Andrew Whitworth and Marvin Lewis differ on reducing preseason games

Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Whitworth, a veteran, welcomes the idea of fixing the preseason by reducing the schedule to two games. Marvin Lewis disagrees, arguing that such a reduction would hurt younger players trying to earn their spot. Whatever the case, Whitworth HATES the idea of an 18-game schedule.

Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals player representative, carries some weight. And we're not talking about the established left tackle with a Pro Bowl in his pocket, and a handful more Pro Bowls that he should have had. When asked about a question that impacts the league, or the players in general, he'll open up with an honest perspective. Earlier this year, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he'd rather retire than play for a franchise that was stationed in London.

"With all of the things we're seeing health wise, I don't think an 18-game season is beneficial for anybody. - Andrew Whitworth.


"I don’t see that a lot of guys would want to do that," Whitworth told the Cincinnati Enquirer in June. "I don’t see any players that would enjoy that. Sure, you may find a handful of guys that say, ‘Oh hey, that’d be cool,’ but the rest of them wouldn’t."

Another issue that the league has been weighing for some time (like a crocodile that won't release his bite) is reducing the number of preseason games in favor of a 18-game regular season schedule.

According to the NFL NETWORK, the league is studying the 2013 preseason to learn what can be done to improve the product in the future.

The NFL still is looking at different formats for the split of regular-season and preseason games -- 18-and-2, 16-and-2 or 17-and-3. The league will examine this year's preseason to figure it out. The NFL will look at how much starters play, how the lineups are configured and fan reaction, particularly with the fourth and final preseason game.

NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah states that the union hasn't been approached about any changes that are being proposed.

"We have not been approached about a change in the season. We know the owners have wanted 18 games for a long time and as everyone knows, tried using a lockout to get it."

"I hear from fans consistently that they want to make every NFL event more valuable," Goodell said earlier this year. "They see the preseason as being less valuable to them because they don’t see the best players and the games do not count. We have to address that."

Feverishly attached to the idea of a 20-game schedule between the preseason and regular season combined, the NFL isn't keen to the idea of simply removing two preseason games and playing a 16-game schedule. That, of course, is money lost. Such a silly idea.

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker James Harrison argues that the idea of an 18-game schedule counters the "player safety" arguments that are being established; admittedly an argument that's nailed Harrison's wallet in the past.

"I feel like what he's doing is not totally for the safety of players. ... A lot of stuff they've done, (such as) fining guys crazy amounts of money for helmet-to-helmet hits and all that and saying you're doing this for the safety of players. But yet you want to add extra games to the regular season."

Whitworth joined the chorus of players uninterested in adding two games to the regular season, but admits that the preseason needs to implement some changes for the fans.

"I don't think there's any need for an 18-game season," Whitworth told USA TODAY Sports. "With all of the things we're seeing health wise, I don't think an 18-game season is beneficial for anybody. But I do agree with the fans that preseason is lackluster. There are ways you can fix that. If it's less games, fine. But I definitely don't think there are a lot of guys who'd want to play an 18-game season."

Now, if you ask a coach, they're fine with a four-game preseason schedule. Head coach Marvin Lewis told USA TODAY that with the practice restrictions that are applied with the current CBA, younger players would suffer the most if the preseason were reduced.

"The Emmanuel Lamurs, guys like that, who took a little longer to emerge, wouldn't get those shots," Lewis told USA TODAY Sports. "There's probably a guy on everybody's club like that who'd be swept out the door."

One idea is the greater use of joint practices.

"I'd think that would be something that people would look to do more of, because it would give you another good look, another way to evaluate," Lewis said. "In this environment, sometimes it gets stale, repetitive, to play against the same people all the time. But to see that guy with the other color helmet on? Get ready."

Either way, something will eventually change. The league strongly wants to add two regular season games and the general consensus is that most people agree changes are needed for the preseason. Where that line is drawn is anyone's guess.

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