- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2009

SCHEDULING A HEADACHE

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to expand the regular season to 17 or even 18 games. His reasoning is that the length of the preseason has become excessive, even though fans are paying regular-season prices for tickets and parking.

At this week’s owners meetings, Goodell said a vote could occur in May. But expect this to be a long discussion: The players union deserves a say, and there are issues about broadcast rights and fees, player salaries and more minute things like performance-related incentive payments.

“Any time you have change, there is some reluctance,” Goodell said. “But it’s clear we don’t need four preseason games anymore.”

Here are three issues Goodell will face:

When would the regular season begin? If the current 17-week model stays intact for a 17-game season, that would eliminate the precious bye week. If the 2009 season were 18 games plus a bye week, the first games would be played around Sunday, Aug. 30. A schedule of 17 games plus a bye week would work best.

Where would the extra games be played? This is why 17 games make more sense than 18. The NFL clearly wants to expand its brand and play neutral-site games - New England and Tampa Bay play in London this year - and with one extra game, it would make sense to have each team play a neutral-site game in addition to eight home and eight road games. Cites in the United States and abroad would line up to host a game.

Would the rosters expand? Only 45 of a team’s 53 players are allowed to dress on game day. Adding games would increase the possibility of injury. This is a no-brainer; have every available player in uniform because more injuries are bound to happen.

AROUND THE NFC

• Second-year Redskins wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly worked out at the team facility this week.

”Devin is a talented kid, and we want to get him more touches, and Malcolm is a big guy who can go up and get the ball,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “We do understand we have to have them [produce]. They’re going to be a big part of the offense.”

• Dallas’ secondary will have a different look this year after safety Roy Williams and cornerback Adam Jones were released. Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick will compete for the cornerback spot, and newcomer Gerald Sensabaugh (from Jacksonville) represents an upgrade in coverage at safety. On offense, the Cowboys may implement a Wildcat package using receiver (and former quarterback) Isaiah Stanback.

• Appearing on Sporting News Radio this week, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall had high praise for new defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

”Do I feel like he’s the most feared player in this league? Yes, I do,” Hall said. “I think he’s the best player in the NFL, bar none. … His salary is definitely up there, but we didn’t go out and pay him 10 times more than Peyton Manning or Jared Allen. We paid him along those same lines, and I think he’s going to help me and help this team - and that’s what it’s all about.”

AROUND THE AFC

• Look for the New England Patriots to be active on draft weekend. The Patriots have six of the first 100 picks (Nos. 23, 34, 47, 58, 89 and 97) and also have two picks apiece in the fifth and sixth rounds. This gives Bill Belichick plenty of chips to use if he wants to trade up in the first round like he did last year to get linebacker Jerod Mayo. The Patriots need to replace linebacker Mike Vrabel, so don’t be surprised if Belichick moves up to snatch Southern Cal’s Brian Cushing.

• Cleveland coach Eric Mangini’s decision to open up the quarterback competition between Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson shows there wasn’t a market for either player. Quinn (who went 1-2 last year) saw his status as franchise quarterback disappear when coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage departed. Anderson was 3-6 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury.

• The economy was a major area of discussion at the owners meetings. Houston’s Bob McNair said the realities of business in the NFL focus have changed lately.

”It’s a different atmosphere than 20 to 30 years ago,” he said. “Originally, we worried about selling tickets. Now we’ve got to worry about selling tickets, about keeping media partners happy, operating stadiums, keeping fans happy in the stadium and servicing debts.”

INSIDE THE DRAFT

• Patriots coach Bill Belichick and San Diego general manager A.J. Smith were among the 21 teams represented at Connecticut’s pro day. A Huskies player has never been taken in the first or second rounds, but as many as four could be selected this year. running back Donald Brown led the nation with 2,086 rushing yards last year; he ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the combine and led all backs with a 41.5-inch vertical leap. Brown and Georgia’s Knowshon Moreno will be the first running backs selected.

• The Redskins were one of four teams that did not attend the University of Cincinnati’s pro day last week. An interesting Bearcats prospect is Connor Barwin. He played two years at tight end before switching to defensive end last year, posting 11 sacks. At 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds, he projects as a second-day draft choice.

• Sixty individuals from 23 teams were at Texas’ pro day Wednesday. Defensive end Brian Orakpo said a hamstring injury slowed him at the combine. If he performs well during his visits, Orakpo doesn’t figure to be available for the Redskins at No. 13. Kansas City, Green Bay and Cleveland have switched almost exclusively to a 3-4 defense, which suits Orakpo’s skills.

FRIDAY FIVE “ FACTS ABOUT OVERTIME

1. Out of the 432 OT games since the current rule was adopted in 1974, the team that won the coin toss won the game 232 times (53.7 percent).

2. In 302 of the games (69.9 percent), both teams had at least one possession, including eight of last year’s 15 OT games.

3. Only 17 games have ended in a tie. The most recent was Philadelphia-Cincinnati in November.

4. Of the 130 times that OT lasted only one drive, the winning team kicked 95 field goals and scored 35 touchdowns.

5. The average length of a winning field goal in OT last year: 37 yards.

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