Broncos safety joins a number of NFL players expressing disapproval with expanded 2021 schedule
The NFL officially announced today there will now be a 17-game regular season, with two extra games in the postseason and just three preseason games per the new CBA that runs until 2030.
Although the 16-game regular season structure hadn’t changed since 1978, the extra game narrowly passed in the new CBA, 1019 votes in favor to 959 against).
In this new schedule, Denver will play nine home games.
OFFICIAL: Historic announcement as the @NFL is moving to a 17-game regular-season schedule beginning in 2021.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) March 30, 2021
According to the NFLPA, game expansions will generate an extra $150 million. While base player salaries remain unchanged, under this new agreement they are expected to take home at least 48% of the league’s revenue in 2021.
Flashing dollar signs are obviously attractive, but some players don’t believe the extra money is worth another week of potential injury.
Broncos safety Kareem Jackson is one of them, expressing his feelings on the matter the day before the new schedule became official.
17 games is complete BS… no other way to put it ♂️
— Kareem Jackson (@ReemBoi25) March 29, 2021
Why the long faces? Put simply, more games = more injuries.
555 injuries were recorded for the 2020 season. That’s 16% more than the average of the past three years. With an extra game on the schedule, it would be unreasonably optimistic to believe injuries won’t increase in 2021.
To the NFL’s credit, safety measures are being added in an attempt to prevent excessive injuries. These measures include higher penalties on hits to the head, reduced contact practices and more days off.
So why a 17th game?
The first answer is money. Preseason isn’t drawing in viewers like it used to, and an extra game featuring all the starters would help offset this problem.
“It was becoming increasingly difficult for NFL management to sell what amounted to an exhibition game of backups to its season-ticket holders,” Mike Klis noted in a 9NEWS article explaining the new development.
The second answer, oddly enough, is injury prevention. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pointed out that preseason games see higher rates of injuries than do regular-season games because more third- and fourth-string players are used instead of starters. The assumption is that these athletes’ inexperience inevitably leads to more potential injury.
Per ESPN, Goodell said, “What we are actually doing is following the data and following the science to make sure that we are doing things [well] both from a health and safety standpoint as well as seeking to get better in every way.”
I think there’s a lot to weigh in this schedule expansion, but I sympathize with Jackson here. Despite the benefit of reducing preseason injuries and compensating for lost money, gambling with the short and long-term health of starting players doesn’t sit well with me.
I’m keeping an open mind about it, and I hope I’m wrong.