Saints Chargers Football

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on during the first half of an NFL preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers Aug. 25.

The NFL schedule has been the same way since before any players on the Saints roster, even Drew Brees, were born.

Four preseason games.

Sixteen regular-season games.

But if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gets his wish, that could change.

Goodell, speaking earlier this week at a charity golf event in Buffalo, New York, reiterated that he thinks the preseason should be shortened. It's an idea Goodell first floated around in 2008.

“I feel what we should be doing is always to the highest quality, and I’m not sure preseason games meet that level right now,” Goodell told the Associated Press. "I’m not sure, talking with coaches, that four preseason games is necessary anymore to get ready for a season to evaluate players, develop players. There are other ways of doing that, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about that.”

Any changes wouldn't come until after the 2020 season, when the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the players union expires.

Saints players like Mario Edwards would like for things to stay the same.

"The preseason kinda warms you up and gets you ready for the season," Edwards said. "Less preseason games may make you a little rusty. I like how it is right now."

Saints cornerback P.J. Williams, meanwhile, is OK with reducing the number of exhibition games.

"I wouldn't mind three games in the preseason," Williams said. "Just take care of your body a little bit more. Most of the time the vets aren't getting as many reps (in the preseason)."

As it is, the fourth preseason game is one that often decides which fringe players earn a spot on the team and which ones don't.

"I know each season there’s guys we’re making decisions on after that last game who are going to play more in that fourth game, who are special teams that are going to play more offensively and defensively," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I know what currently exists ... if it went to three, you’d just have to change how you’re rolling your players through."

The competition committee, which Payton serves on, wouldn't be involved with reducing the number of preseason games to the schedule. That committee deals only with rules changes. It will be a decision left up to league ownership, management council and the players union.

"But I do think that time in pads from when we start to the start of the regular season is vital relative to the evaluation process and the preparation for getting ready to start the regular season," Payton said. "I’m sure they’ll go through a lot of the different scenarios."

A reduction in preseason games could well mean an increase in regular-season games, an idea that has been talked about in recent years.

Payton mentioned some of the possibilities he's heard tossed around. The most talked-about one of those is three preseason games and 18 regular-season games. But he's also heard one that suggests three preseason games and 17 regular-season games. With an odd number of regular-season games, teams would play nine home games and eight road games one season, then flip flop and play eight home games and nine road games the next.

Payton talked about the pros and cons of more games.

"Off the top of my head, you expand revenue, you play later into the year and a network (television) person might be able to expand on it better than I would," Payton said. "But it’s wear and tear on the players, an additional two games."

Players, meanwhile, are concerned with the safety element of adding even more games to what is an already a grinding schedule.

"Sixteen games is about all we need," said Saints receiver Ted Ginn. "To add two more and all the banging and different things like that, I really don't see the point to it."

Players likely also would push for more compensation if they generate the league more revenue by playing additional games.

Williams agrees with Ginn.

"I'd rather keep it at 16," Williams said. "It's a long season, especially when you are going to the postseason. And it's a long season, especially coming from college when you aren't used to it."

From 1970-1977, the NFL schedule consisted of six preseason games and 14 regular-season games. The following season, the league reduced the preseason to four games and expanded the regular season to 16 games. It's been that way since. 

Is another change coming?

Payton doesn't know.

"It’s kinda above my pay grade a little bit," Payton said. "But the preseason that exists relative to the time we have in pads is important."

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Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.