June 06, 2011
It's not an absolute lead-pipe lock that we'll have a full NFL season, and as such, the owners and commissioner have been planning for alternate shortened seasons, the likes of which we haven't had since 1987, which was the last time there was a work stoppage. And when all is said and done, the 15-game season then — with replacement player games interspersed — may seem like a gift if the plans the league are discussing become a reality. In 1982, only nine regular-season games were played because of what was then the longest work stoppage in NFL history.
According to Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, the league is now planning for how pro football would be played with an eight-game season that could start in late November, based on a possible settlement in October that would allow for a free-agency period and training camp.
The 16-game schedule for 2011 was released on April 19, and there's been some thought that the schedule could still be played in full even if it started in Week 4. In that case, all byes and the week between the conference championships and Super Bowl would be eliminated, the Super Bowl would be pushed back a week, and the early scheduled games could be played at the end of the regular season.
It's not known how an eight-game season would work out — interdivision matchups would take six games from each team, and the other two in-season games could be set up in several different ways.
Of course, the hope is that there's an uninterrupted season, but contingency plans are necessities at this point; after months of court cases and negotiations, the two sides are still far enough apart to make a truncated season an unfortunate reality that everyone must prepare for.
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