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Colts Pro Bowler, NFLPA rep Ryan Kelly calls out Roger Goodell, blasts talk of 18-game schedule: ‘Absolutely not’

In Sports
June 06, 2024

The NFL has been testing the public relations waters in floating an 18-game schedule.

Ryan Kelly is here for the counterpoint. The Pro Bowl center and NFLPA representative for the Indianapolis Colts spoke candidly against an expanded schedule on Wednesday. He’s “absolutely not” interested in an 18-game slate or commissioner Roger Goodell’s effort’s to push one.

“Yeah, 18 games sounds great when Roger is saying it on the Pat McAfee podcast,” Kelly said in a post-practice media scrum from Colts minicamp. “But until you’re the one going out there and putting a helmet on for 18 of those games, yeah, then come talk to me.”

Roger, in this instance, is Roger Goodell. Kelly, who’s also a vice president on the NFLPA’s executive committee, was referring to Goodell’s appearance on the “The Pat McAfee Show” in April at the NFL draft in Detroit.

Speaking to McAfee in front a crowd of fans, Goodell took on the role of cheerleader in promoting an 18-game schedule.

“I think we’re good at 17 now,” Goodell said. “But, listen, we’re looking at how we continue. I’m not a fan of the preseason. I don’t think we need three preseason games anymore. I don’t buy it.”

Goodell then turned and pointed to the crowd.

“I don’t think these guys like it either,” he continued. … “The reality is, I think I’d rather replace a preseason game with a regular-season game any day. That’s picking quality, right? If we got to 18-2, that’s not an unreasonable thing.”

Goodell got no pushback from a ginned up crowd that showed up to watch the second day of the draft in person. Fans cheered on his proposal of a schedule of 18 regular-season and two preseason games.

Kelly didn’t find the proposal so reasonable. He lamented the creep of additional games while citing the league’s expansion from 16 games to 17 in 2021. That expansion was collectively bargained and made amid the backdrop of an increased awareness of the physical toll football takes on players that includes concussions and CTE.

“If people understood how hard it was to play 16, then they [add] another one, right?” Kelly said. “They get rid of preseason games. Well, OK. Who’s that gonna hurt? The guys who don’t have a shot, the undrafted guys or late-round guys that need to go out there and improve themselves.

“The fans see it as — they don’t watch the preseason games. But they have no idea what goes on inside the building, right?

Ryan Kelly made the case against an expanded NFL schedule. (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Ryan Kelly made the case against an expanded NFL schedule. (Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

The back-and-forth on expansion is happening amid the backdrop of a reported NFLPA proposal to revamp the league’s offseason schedule. Some have speculated that the proposal is a precursor to inevitable schedule expansion.

The NFL, meanwhile, is taking cues from fans, who continue to consume as much football as the league will offer. Moving forward, that means multiple games on Christmas, including two in 2024 when the holiday falls on a Wednesday. Goodell clearly hopes that also means an 18-game schedule and the additional revenue it will produce.

Will the NFLPA ultimately sign off? Kelly’s not on board, but it appears inevitable. It will ultimately come down to a vote of players — who approved the expansion from 16 to 17 games — and whether ownership will offer enough concessions to entice them in the bargaining process.

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