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NFL owners should go all in on an 18-game schedule, or simply scrap the idea entirely

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If the NFL owners are going to ask for an 18-game schedule with a 16-game player cap, they might as well scrap the idea entirely.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of an 18-game NFL season is again in the news this week, thanks to a reported new proposal floated out by the league on Monday .

The new proposal stipulates that, while the league would expand to an 18-game regular season, players would be capped at 16 games. This, of course, is a compromise by owners to appease those who are concerned with the health and safety of the players—specifically, the NFLPA players union who the owners will be negotiating a new CBA with after the 2020 season.

Speaking of the players union, Steelers union rep Ramon Foster Tweeted about this proposal, suggesting that the league cares more about making money than it does about the integrity of its game.

“With this proposal it’s almost saying “we know certain games just aren’t important, we just gonna pocket more money,” said Foster on Monday in one of several Tweets about the latest proposal. “Almost makes it seem like it’s ok to play down or we won’t put our best players out each game. Profit over quality?”

Foster also expressed other concerns—including players still being required to practice during weeks in-which they weren’t scheduled to play; and, oh yeah, how bad would that replacement kicker suck?

All valid points broached by The Big Ragu.

From a safety perspective, I’m sure something could be worked out where the regulars who are scheduled to be off for that week’s game would also be required to skip physical practices as a means to preserve their bodies.

That’s one thing.

As for the integrity of the game and fairness to players and fans, that’s quite another story.

First, let’s assume that the mandatory two games each player is required to sit would be spread out over the course of the season. Aren’t you then asking fans to pay regular season prices for a bunch of semi-preseason games?

If you’re walking to your seat at Heinz Field knowing Ben Roethlisberger, Stephon Tuitt, David DeCastro, Steven Nelson and Chris Boswell are all deactivated for the game, how excited would you really be?

How excited would the activated players be for such a contest? You might say it would be equal for both sides.

Or would it?

Would the Ravens, for example, be forced to sit Lamar Jackson if Roethlisberger was required to miss a game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh?

You might say that divisional games should be exempt from this new proposal, with teams being required to field their full complement of players. Fine, but what are you saying about the other 12 games? Are you saying they’re less important? They’d almost have to be deemed that way.

With football being the ultimate team sport, it might be easy to envision most games appearing to be business as usual, even with a handful of players sitting out each and every week.

OK, but what about the two games sans the starting quarterback? Missing a handful of players is one thing. But missing the most important one? Based on how the majority of NFL teams function without their starting quarterback, those two games would likely be a disaster.

You might say some players—including the quarterback, kicker and punter—should be exempt from this proposed 16-game cap.

Good luck with that.

Even kickers and punters are members of the NFLPA, so I doubt their union brethren would let them be taken advantage of in such a way.

I don’t think it would be fair to the fans to make them pay for and/or watch an expanded regular season if none or even the vast-majority of the 18-games includes the full complement of players.

Speaking of the players, how fair would it be to them to have their seasons potentially decided because their backup quarterback or kicker wasn’t as good as the other team’s backup quarterback or kicker (or any other position, for that matter)?

There isn’t a whole lot in this new proposal that seems fair to anyone. And that is why the owners should fight tooth and nail for an 18-game schedule that includes no other compromises other than perhaps an expanded roster and/or keeping the four-game preseason model intact (with financial concessions to the fans, of course).

If the owners win that battle during negotiations, good for them. If the players win out (while likely bending on other issues in the process), kudos to them.

A wishy-washy proposal that dilutes the product and forces the fans (and even the networks) to pay full price is not the answer.

Go hard or go home, NFL owners.