Rooney cool to longer NFL season; prefers extra game over two
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Dan Rooney opposes expanding the NFL season beyond 16 games, but he's willing to compromise.
Rooney said yesterday that he would consider adding one game but not two as some team owners want. The topic, discussed at the NFL fall meeting that ended yesterday, has been debated for years among owners but picked up steam since Roger Goodell became commissioner two years ago.
The league previously expanded its regular season by two games 30 years ago.
Proposals have been made to add one or two games to the regular season and reduce the four-game preseason by as many games. Rooney long opposed it because he believes that the importance of individual games will be watered down the more that are added to the schedule, and because the Steelers sell out each of their preseason games anyway as part of their season ticket packages.
But some teams have trouble filling their stadiums for preseason games, and their owners say the extra regular-season home game would be better attended.
"That's what they believe," Rooney said. "But it was said [at the meeting], and what I've always said, 'You say you have trouble with the preseason. What are you going to have if you're a team in the North and you are 2-12 and have two [home] games left?"'
The NFL will schedule a special meeting again next month, Rooney said, and while a vote could occur on the expanded regular season, he does not expect one.
He also does not expect teams to schedule spring intrasquad games or scrimmages, as some owners suggested this week.
"That's a little bit tough," he said.
The NFL expanded its regular season from 14 games to 16 in 1978, when it reduced its preseason from six games to four. It expanded from 12 games to 14 in 1961, the year after the AFL opened play with 14 games.
Rooney worries that reducing preseason games would limit the training of young players such as rookie quarterback Dennis Dixon.
"I think we have to be concerned about training football players, particularly quarterbacks. You come to camp now with a minimum of four quarterbacks. You have to play your No. 1 some time. Now how do you get in someone like Dixon? He's a guy who looks great for the future. You can say that about everybody. You can also say it about the officials.
"When we had the Euro league, we were able to send players and officials over there. We dropped that, so I'm a little bit concerned."
The problem with 17 games is that it would make an imbalance on the home-and-away schedule. Rooney suggested it could mean playing the extra game somewhere else, or alternating one home game each year between the NFC and AFC teams.
"You can use the 17 to pick up places like Europe," Rooney said. "Instead of playing just one game there, you can play two or more. You could play some in Los Angeles; you could play some everywhere -- in Mexico. We played one in Toronto; you could play in Vancouver -- things like that."
Any expansion of the regular season would have to have approval from the NFL Players Association.
"They would have to have discussions with the NFLPA because we would have to talk about revising the compensation for the players," a union spokesman wrote in an e-mail.
The subject of Steelers ownership also came up during the two-day meetings.
"We made a presentation to the general ownership just to inform them what's going on," Rooney said.
What is going on?
"I'm taking a pass on that."
First Published October 16, 2008 12:00 am