Pro Bowl players against proposed 17-game schedule: 'It doesn't make sense'
Several players at the Pro Bowl are speaking out against the 17-game regular-season schedule NFL owners have proposed during collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations.
"When I talk to the guys, I don't think many people want to do it," Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Calais Campbell told ESPN's Jenna Laine and Michael DiRocco. "Really, you talk to guys and I don't think anybody wants to do it. It's going to be very, very tough. I know the ownership's really hard on it.
"We're definitely talking, trying to figure out what we need to do, how we can make this thing work. It's going to be a process, but 17 (games), that's very tough."
The expansion of the regular season has been one of the greatest sticking points between the NFL and NFL Players Association. Owners have offered players a shorter preseason in exchange for an extra week in the regular season.
"Most of the starters don't play in that last (preseason) game anyway, so if you take away that one preseason game, you're not taking away anything for us," said Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda. "You're just adding a game. I'm not for the extra game.
"I think the game's long enough. It's physical enough, tough enough on people's bodies to play 16 games and also playoffs, so I'm just not for that. I understand that it's going to be hard to stop it, but I'm not for increasing the games at all."
The league and union were reportedly aiming to reach a new agreement by Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, but that timeline doesn't appear realistic. The existing CBA runs through the 2020 season, after which the NFL could face its second work stoppage in 11 years.
"I don't have the answers, but I think if the NFL says they care about player safety and tell the parents of kids in youth football how much they care about player safety, then it doesn't make sense to play football without more rest," Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper said. "So it'll be interesting to see if their actions align with their words."
Hooper added: "I mean, the NFL is coming under a lot of player scrutiny - there's a lot of former players taking their own lives and having a lot of issues - and their answer now is to play more football and have more traumatic brain injuries. If they care as much as they say they do publicly, I feel that they should add another bye week."
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter shared similar thoughts.
"I would say they need to give us a longer offseason, shorten down OTAs," he said. "If they're gonna do that, make OTAs less weeks - and give us more bye weeks during the season - that would be OK with me. They've gotta take something away, because the season just ended for me last week.
"I got 14 weeks until I'm back to football again. The (regular) season is like 16 weeks (plus a bye), plus the preseason - that's 21 weeks. And then you come back in the offseason for OTAs - that's another three months - so 14 weeks is not enough."
The 2020 Pro Bowl takes place Sunday, seven days before Super Bowl LIV caps the 2019 campaign.