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Jerry Jones outlines what an 18-game NFL season would look like

Fans don't care about NFL preseason games and players just want to get through them unscathed. Is it time to transform them into real games?
Credit: Ronald Martinez
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 13: Dallas Cowboys Stadium during contruction on April 13, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

DALLAS — Preseason football, who needs it? Spectators hate it, and players hope it goes away and doesn't hurt them, like a prowling lion seeing whose season it can devour.

Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones agrees that the preseason not being about wins and losses makes it odious from a fan perspective.

"Preseason football candidly has never been presented, in my mind, about the game, the competition of who wins the game," Jones told "Shan & RJ" on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday. "Now, when you eliminate who wins and who loses a game, then you come up with a different program, so to speak, or it's just different.

"What preseason is each team has 90 to 100 players and you really are trying to get an early look at knocking the rust off or really, not evaluating, but taking your top veterans and starting their process of preparing for the season. But then you're looking at the evaluation and each of those clubs for preseason game has 90 players out there."

While the casual fan may not have the ability to evaluate at home along with the coaches and scouts, they can appreciate that aspect of the game, even if it is just as necessary yet burdensome as suffering through the off-season itself. What is eclipsing even the pedestrian product is when key players on teams, players who already have spots on the 53-man roster locked up, are lost for the season due to injury.

Enter Washington rookie running back Derrius Guice and Jacksonville receiver Marqise Lee. Both won't return this year for their respective teams. Even players that will return, such as San Francisco linebacker Reuben Foster, will have an issue that will now linger with them throughout the rest of the season. In Foster's case, it is a concussion, and his subsequent battle to pass the concussion protocol.

What is the solution to limiting preseason injuries? Why, going to an 18-game regular season schedule, of course.

In Jones' plan, which may or may not be an indication of what the rest of the NFL owners are thinking given his prominence, the preseason would be cut back to two games with each of the 32 teams having one home game.

The regular season would start the weekend after Labor Day, given how successful that start date has treated the NFL, according to Jones. While he did not specify the number of bye weeks each team would have in an 18-game schedule, Jones nonetheless acknowledged it.

Arguably the most counterintuitive benefit from an 18-game schedule would be the cut down on player injuries.

Said Jones: "I think candidly it's probably physically better for players than it is to have the longer preseason, the longer practicing. Our studies show that we actually have a ramped up injury situation with players during preseason as opposed to the injury factor in the regular season. So, all of this has a lot of discussion and has been discussed a lot."

Don't expect 18-game seasons to come to a calendar near you anytime before 2021, which is the first year that the current collective bargaining agreement expires. In the current CBA negotiated during the 2011 lockout, the NFLPA obtained the right to sign off on any plan to extend games beyond the 16-game schedule. However, Jones hinted that the league may want to rescind that option from the players union.

"In the last labor agreement, we included it as a caveat of the collective bargaining, so this has to have everybody's agreement as we sit right here," said Jones. "Now, in the new labor agreement that we've got later on here in the next three or four years, that won't necessarily be in the agreement. So, it could be a unilateral thing by the league."

In sharing Jerry's plan with some former folks who used to be a part of the NFL, the unanimous response was that it was a bad idea.

One former player simply rejected the notion.

Another former player objected because it would cause more injuries, which would shorten players' careers and make the contracts smaller.

A former head coach agreed four preseason games may be too many, but adding two regular season games would be too much physical stress on the players.

As a preview of what the negotiations may look like in the 2021 off-season, two of the three respondents indicated the moves to shorten the preseason and expand the regular season are moves made more so for fans and to expand profits, not for the players or their safety.

There may not be a solution on the horizon anytime soon. The good news is real football kicks off Sept. 9 and we will all forget about this conundrum until next August.

Would you like to see an 18-game NFL schedule or do you prefer things how they currently are? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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