Facebook Pixel

    NFL Players Share Honest Reactions to a Potential 18-Game Schedule: ‘They Don’t Pay Us Enough’

    With the NFL considering adding an extra regular season game, a new poll by ESPN revealed some strong opinions by the players about the possibility.

    Seventeen could turn into 18 when it comes to the number of regular season NFL games moving forward.

    The topic of an 18-game schedule has resurfaced across the league during the offseason. There are players, though, who gave an honest take on the possibility of an added game between September and January.

    Roger Goodell Wants to Expand NFL Season to 18 Games

    NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reignited the theory of an 18-game slate during the 2024 NFL Draft.

    Speaking with ESPN personality Pat McAfee, Goodell shared why he’s considering elevating the regular season gauntlet to 18 games for every franchise.

    “I’d rather replace a preseason game with a regular-season game any day,” Goodell said. “That’s just picking quality. If we got to 18 [regular season games] and two [preseason games], that’s not an unreasonable thing.”

    If the NFL approves a new, expanded regular season, the three-game preseason schedule will end.

    Goodell’s words created ripple effects among fans and analysts. Many immediately dove into the revenue impact a new schedule would have across the league. Others began thinking about how the postseason could stretch into Presidents Day weekend in February — with the Super Bowl being played during a holiday weekend.

    But then there’s the player reactions to an added game, which came with no shortage of honesty.

    ESPN Survey Reveals Mixed Player Reactions to an 18-Game Schedule

    ESPN conducted a survey with various NFL players that was released Thursday, asking their opinion of playing an extra regular season game while facing the possibility of playing until President’s Day weekend.

    Per the poll, ESPN revealed most were “indifferent” about a later Super Bowl. Some, however, expressed strong feelings about the thought of one more game on their schedules.

    Among the strongest opinions was Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly, who additionally serves on the NFLPA’s executive committee.

    “Eighteen games sounds great when Roger’s on the ‘Pat McAfee [Show],'” said Kelly. “Until you’re the one that’s going out there and putting the helmet on for 18 of those games, then come talk to me.”

    Kelly added that it’s “up to the players to decide” on the fate of the regular season. He also dove into the revenue impact such a move would have on players.

    “If they said, ‘Hey, you guys get 70% of revenue, and we’ll take 30 as owners,’ a lot of guys would sign up for that if you make $100 million playing quarterback [the current revenue split is approximately 52% to 48% in favor of owners]. So I think everybody’s got a line they draw in the sand, and we’ll see where that is,” Kelly said.

    Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Damontae Kazee shared his take. In his mind, there’s not much the players can do once the league makes rule changes.

    “Whatever the league gives you, man, you just got to adjust to it,” Kazee told ESPN. “I got to this point in my life, I’m an old head now, about to be 31. You just got to adjust to everything and go on from there. Them giving us 18 games, I mean, I wouldn’t complain about it.”

    But fellow safety DeShon Elliott provided a harsher take. He interjected Kazee by saying how he would complain, then adding, “They don’t pay us enough.”

    Elliott, who came over from the Miami Dolphins during the offseason, later laughed before believing that the added 18th contest could bring some positivity.

    “I mean, I’m straight. I wasn’t getting paid like this where I was at. It can be positive for both sides,” Elliott said. “People look at it as another week to feed your family … I love it.”

    But still, Elliott expressed strong views on the financial aspect of an extra contest.

    “They’re stingy with their money, so they want to make us play 18 games. As a player union, we should get way more money than what we’re getting — and not just the top guys,” Elliott explained. “And the thing is, they’re not out here playing football. They’re not here running around putting their bodies on the line. They don’t care. All they care about is making money, but if you’re going to make money on the top end, the bottom end has to make money, too.”

    FREE: Subscribe to PFN’s NFL Newsletter

    Overall, per ESPN, 46% were in favor of an 18-game slate, but with stipulations, while 8% said yes without the stipulations. Elliott revealed he was completely against it, which made him part of the 19% of players who opposed an expanded season. He wasn’t alone on the Steelers’ side either, as he was joined by Pro Bowl safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

    “Why do we keep adding games?” Fitzpatrick asked. “I think 17 is more than enough, plus a playoff. The dudes that play 100% percent of the snaps in the regular season are probably barely playing in the [removed] preseason game, so it doesn’t really do too much.”

    Even Brock Purdy of the San Francisco 49ers spoke out. The NFC champion quarterback proposed one idea.

    “It’s a long season, man,” Purdy said. “You go through so much physically and mentally and everything. But if we’re going to extend it another game, I think another bye would be pretty nice.”

    That idea, though, provides fuel for an 18th game idea.

    “But at the same time, it’s longer … I don’t really know how I feel 100% on it yet,” Purdy said.

    Why Does the NFL Want to Expand the Regular Season Schedule?

    Any chance the league has in earning additional revenue, the NFL has pivoted toward it with assistance from the collective bargaining agreement.

    The league first expanded to 17 contests in 2021 and in the process, capped preseason games to three for every team instead of four to five. NFL players currently earn a maximum of 48.8% of the revenue through the 17-game slate.

    Now, if team owners are in agreement with adding the 18th contest before the current CBA expires in 2030, the union could use the opportunity to increase the players’ share of revenue. However, the CBA currently has a restriction of surpassing 17 games until the deal expires in 2031.

    Extending out to 18 games comes with its share of plusses and minuses.

    The 18th game ensures any home venue will rake in extra cash. Plus, it will ensure every franchise will have an equal share of home and away games reminiscent of the 16-game schedule. The 17-game schedule has sometimes left teams with nine away games compared to eight played at home, or vice versa.

    The 18-game schedule ensures a nine-and-nine format for home and away contests.

    Eighteen games could even bring about a move for the Pro Bowl. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow proposed an idea in May about moving the league’s All-Star event midseason instead of the week before the Super Bowl, which would mimic the format the NBA, MLB, and NHL all use. That Pro Bowl week would become the second bye week for teams but it has the chance to add new interest to the game featuring the league’s best players.

    The final plus for the 18-game idea: An additional primetime contest and shared revenue for those networks. This tactic would benefit Amazon Prime’s Thursday Night Football coverage by adding one more contest to its schedule, which can lead to new subscribers for the streaming service. But this could present an extra holiday matchup for ABC/ESPN, the NFL Network, or the other networks.

    There are minuses to address, though. The most paramount is player health. By adding one more game, the risk of injuries will increase.

    Player fatigue can also be imminent, which was also brought up in the survey. Each NFL player faces the possibility of physical and mental burnout with an extra contest.

    Perhaps players and even coaches/owners can propose an idea where veterans can be offered one rest week during the season to ensure they’ll be healthy for a final playoff push. Teams like the Los Angeles Rams already hold “veteran rest days” for some of their older players during training camp, which allows them to have a day off from practice.

    The NFL will have to consider new safety measures for their players if it changes from 17 to 18 games. Overall, the league and its fans are bracing for the fact that the 17-game schedule will soon become a distant memory, which still comes with its share of indifferent opinions and strong ones directed toward Goodell and the NFL.

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

    Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

    Related Articles