The push for 18 games officially begins (next stop, 19 . . . then 20)

One of the biggest nuggets we picked up at the Scouting Combine was that the NFL still wants to expand to 18 regular-season games. On Friday, Commissioner Roger Goodell finally said it out loud, again.

He previously had been pushing for 18 regular-season games and two preseason games. During the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, the NFL settled for 17 and three.

“I’d rather replace a preseason game with a regular-season game any day,” Goodell said. “If we got to 18 and two, that’s not an unreasonable thing.”

They want 18 and two. They've wanted 18 and two. They backed off, a bit, because it was impossible to reconcile the health-and-safety reckoning with more games that count. Goodell's comments officially put the subject back on the front burner.

Yes, the union will have to agree to it. They will. For one very simple reason. The owners will lock the players out until they do.

That's what happened in 2011. That's what would have happened in 2020. That's what will happen the next time around.

That's why new NFLPA president Jalen Reeves-Maybin didn't say "no way in hell" when asked the question last month. He said, "When that time comes, we’ll address that."

Of course they will. Because the league has shown it will put padlocks on the doors to get what it wants, and that the players will cry "uncle" faster than Schwartz in the clutches of Scut Farkas.

Let's take it a step farther. For the same reason 17 was a stepping stone to 18, 18 could be a stepping stone to 19 — which could be a stepping stone to 20.

Goodell started the push for more games that count by publicly criticizing the games that don't. The same argument that applies to cutting the preseason from four games to three applies to cutting it to two, which will apply to cutting it to one — and which will apply to cutting it to none.

It might not happen in my lifetime, but it's coming. Seventeen will become 18. Eighteen will become 19. And nineteen will become 20.