Ron Cook: Throw away health concerns and gear up for 17-game NFL season
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Ron Cook: Throw away health concerns and gear up for 17-game NFL season

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a news conference ahead of Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Downtown in Miami on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a news conference ahead of Super Bowl LIV at the Hilton Downtown in Miami on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Anthony Behar/Sipa USA/TNS)

The NFL season just ended and I already miss it. I could watch football 45 weeks a year and, no, the XFL doesn't count. I mean, how much Landry Jones can we take? But I do have something good to anticipate. The NFL will be going to a 17-game regular season in 2021. I'm sure of it. The league also will add a playoff game.

Good for me and my fellow lovers of real football.

So what if the NFL and its players are the biggest hypocrites in sports?

So what if it's a blatant money grab by both sides?

So what if all the talk about player safety has been just so much hot air?

Just give me more football.

The owners are all for that. That's one of two things I have in common with those billionaires. The other? I don't give a damn about player safety, either. I just want to be entertained.

The owners say they care about the players, but they lose credibility by pushing so hard for a 17th game and the substantial increase in revenues that goes with it. All of the rules changes they have implemented to try to prevent concussions didn't come from the goodness of their collective heart. The rule changes came from their desire to prevent further litigation by the players.

That's why I had to laugh last week when Roger Goodell spoke about Antonio Brown: "I think the first thing for all of us is to think about the well-being of Antonio. We want to help get him on the right track and get him in a position where he thinks he can be successful in life."

I don't believe that for one second. Nothing would make Goodell happier than to never hear from or about Brown again. He certainly doesn't want Brown back in his league. That would be too big of a stain on the brand.

The players are just as culpable as the owners. For years, they have been screaming about the evils of a 17th game and how they are dead-set against it. One more game will lead to more injuries and a badly diluted product by the time the playoffs begin. Their bodies can take only so much, right?

But now that negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement that will start in 2021 are heating up, it appears the players have a price tag. A 17th game means more money for them, as well. The owners feel so strongly about getting it that they apparently are willing to make concessions that would nearly eliminate penalties for marijuana use by the players, reduce the fines for on-field discipline and eliminate an exhibition game or two.

Who could possibly be against that last concession?

ESPN reported over the weekend that the negotiations come down to an option for the players to "accept the one thing they hate - a 17-game season - in exchange for 10 or more things they want."

ESPN also reported the 32 player representatives, along with the NFLPA executive board, will meet as soon as this week to discuss and perhaps conditionally vote on a new CBA that includes the 17th game. The owners want a quick answer. If they don't get it, they could pull their concessions off the table and play out the final year of the current CBA in 2020, leading to the likelihood of a work stoppage in 2021.

I see the players capitulating. They might be strong on the field, but they are weak going up against the owners. They are not going to lose paychecks under any circumstances.

The hell with their bodies.

The hell with player safety.

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

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