FOXBOROUGH -- If the NFL wants more regular-season play from its players it's going to have to dole out more pay, said Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas, who made it clear today he is vehemently opposed to the idea of expanding the regular season.
The NFL is currently considering expanding the season to 17 or 18 games by converting either one or two of the current preseason games into a regular season contest or contests. The issue was discussed at the NFL's annual meeting last week in Dana Point, Calif., and the league is terming the idea as a restructuring of the current 20-game slate (16 regular-season and four preseason games).
It could be voted on as soon as next month's spring meetings.
"My idea of it is it [stinks,]," said Thomas, who also dismissed commissioner Roger Goodell's assertion that players are already getting paid for playing a 20-game season.
"No, we do not," said Thomas, who said Goodell wasn't being truthful. "...You get paid [in the] preseason totally different then you do regular-season."
Players receive 17 checks during the regular-season (including during the bye week), but are paid on a per diem basis during the preseason. All veteran players will make $1,225 per week during the preseason this year with an additional $200 for each of the four preseason games; rookies get $825 per week, according to the collective bargaining agreement and confirmed by the NFL Players Association.
"You're telling me that Tom Brady is going to play a regular-season game that would have been a preseason game for $1,200," said Thomas. "You got four preseason games that you're paying people, and you got a set salary from somebody that would make their normal salary. If you made $5 million that year, you're almost making a $1 million a month based off the football season, so instead of getting paid your regular check you're going to get paid [$1,225], and you're telling me I'm getting paid.
"No, don't even give me that. Your ticket price doesn't change for preseason, so why does your pay change for preseason. That doesn't make any sense to me saying we already get paid. No, [the league] gets paid [in] preseason."
Goodell was asked at the annual meeting if he expected push-back from the players because they don't play as much in the regular season as in the preseason.
"The fans also recognize that those players aren't playing in preseason games. That's why they're not attractive," said Goodell. "That's what they've come to expect. They want to see these players play. That's a key issue. As far as the medical issues, that's why we continue to do everything we can to make sure the game is safer for our players. We change the rules, make sure we're putting them in a position where the risk is at least minimized, make sure we can do everything to keep them healthy throughout the game and well beyond their years of playing the game."
He then went into compensation for an expanded season.
"As it relates to one other aspect of it, and I'll reinforce this point, which I have before, they are being paid for the preseason games," said the commissioner. "It's all part of our total gross revenue, and it's calculated up and they get a percentage of that. They might not get a check cut during that week, but that is how they're paid and those revenues are part of that. That's something that they have to understand, and I've said that to players directly and it's something we'll continue to reinforce it with them."
Thomas just wasn't buying that idea, and said that if the owners want players to play more regular-season games they're going to have to give something back in the CBA negotiations. The current CBA is set to expire following the 2010 season.
Goodell has said that an expanded season would be unlikely to take place until after 2010.
"You're telling me you're going to add a week, but you'll pay me like preseason; you're going to just stretch the payments over 18 weeks," said Thomas. "No, we're not doing that. You can mark me down on the injured list for two weeks. You can put that in your books. You've done lost your mind."
In a lengthy diatribe, Thomas, who spent four seasons in Baltimore as a player rep, also implored the owners to open their books to an independent audit and sounded off on the "Tom Brady" rule, the NFL's system for fining players, and the prohibition on alcohol being served at team functions.
"If you want to cry about money then open your books up to an independent audit to really show how much money you're making," said Thomas. "If you really want to cry about money open your books up put what you really make in the paper like you have put our salary in the paper every year so the fans can say, 'They're making this much money. Why aren't they doing this?'
"Why don't you do the same thing if that's the case. I'm sick of people talking about, crying about 'we need to make cuts here.' I mean that's your business, if that's how you want to run things that's fine. Going to an 18-game season for what? How about you give us two bye weeks, and then we make it like that. I'm just trying to figure out what's the purpose. At the end of the year when players go to playoffs it's like, look it's been a long season, so now you're going to say it's going to be a longer season. I don't understand that."
The "Brady rule," is actually an addendum to the existing low hits on quarterbacks rule that the NFL's competition committee recently passed. It outlaws a prone defensive player who hasn't been blocked to the ground or fouled directly into the quarterback from lunging or diving at the lower leg of a quarterback, as Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard did to Brady in the 2008 season-opener, leading to a season-ending left knee injury for the QB.
"Give him some pom-poms and put him in a skirt," said Thomas of the general additional protection for quarterbacks. "My thing is this, there is nobody's knee out there that is more important than the next person's knee. That person's knee is as important to him as the next person's knee is important to them. I don't know all the rule changes, so I can't really comment wholeheartedly on this. I don't know the real logistics of this new rule of you can't lunge at someone. ...Sooner or later it's going to be two-hand touch with all the rules. The guys are getting bigger and faster, and there are things that are unfortunate, but it's hard to tell somebody or practice...I mean, it's get the guy with the ball. You've always been taught that. I'm definitely for protecting the players. I definitely see some of the rules that could be justified or not justified."
Thomas also railed against the NFL's system of fining players, pointing to a $7,500 horse-collar fine he drew last year in the preseason for an attempted tackle of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"The fine system has to be fixed," said Thomas. "It's like you getting a speeding ticket and going to jail for life. There is no ground work for anything. The first time you get roughing the passer it's this. The second time you get this it's this. ...I feel that any call that deals with a questionable call as far as a hit I don't feel that the appeals committee should be able to watch that play more than once because that player couldn't play that play more than once at full-speed."
The loquacious linebacker also pointed out the apparent hypocrisy of the NFL not wanting players to be associated with alcohol and banning it from team functions, but allowing NFL footage to be used in beer commercials.
"You can't drink and drive is what we're trying to promote, but you can sell beer at the game," said Thomas. "How the [heck] do you think the people got to the game? You can't make a beer commercial because it's unethical, but everybody that retires is in a Coors Light commercial at the podium, and it's the official beer of the NFL. Just say you don't want us to make a beer commercial because we want to take all the money from the beer companies."