Bears favor 16-game season

LAKE FOREST _ It could mean a tougher road to the playoffs, but Bears players favor a decision made Tuesday by the NFL to play all Week 2 canceled games at season's end.

``We feel like having a 16-game season is the best way to go,'' Bears player rep Glyn Milburn said.

The NFL will play all 16 games, with the season now concluding Jan. 6 and 7.

``We believe that a full 16-game regular season schedule is vital to our fans and the integrity of our season," said NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in a statement. ``Each team needs to be guaranteed the same number of home and away games plus an equal number of divisional games. The NFL Competition Committee was unanimous on that point.''

The Bears will conclude their regular season with Jacksonville at Soldier Field Jan. 6.

Other games the final Sunday include Arizona at Washington, Buffalo at Miami, Cincinnati at Tennessee, Dallas at Detroit, Denver at Indianapolis, Green Bay at NY Giants, New England at Carolina, Philadelphia at Tampa Bay, San Francisco at New Orleans, Atlanta at St. Louis, Kansas City at Seattle, the New York Jets at Oakland and Cleveland at Pittsburgh. Minnesota is at Baltimore in the regular-season finale, and San Diego has a bye the final weekend.

``We continue to work on keeping six division winners, six wild cards and our entire postseason format intact,'' Tagliabue added. ``Several options have been presented to us in recent days that would help us accomplish that.

``We will review them and make a decision shortly. If we cannot resolve our entire postseason lineup in a satisfactory fashion, we then will go to a system of six division winners and two wild card teams for this one season only.''

If two playoff teams are eliminated from each conference, the playoff format would revert to the system used prior to 1978, when only four teams per conference made post-season. No team has a first-round bye in that situation.

The other alternative would have been to eliminate those missed Week 2 games and have every team play a 15-game schedule, with San Diego being forced to play 16 games because its bye week was the week of the canceled games.

Players like the system adopted for another reason.

``Everybody gets paid, everybody's happy,'' Milburn said.

NFL players would most likely not have been paid for the week of canceled games since their contract calls for a 16-game regular-season schedule and they are paid based on the regular season.

Milburn also pointed out that NFL owners benefit financially more by this decision, since 30 teams will still be playing games and producing revenue the week of Jan. 6 and 7.

While a smaller playoff field would obviously hurt the Bears' playoff chances, it can be argued the schedule approved will certainly be of little help. NFC Central Division favorite Tampa Bay now finishes its season with three straight home games in December and January.

Regardless of the decision, coach Dick Jauron admitted the Bears' plight will be less than ideal. Because they lost a game last weekend, had a bye the final week of preseason and their regular-season bye is the weekend of Sept. 30, they will be playing four games in just over six weeks.

``It's probably not the best scenario and you wouldn't schedule it that way, but we'll take it as it falls,'' Jauron said. ``We have work to do. Obviously we need to get a lot better.''

Bear Report Top Stories