Notebook: New record book with 18 games?

A potential 18-game schedule has been one of the talking points in the labor negotiations, but how would that affect long-held NFL records? Plus, a look at a couple of NFC North rival defenders that could be of interest whenever free agency starts.

There are a lot of elements with which to deal if the NFL ever adopts an 18-game schedule – and there are conflicting reports about whether a so-called "enhanced" season was seriously a part of the CBA negotiations – and one of them, albeit minor, is the matter of how records and statistics will be handled.

The early read: There will be no change, just as there wasn't when the league went to a 16-game season (up from 14 games) in 1978. In other words, no "asterisks" attached to new records. One league official told The Sports Xchange this week there has been "no discussion" of separating league records according to the number of games played.

But think about this: In an 18-game schedule, players would need to average only 55.5 yards per game for a 1,000-yard rushing season. Some critics might suggest that such a move would "cheapen" the rushing hallmark. But percentage-wise, it really wouldn't be much of a decrease from when the NFL transitioned from 14 games (71.4 yards per contest) to 16 games (62.5 yards). There were 20 backs in 2010 who averaged at least 55.5 rushing yards per game, and 17 posted 1,000-yard seasons.

Adding only three more to the 1,000-yard club, the league official contended, really wouldn't be all that much. The league official noted that the NFL "isn't about to get into a debate" similar to the "asterisk argument" that ensued when Roger Maris hit his 61st home run to break Babe Ruth's single-season mark.

Tommie Boy: Seven-year veteran defensive tackle and three-time Pro Bowl performer Tommie Harris, released by Chicago two weeks ago, recently suggested he will return to the game "on (his) terms."

But if the 27-year-old Harris will at least consider someone else's terms, he could probably hasten a potential comeback a bit. Two personnel officials from 3-4 teams told The Sports Xchange this week that they were perusing video of Harris to gauge whether the former first-rounder might be able to play some at end.

Harris has always been a 4-3 tackle and not played at the "five-technique" spot in the past. But at 295 pounds, he might be worth a gamble, although tackle still remains his preferred position.

"If he can still hold up against the run, and is willing to (subjugate) himself a little, he might be worth a look," one of the personnel men said. "It could be a stretch, but maybe worth considering."

Harris was released, in part, because he was due a $2.5 million roster bonus and a base salary of $2.312 million. But he was also jettisoned by the Bears because his production had so dramatically decreased. The odds are that Harris is looking at opportunities with franchises that play a 4-3 front, but if he's willing to broaden his scope a little, he might find a few more potential suitors.

Little package, little talent: Eight of the 34 tailback prospects at the combine last month checked in under 5-feet-9, and that might not be terribly alarming, except that the group of munchkin-sized backs seemed to lack athletic explosiveness. Two of the eight backs bypassed the 40, and two more, Derrick Locke of Kentucky and UConn's Jordan Todman, were clocked at 4.4, but didn't catch the ball particularly well. Perhaps most disappointing was the 4.64 time turned in by former Oregon State star Jacquizz Rodgers, who didn't appear all that fluid in some of the position-specific drills. The past few seasons, there seems to have been an enhanced role in the league for undersized, situational-type backs, but the current pool of smaller backs may not push the movement forward very much.

Nick of time: Mike McCarthy confirmed this week that the two starting inside linebackers in the Super Bowl champion's 3-4 front are Desmond Bishop and the recently re-signed A.J. Hawk, who was released and then restructured his deal, and that leaves eight-year veteran Nick Barnett as the odd-man out.

The news sent at least a few coaches and pro personnel directors scurrying for tape of Barnett, who will either have to drastically re-adjust his contract – he is due $6.025 million in total compensation for 2011 – or will be released. Barnett is only 29 and has 107 career starts, but is coming off a wrist injury in 2010 that limited him to four games and opened the door for Bishop to jump into the starting lineup and play well enough to merit a new, long-term contract.

In two of the past three seasons, Barnett, a former first-round pick (2003) suffered injuries that limited him to fewer than 10 starts each of those years. So teams who are interested – and there are a few who seem curious – will have to be diligent in examining that reality. But it seems just a matter of time until Barnett is set free, and it will be interesting to see if any team takes a chance on him, albeit for much less than he was scheduled to make in Green Bay in 2011.


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