BOCA RATON, Fla. - The NFL is studying a proposal to reduce the preseason schedule from four games to three, and it can’t happen soon enough in the view of Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy. But he's going to have to wait.
Packers president Mark Murphy said the NFL competition committee, of which he is a member, has had lengthy discussions on the topic but that it won’t happen any time soon.
“It probably would be tied into the next round of collective bargaining,” Murphy said this week at the NFL owners meetings. “We have five more years to go (on the current deal with the players, which expires in 2021), but in the next year or two we could start talking about it.”
“If they could accelerate it and do it this year, that would be awesome,” McCarthy said at the meetings.
“I’m all for three preseason (games). I think three preseason games and two weeks to get ready for your first game, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I think that really gives you enough time to get your evaluation done. We’re a young-team philosophy anyway. We project rookies year in and year out, so I think you have to really look at how you start training camp to create competition and get them guys playing early and often, but I think two weeks to get ready for the first game would benefit everybody.”
Instead, the Packers will play five preseason games this year because they were chosen to face the Indianapolis Colts in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7, the day after legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre will be inducted.
That also will mean an earlier start date for training camp, which for the Packers likely will be July 24.
After losing star receiver Jordy Nelson and defensive lineman B.J. Raji to injuries during the last two preseasons, no one knows better than the Packers about the risks of playing an extra game and having an extra week of training camp. But McCarthy also sees benefits.
“Look, our young guys will play more,” he said. “They’ll play more in the games. We’re going to have some practices that are designated just for them in the offseason program and also some practices that will favor those guys early in camp.”
The Colts were chosen to play in the Hall of Fame Game because former coach Tony Dungy and former star receiver Marvin Harrison are being inducted. Colts coach Chuck Pagano looks at the extra preseason game as “a great opportunity.”
“Coming into camp early, getting on the grass earlier … I’ve gotten great feedback from our guys,” Pagano said at the owners meetings. “Everybody is jacked up and fired up to get back to training camp sooner. We’ve got a lot of work to do, like everybody else. And there will be two teams back in training camp before everybody else and we’re one of them and we feel fortunate about that.”
Pittsburgh played Minnesota in the 2015 Hall of Fame Game, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin also saw it as a positive.
“I enjoyed it but I had a young team, in particular a young defense. I felt like we needed the work," Tomlin said this week. “I’m a person that enjoys camp, enjoys the team-development process. I’ll take whatever is given in that area.”