps a time will come when young athletes choose to focus on baseball, basketball, or even soccer, because they don’t want to wake up one day at 40 years old with their brain damaged beyond repair.
Why it makes sense for the fans
I don’t know about you, but I always felt like the NFL season was over before it even started. I am not a hardcore NFL fan, but even on bye weeks I tune in NFL RedZone and enjoy watching the rest of the games, following my fantasy team, and staying updated to what is happening in the rest of the league. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe fans would definitely enjoy having a longer NFL regular season.
Why it makes sense for TV Networks and sponsorships
Look at the rating of the shows that talk about the NFL, and it is redundant to say that their rating is way up during the regular season, and goes down once the season finishes. A longer regular season means more viewers for their shows, and it also means that NFL franchises would be able to give their sponsors more exposure, resulting in bigger revenues for everyone involved.
Overall, this is just an idea I have been thinking about for quite some time, and Kittle’s words finally gave me an excuse to put it into writing. I am open to suggestions and criticism, as I very well might be ignoring some obvious facts or logistics that would make this impossible.