Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NFL literati stealing CFL's 18-game idea

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Sometimes you just have to hand it to the National Football League. This billion-dollar industry did not become the behemoth it is today without their accomplished think-tanks coming up with some cutting-edge and outside-of-the-box ideas.

Take last week for instance. The owners in the NFL met with their commissioner, Roger Goodell, and out of thin air came up with an idea for an "enhanced schedule" to possibly begin as early as 2012.

This schedule will be "enhanced" by the fact that the fans will get what they want, which is more regular-season football, and less pre-season football. The idea is to go from the four pre-season and 16 regular-season format to an "enhanced" version that consists of only two pre-season games and 18 regular-season games. Did you see what they did there? They kept the 20-game format they already had and simply swapped out two pre-season games for two regular-season games! It's absolutely brilliant! Where did they come up with such an idea?

Oh, yes, that's right, the CFL is where they came up with it. You see, many of us aren't aware of this, but the original name for the "enhanced" schedule before the brass at the NFL came up with the descriptor "enhanced" to captivate its audience, was the "Canadian Football League schedule" or "CFL schedule" for short, because that is exactly what it is. It is not "enhanced," it is not some shrewd or ingenious business ploy to generate additional revenues -- OK, it is, but it is not original -- they just couldn't admit that it wasn't their idea first and is in fact exactly the same thing the CFL has been doing for years.

Obviously, our league doesn't have a copyright on an 18- and two-game format and this probably doesn't even bother most of you, but when I was perusing the 300 or so articles on this "enhanced schedule" online, I figured, in amongst all the debate between the owners and the players, there would at least be a single reference to the fact that this schedule is currently being used very well, and has been for some time, up in Canada.

In fact, not only are there no references to the older professional football league in Canada that has been "enhanced" for years, but they are now discussing all of the issues that we have been gnawing on forever like they are new problems to be addressed. Yawn.

The only thing that does hold your attention to this not-so-titillating revelation is all of the posturing that is going on by the players as they are only too aware this is the last year of their CBA with the NFL. If the league wants something and is public about it, the players are automatically going to be opposed to it so when they concede it they will have to be compensated for their sacrifices.

Do not believe for one minute when you read that the players are worried that with only two pre-season games lower-level draft picks and undrafted free agents will not have the same opportunities to make the team like they would with four pre-season games. The last thing on the mind of most veteran football players is how to give new players and rookies a better shot at taking their jobs in training camp, and to a "T," every NFL veteran wants training camp and double days cut down more than almost anything else. Since the "enhanced" proposal goes hand-in-hand with a roster increase and possibly even another bye week during the year, the reluctance and complaints from the players is mainly to ensure that when this change does comes around, their piece of the revenue pie goes up as well.

Expect to hear NFL players all throughout the season this year speculate and wonder about just how hard an extra two regular-season games will tax their already bruised and broken bodies, and how if the pre-season is cut in half, whether it will be the veterans that will now be playing the majority of snaps in those games. Of course they could just call any of the 500 or so players up here in Canada that have been doing this for years and discover the realities of the situation, but then again, that wouldn't be very "enhanced" thinking.

Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2010 B15

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