NFL's new 17-game pitch could see more global games: Report

NEW YORK — A new proposal for a 17-game NFL season that could bring more contests in global markets will be made to players after the regular season, CBS Sports reported Sunday.

The report on the website of the US NFL telecast partner cited unnamed sources in saying the idea of adding a second bye week per team as well as another game and pushing the Super Bowl to the final Sunday in February has gained momentum with owners and some people within the players union.

Serious talks on the idea and a full collective bargaining agreement could begin in January with a potential deal in early February around the time of the Super Bowl if both sides agree, according to the report.

The NFL would be willing to compromise in such areas as expanded rosters, faster pension qualifying, a relaxed marijuana policy and reduced commissioner power over off-field investigations in a bid to push through a lucrative 17th game per club in a season.

The NFL Players Association has often cited the physical load upon players as a reason not to expand the schedule but the new plan would bring a second idle bye week during the campaign for every club.

The proposal would keep the NFL season starting in the week after the Labor Day holiday in early September.

NFL playoff games, among the most watched US programming, would move to February, a sweeps ratings month for NFL telecast partners when future advertising rates are set based upon viewership and networks typically try to offer extra-attractive programming.

The Academy Awards telecast is typically on a Sunday in late February, the "Oscars" movie award show bringing a potential blockbuster scheduling issue with a Super Bowl.

The "extra" game for each club would be played in a unique market rather than a home stadium for either club, according to the report.

An emphasis would be made on international locations such as London, Ireland, Mexico, Germany and Brazil.

London fans would likely be able to buy an NFL "season ticket" for a slate of eight games each season in the city, two of them being Jacksonville Jaguars contests. The Jaguars already play one London game every year.

In addition, the NFL has talked about scheduling games in North American markets that don't typically host NFL contests, such as Honolulu and several Canadian cities, and in famed US collegiate venues at such universities as Notre Dame and Alabama.

Extra international contests could produce a new package of streaming games for the NFL to sell digitally without disrupting current offerings such as those on Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights.

The games could bring an earlier Sunday window for watching NFL games in America, putting them in competition for viewers with English Premier League telecasts that have developed a new niche with US sports fans in recent years.

The proposal would seek an extra wild-card playoff game in each conference, which would only boost the number of games on the opening playoff weekend, not another week.

The NFL would also trim the pre-season from four games per club to two, with possibly an additional exhibition scrimmage between two clubs.

Exactly how greater revenue would be divided between owners and players would be among the critical issues to be settled in league-union talks. The current deal is not set to expire until 2021. — AFP