Less Preseason, More Regular Season? Please!

There are obvious concerns about playing 18 regular-season games. But the upside is obvious to people who shelled out regular-season money only to get stuck with lousy preseason tickets. The NFL turned to the Packers' Mark Murphy to outline the possibility.

Allow this pampered sportswriter a moment to whine, please.

As Brown County residents — and, therefore, with our every purchase helping fund the Taj Ma-Lambeau — my wife and I are eligible to participate in a ticket lottery for the right to buy four tickets in the nosebleed section of the stadium.

Both of our names were drawn. To keep in the good graces of Mrs. Packer Report, I cringed but shelled out $546 to get both sets of four tickets. This week, we found out which games we were awarded. My name drew the regular-season home opener against the Buffalo Brohms. Hey, at least she'll be warm and the Packers will win. Her name drew the preseason game against Indianapolis. Cue the music the losers hear on the "Price is Right."

So, at the risk of my purist soul being saddened that the NFL record book will be rendered null and void, bring on the 18-game regular season. Please.

"If you look across the whole spectrum of everything the NFL does, everything is of great value," Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" on Wednesday.

"We do first-quality work. If you look at our regular-season games, postseason, the draft, the Combine; one thing that really stands out as being different is the preseason. Fans don't like the games. There really isn't a lot of value in the games."

Actually, there's almost no value in the preseason games from a fan's perspective, unless you're genuinely intrigued by the battle to be the fourth cornerback or ninth lineman on the roster. "Winning" the right to pay regular-season prices to watch exhibition football reminds me of a great joke from my days at the old Green Bay News-Chronicle about 12 years ago. The Brewers stunk, yet a TV station was giving away Brewers tickets in some promotion. One of my colleagues joked, "If first prize is two Brewers tickets, what's second prize? Four?"

Cue rim shot.

Murphy shared his vision with Packer Report during last year's Tailgate Tour, saying the 18-game regular season was a way to add value to the fans while serving as a potential bargaining chip with the players. The owners say the players are getting too big of a percentage of the revenue pie. The players wonder why they should have to give money back to the owners. After all, the fans aren't filling the stadiums to watch Jerry Jones give a stiff-arm to Daniel Snyder. Then again, maybe they would ...

Beyond the pure selfish standpoint of having to pony up $273 to watch a meaningless football game played by about 50 guys who have no business wearing an NFL jersey, the teams don't need four preseason games to get ready for the real season. Just like the league didn't need six preseason games, which was the standard from 1952 through 1977.

The days of the linemen having to melt off 10 pounds and the skill players having to get into shape are long, long gone because the vast, vast majority take their jobs so seriously. Between proper nutrition and training, and voluntary workouts and offseason practices, the lengthy exhibition season seems antiquated.

"We do ask a lot of the players in the offseason," Murphy said, "and I worry not only about wear and tear on their bodies, but what the players are doing on their own. They're working out and training and we need to really do a good job of looking at everything they do.

"From a longer-term perspective, I want to make sure that the players have enough time in the offseason to finish their degree, get their degree, start getting experience in another job, doing some things to get themselves ready to make the transition into life after football. I think that would be very beneficial for all of our players to start to think about things other than football to help them make that transition."

 The 18-and-2 concept seems like a done deal, from the league's perspective, at least. It's the logical win-win solution to head off a strike/lockout between the greedy owners and the greedy players.

To be sure, there are obstacles and concerns. Two more regular-season games mean two more opportunities to get hurt. Murphy suggested injured reserve could be changed from a season-ending proposition to something like a six-game break. He also said roster sizes or practice squads could be bolstered, and said a developmental league to replace the failed NFL Europa makes sense.

"This is an area where we have the same interests as the players," Murphy said. "We want to do everything we can to make the game as safe as possible. The reality in football is that you're going to have injuries, but you want to try to minimize it. (Last year's season-ending injuries to Aaron Kampman and Al Harris) were two noncontact injuries. They both blew out their knees and neither one of them was hit on the play. So, you wonder if it's not only just the wear and tear of the season, but over the whole offseason, are we asking too much of our players throughout the offseason? What can we do to make sure that they're staying healthy throughout the entire season?"

 Finally, make no mistake about how Murphy is viewed in league circles. Commissioner Roger Goodell instituted a gag order on the owners, preventing them from talking about labor issues. But on the league's showcase channel, it was Murphy — the former NFL safety and NFLPA vice president — doing the talking.

"At the end of the day, we all want the same thing," Murphy said. "We want what's best for the league and for the players and the owners. I think we all know that the NFL is a phenomenal sports league and we want it to continue to be. I think having someone such as myself who has played and has worked with the Players Association in the role that I'm in now is beneficial. I do think that I can see things from the perspective of a player and hopefully that will be helpful to us as we move towards the expiration of the contract and we're able to reach an agreement before the contract expires."

With Murphy's clout, maybe he could pull some strings at the ticket office. My wife wouldn't complain about swapping those useless preseason tickets for something more important, like that regular-season game against Minnesota.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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