- - Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Maybe it’s time for Dallas to put Jerry Jones in the concussion protocol.

The Cowboys owner could be suffering from a hidden head injury, based on his recent comments regarding player safety and an expanded NFL season. Then again, maybe he’s just woozy from all the money he’s made since buying the club, and the thought of taller piles make him dizzier.

We’re not shocked that Jones favors an extended regular season. He has advocated an 18-game schedule for years. But his new lines of reasoning for turning two exhibitions into regular games raise questions about his lucidity.

“I think, candidly, it’s probably physically better for players than it is to have the longer preseason, the longer practicing,” Jones said Tuesday during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “Our studies show that we actually have a ramped-up injury situation with players during preseason as opposed to the injury factor in the regular season.”

Jones said it’s “debatable” whether an 18-game season would actually create a safer game for the players.

By that logic, he can debate whether walking through more dark alleys is safer than fewer.

Cutting the preseason in half is a terrific idea. But adding two regular games would erase the benefis of two fewer exhibitions. Jones told the Dallas Morning News he’d also shorten training camp as part of the deal. But that wouldn’t counteract what happens on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays when the real action commences.

More and more teams are playing starters less and less in exhibitions, wary of losing key contributors in meaningless games, like Jacksonville lost top receiver Marquise Lee to a gruesome knee injury on Saturday.

Not a single Los Angeles Rams offensive starter has played a single snap this preseason. About half of the league’s starting QBs have thrown fewer than 20 passes, and they surely won’t add to that total their teams’ last exhibition. Week 4 games are strictly off-limits for starters, who increasingly are no-shows for Week 3’s so-called “dress rehearsals.”

But back to Jones. Held down and injected with truth serum — or plied with a several glasses of Johnnie Walker Blue — he would freely admit his real concern isn’t players’ safety and well-being.

It’s owners’ pockets and bank accounts.

Fans (finally) are wising up and shunning full-price tickets to watch half-hearted exhibitions. It’s beyond me why stadiums don’t have even larger swaths of vacant seats. But the NFL could extract more money from TV networks and ancillary streams if it added a pair of regular-season games. Jones said his colleagues generously would give the players a slice, too.

“(An 18-game season) is a better equity or a better way of players using what they bring to the table, their talents, their skills, their professional time in pro sports.” Jones told the radio station. “That’ll give them a bigger pay day that’s fair. The other thing it does is it certainly gives our fans what we all think they deserve and that is a competitive game.”

Jones told the newspaper that 18 games would provide “more than $1 billion to the players.” I’m not sure they’ll buy his math or consider it worth the price of more exposure to risks like CTE and concussions.

But Pro Football Talk reported Tuesday that a potential solution exists for Jones’ wants and the players’ needs. It’s an intriguing compromise, a proposal that supposedly has been floated quietly for several years: an 18-game schedule that limits individual players to a maximum of 16 games. The laborers’ physical demands would remain unchanged while management would get the extra dates it craves.

Imagine the decisions that would mandate. Coaches would face fantasylike matchup choices, adding new layers of strategy to be dissected and second-guessed. Quarterbacks, kickers and punters might be eligible to play all 18, but coaches would have to decide a “bye week” for everyone else, not once but twice.

Would Jay Gruden risk sitting, say, Trent Williams in any game against NFC East opponents? How would he rotate the actives/inactives among position group? And then there would be the No. 1 question percolating through the locker room:

Which lucky player(s) would be off for the game right before or after the team’s bye week?

Talk about double-dipping!

If owners are determined to enact an 18-game schedule at some point, letting players remain at 16 game is a fair concession. Especially if management truly is concerned with the workforce’s health and safety.

And speaking of health, can someone check out Jones, too?

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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