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How would you do an 18 game season?

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Fooch's Note: How about a little break from 49ers discussion to go to a meaningful long term topic. Thanks to smileyman for putting this together.

Way back in September (which is an eternity in an NFL season), Bill Polian (Indianapolis Colts president) said

I think that the owners, and principally the commissioner, have decided that it's the way to go, and so the debate, such as it was, is over.

This generated large amounts of outrage by various media and union types, yet it seems to actually be a true statement. Not too long ago the union submitted a counter-proposal to the NFL regarding an 18 game season. The proposal wasn't a way to get out of the 18 game season but how to make it work yet still protect the players.

I don't want to discuss any merits, or lack thereof, of an 18 game season. What I would like to talk about is a realistic way to accomplish this while still trying to provide for player safety.

The first step is to take away two pre-season games and move the schedule up by one week. Right now the Hall of Fame game is played the second week in August. I would make that the starting week of the pre-season and move the Hall of Fame game to the first Saturday night (to keep media coverage on it as a separate event), and have the start of the preseason happen that Sunday.

I would then eliminate the last two games of the pre-season, making the regular season start on the first Sunday in September instead of the second. The reason for moving the schedule up a week is to add an extra bye week in the last half of the season. I'd have every team get one bye week sometime between weeks 1 and 7, and a second bye week sometime between weeks 11 and 17.

I'd then focus on player rosters. Right now teams are limited to 53, which is too few for even a 16 game season based on the number of injuries. I'd increase the rosters to 63, moving the active roster to 55 instead of the current 45. More rotation of players will also help with decreasing injury.

Finally I'd take a long look at the so called "voluntary" workouts and OTAs and reduce those during the off-season.

The NFL proposal follows many of these same guidelines that I thought of (I swear I was thinking of these before I read this article)

From the story on

  • Voluntary offseason workouts would be reduced from the current 14 weeks to five weeks or 20 days (four days a week, four-hour maximum per day).
  • Significantly reduced contact between players during training camp with four practices a week consisting of helmetless and padless periods.
  • Two in-season bye weeks.
  • Expanded rosters from the current 53 to 56 or 57, in addition to practice squads.
  • Increased prorated salaries for players under contract.
  • Reduction of the amount of games players need to become vested to qualify for post-career health care and pension benefits.

So how would you do an 18 game season? Would you do anything differently or would you keep the proposals as submitted by the union?