Falcons owner Arthur Blank indicated Tuesday he’s in favor of having a shorter preseason as he said the “world of the NFL would be [a] happier place” if there were fewer exhibition games.
“I think four [games] is not necessary,” Blank said (via ESPN). “We need some preseason games for talent evaluation, for sure, with our first-and-second-year players and developmental players; players who are free-agents coming into our scheme. The vets need some of that, but not a whole lot of it. So, I think we can do with less preseason games.”
Blank went on to say that he would instead like to see the league expand its 16-game slate for the regular season, though there would be more concerns about player safety with an extended season.
“In terms of expanding the length of the season — whether it be with additional playoff games or regular-season games and whether it would be to 17 or 18 — I certainly would be in favor of an expansion, probably initially to 17 games to see how that works, then have 18,” Blank said. “But — and the but is the biggest caveat here — if we do that, we have to make sure that our first priority, which is player safety and health, is being kept in the forefront of that discussion.’’
“So maybe additional consideration of players on the roster. It may mean additional practice-squad players. There are a number of things you have to do to ensure that we want to protect our players. I would say that’s of prime importance. We shouldn’t consider expanding the season without having reasonable discussions to those concerns.”
Blank’s comments come as ESPN reported Tuesday that the NFL owners are pushing for an expanded season as they negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement. Out of the 32 teams in the league, 30 play in four preseason games and the other two play in a fifth preseason game connected to the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
Teams are still receiving revenue from the preseason games by selling preseason tickets as part of season-ticket packages. The one hesitation, ESPN reports, is teams don’t want to give up that source of funding without adding regular-season or postseason games in exchange.
ESPN’s report notes the owners haven’t submitted any concrete proposals to expand the regular season.