ATLANTA (AP) — NFL owners are eager to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games.
During a five-hour meeting Wednesday, the push to add two more games to the regular season picked up steam — at least among those who sign the checks. The players aren't so sure.
But talks on the expanded season dominated most of the meeting.
Goodell pointed out that the league already has the right to impose an 18-game schedule — and keep four preseason games for each team — under the current labor agreement with the players. But that contract expires after this season, and it's clear the expanded schedule will be a central issue in talks on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The owners would like to keep the season at 20 weeks, reducing the number of preseason games from four to two.
"We want to do it the right way for everyone, including the players, the fans and the game in general," Goodell said. "There's a tremendous amount of momentum for it. We think it's the right step."
The owners also unanimously approved Stan Kroenke's proposal to purchase majority ownership of the St. Louis Rams, assuming he turns over control of two other sports teams he owns — the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche — to his son.
Kroenke owns 40 percent of the Rams and exercised his right to purchase the rest of the team from the Rosenbloom family for a reported $750 million.
"All of us know and respect Stan," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "He's been a terrific owner in the NFL and we're confident he will continue to be a great owner."
However the meeting was dominated by the 18-game season.
There was also a reluctance among some players to tamper with the successful 16-game formula, which puts a premium on the importance of each game.
"With 16 games, every game is important and therefore the fans are very into it, the stadiums are packed because they know if their team loses, it pushes them further and further away from making the playoffs," Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer said. "If you go to 18, each game kind of loses a little bit of its significance."
At the least, they want more money — and several proposed changes in the rules governing injured players, or adding an extra bye week to deal with the grind. And that comes at a time when teams are trying to reduce costs.
"The players want to be compensated for two more games," San Francisco 49ers linebacker Matt Wilhelm said. "That's the one thing the players have to get met."
They are also concerned about an increased risk of injuries and fret that it could shorten their careers or increase the number of health problems they endure after retirement.
"I would vote to eliminate two preseason games and then keep it at a 16-game season because the longer you're out there playing, the more your body breaks down," Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark said. "When you get into December, you're like walking zombies. You can't feel your joints."
Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita said the timing of the proposal is odd, considering the owners want the players to accept a smaller share of the revenue in the next labor agreement.
"They are asking you to play more games and put yourself at more risk, and they are also asking us to take a pay cut," he said. "That's a lot to ask. All those things don't make a whole lot of sense. We need to sit down and talk through it all and find out what it is they're really trying to do and see if it makes sense or not."
But Kraft said the expanded season would bring in more money while the economy is struggling.
"Going to an 18-game season is critical to us getting a labor deal," he said. "There's not a lot ways in this economic environment we can generate incremental revenues. That's the best way.
"Our fans have said pretty loud and clear they'd like us to have fewer preseason games."
AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati, Andrew Seligman in Chicago, Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Tom Withers in Cleveland, Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis, Michael Marot in Indianapolis and Joseph White in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.