The rookie pay scale is expected to be a hot topic, but even more impactful on fans is the possibility of increasing the number of regular-season games played from 16 to either 17 or 18. That would be a win for the fans, but it would also create some interesting changes to the way the preseason, regular season and even the postseason are run.
Packers president Mark Murphy talked to Packer Report about the possibilities and suggested a huge change to the way fans think about the regular season could be one of the ideas discussed. In an 18-game schedule, he talked about the elimination of two preseason games, every team starting the season with a bye in order to keep the opener after Labor Day and pushing the Super Bowl back until Presidents Day weekend.
"The thought there is we don't want to start the regular season in August because people are on vacation, television would not like it because ratings through history are not too good. You'd start like we do now, right after Labor Day," Murphy said. "Then, each team would have a bye. And then, so everything would be backed up two weeks, the Super Bowl would be Presidents Day weekend, and there's some advantages to that -- tying into a national holiday makes some sense."
Season ticket holders and single-game tickets are priced the same for preseason and regular-season games, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admits that the quality of preseason games – especially four of them when starters don't play much of the first or final one – isn't up to the league's standards.
"What we are talking about is trying to improve the quality of what we do by taking out those preseason games, which the fans do not find any interest in," Goodell told the Wall Street Journal. "They continually tell me, directly and through our research, that preseason games are not of value to them. And on the football side, we don't believe that it adds to the quality of the product of the regular season."
The argument against additional regular-season games often centers around an increased risk of injury for starting players who would then be exposed to more contact throughout the season. Goodell says the statistics might not support that argument as strongly as it might appear on the surface.
"As it relates to injury rate, actually the injury rate goes down later in the season based on our statistics. And it may be for a variety of factors which we're studying. Is it the competitiveness of the games? There are a variety of factors that go into it. So you always want to create an environment where the game is as safe as possible for our athletes."
But, from a preparation standpoint, Murphy says four preseason games simply aren't necessary.
"The offseason has evolved to the point where players come to camp in great shape and don't need four games to get ready for the regular season," he said. "I think a lot of us have looked at it and said the way that we're playing our players in the games, the starters hardly play at all. So, we thought about going down to two and increase the number of regular-season games."
The Vikings normally started their offseason conditioning program in March. This year, Brad Childress moved that back to April to give players a longer break after the season. On Tuesday, they began organized team activities (non-contact practices). After a week off from those, the players return for a mandatory three-day minicamp, beginning on May 29. They then have three straight weeks of practices as OTAs resume. Training camp is expected to begin in late July.
Childress has been cognizant of trying to keep the players fresh heading into the season and during the season because of the wear and tear a 16-game regular season takes on a player's body.
As a league, the NFL is wary of overexposing the nation's most popular sport, according to television ratings. Adding two regular-season games and cutting two preseason games might help increase revenue and ratings (particularly in the two games that were previously preseason billings) without increasing the overall number of games.
"We want to make sure we do it in a way that you don't overexpose the game," Murphy said. "I think the NFL is pretty good when you compare it to the other professional sports in terms of the number of games. I think we feel it's a chance to help grow the game and, kind of where we are, I think it could be a factor in helping reach (a collectively bargained) agreement with the players."
Evans is expected to back up Pat Williams and Kevin Williams and play a rotational role. Pat Williams only played about 50 percent of the defensive snaps last year, according to a league source, and both the Williamses have a June 15 trial date that could decide if their four-game suspensions for violating the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances (the StarCaps case) are upheld.