NFL discusses shortening preseason to 3 games

ByRob Demovsky ESPN logo
Friday, February 26, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL competition committee has had lengthy discussions about reducing the preseason to three games, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy said.

Murphy, who has been on the committee since 2012, said he believes there's enough support around the league to eliminate one week of the preseason.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whose team will play five preseason games this year because of its participation in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7, would be in favor of the change.

"That would probably be a little more practical, especially with all the emphasis on player safety," McCarthy said. "Hell, they've cut back everything else. I wouldn't be surprised if they go to three games. Three games with a two-week bye week, with two weeks before the opener. That's just my opinion. Nobody's told me that. I'd be for it. I think it makes a lot of sense. Then you could be a little more aggressive in that third game. Just take the fourth one out."

Murphy said McCarthy's idea has been discussed in the committee meetings this week at the NFL scouting combine.

"I think there would be support for three," Murphy said. "I think Mike's [idea], that's what we've talked about. Rather than playing that fourth game on a Thursday ... don't play a fourth game and then you'd have an extra week. We've looked at different models, but I think that's the one that makes the most sense.

"You're giving up some revenue, but it's one of the worst things we do. The move we made on variable [ticket] pricing helps a little bit in how preseason is viewed, but especially that fourth game is kind of a throwaway."

Among other items addressed by Murphy:

* He doesn't expect any changes to the catch/no-catch rule despite several issues this past season, including one in the Packers-Cardinals playoff game that prompted McCarthy to say "I don't know what the hell a catch is anymore. It's ridiculous."

"I think the takeaway was people came away understanding the rule and how it works," Murphy said. "I think we need to do a better job explaining to people all the components of the rule. It's basically three parts: control, two feet and then the time element. The time element used to be a move common to football. Last year we changed it to becoming a runner.

"The challenge I think is trying to come up with a rule that works for the on-field officials. TV is so good, so we looked a little bit at should we have a three-foot rule - if you catch a ball and get three feet down, but a lot of those situations, you go to the ground. So I don't think there will be any change there."

* The committee spent considerable time talking about the increase in concussions last season.

"Obviously the concussion was up 58 percent, so is that just an outlier?" Murphy said. "I think there's a sense that a number of the changes that we made, especially this last year, we're seeing a lot more self-reporting by players. One of the things that's a little bit of a concern is an increase in the number of linemen with concussion, particularly offensive linemen. That was typically a position that's not viewed as a high concussion position ... and you can't really identify a specific play where the concussion occurred."

* The PAT change last year that made the extra point a 33-yard kick was a one-year experiment, but he expects it will be approved on a permanent basis when the owners vote next month at the owners meetings.

* There was no discussion about any changes to the overtime rules, and he said the Packers would not propose one even after losing playoff games the last two seasons in overtime without ever possessing the ball.