Though the last NFL football game of the season was played just a month ago, the league still makes news in the off-season.
Daron Roberts is founding director of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, and a former NFL and college football coach. He says the NFL combine held each February is no longer just an opportunity for teams to audition the best players. The workouts and drills during the event have also become a fan-facing event, broadcast live by the NFL.
“The NFL has always had this uncanny ability to monetize every single aspect of the business,” Roberts says. “When I coached, it was a sleepy event. [Now,] you may turn on the TV to watch a player from your college run the 40-yard dash. Now it’s in prime time.”
Roberts says he expects the NFL to eventually require all teams to participate in the combine, since fans are watching.
The NFL and players are also busy negotiating new contracts. The league has offered increased pay in exchange for adding a 17th regular-season game to the schedule.
“The owners want to squeeze as much value as they can out of the regular season,” Roberts says.
The proposal wouldn’t add a new game, but would turn one of the four preseason games each team plays into a regular-season game. The executive committee of the NFL Players’ Association voted to oppose the plan.
“From a player perspective, the one thing that you know is that there is a very different speed and aggression between a preseason and a regular-season game,” Roberts says. “To add another game is going to create a tremendous physical toll.”
Roberts says the impasse could result in an extended player lockout.
NFL revenue continues to move “up and to the right,” Roberts says. But player concerns over their physical health, and early retirements from the game, could threaten the league’s continued profitability, he says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.