Birk proposes alternative to 18-game schedule

As the owners and players meet with a mediator in Washington, D.C., this week to try and chip away at a new collective bargaining agreement, one of the issues that they'll tackle is the possibility of moving to an 18-game regular season.

The players are against it, polls have shown that fans are against it, and if it influences the negotiations at all, I'm against it as well.

Hey, it's worth a shot.

The problem is that an expanded regular season makes sense for the NFL on a financial level, which, as we all know, is what drives these negotiations.

The owners' proposal has the preseason getting cut from four games to two, but two extra regular season games added on to the current 16. That plan does not sit well with players, who believe that their bodies are already put through enough punishment during a full season. They aren't too fond of the idea of smashing helmets with each other for another two regular season games each year.

Well, Ravens center Matt Birk has an alternative idea which would provide the league with some extra cash while limiting the number of games players are forced to suit up for.

"I don't know if 18 games is for the good of the game," Birk told KFAN in Minneapolis, per SportsRadioInterviews.com. "I would say maybe like something like a 16-game season and (eliminate two preseason games) and maybe expand the playoffs by two teams and eliminate the first-round bye for the one and two seeds. That would give you two more playoff games on TV that you could televise."

Birk's proposal would force only eight teams - the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and the two extra playoff teams in each conference - to play one additional game, as compared to forcing all 32 teams to play two extra games. It's an interesting idea, and one that I haven't heard discussed much when the topic of an 18-game schedule has been raised.

While the owners and players are scheduled to meet this whole week to try and reach a new CBA, it's considered unlikely that a deal is finalized before the March 3 deadline. Assuming there is a lockout, however, Birk doesn't see it extending deep into the calendar year, forcing the cancellation of the 2011 season.

"I would think that there would be a season with $9 billion at stake," Birk said. "As the reality comes near that games might be missed and millions of dollars would be lost forever, I would think that cooler heads would prevail. It's late February and there's this big March 3 deadline, which is somewhat comical because I checked the schedule and there's no games scheduled for March or April or May or June.

"Money is at the center of it, but I think at the end of the day players and owners alike feel pretty fortunate to be in the situations they're in and I don't think they're going to do something that's going to wreck the game."

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