The resounding message, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has heard on his round-the-NFL tour, is that the fans want an 18-game season. It can be done, Goodell says. The league has increased its regular-season schedule in the past with grand results, so when the league and the NFL Players Association get to the nuts and bolts of its "negotiation," as Goodell calls it, and hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement, an 18-game schedule could very well be in place for 2011.
What it all means and how it will be structured remains to be seen, but it is impossible for the fans to not think ahead. With that, and thinking of the present and tying in the Eagles' training camp, one of the primary challenges will be the way the league changes its injured rules.
One of the big stories of this training camp, for example, is the rash of injuries the Eagles have encountered. And in some circles, there is major concern that DeSean Jackson (back) and Jeremy Maclin (knee) are out of action, and that neither Todd Herremans nor Jamaal Jackson has practiced. Understood.
But in the big picture, all of those players should be fine and ready to play this year, and with the exception of Jackson all could very well play if there was a real game on August 13, when the preseason games begin.
Is there any reason to panic, even a little bit, with these hamstring injuries and strains and bruises that are sidelining the Eagles? No, not really. It would be helpful, absolutely, for the Eagles to get all five of their offensive linemen in place to give them time to work together. At the same time, we have just passed the halfway point of training camp and beyond that the Eagles practice for three weeks at the NovaCare Complex before opening the season on September 12 against Green Bay.
If the NFL goes to the 18-game schedule, well, the roster sizes and the injured reserve rules have to be examined. The toll of two more regular season games is serious, and that has to be weighed against the reduction of two preseason contests.
I love the idea of 18 games. Two preseason games give coaches time to evaluate the roster and select their best 53 (more?) players. That final preseason game is a tough one to watch and for the fans who pay good money to sit in the stands, seeing mostly players who won't make it to the regular season isn't worth the expense.
All of that, of course, is in the future. There is a long labor negotiation ahead. The focus is on this training camp and molding this roster.
So what are the Eagles to this point? A work in progress is probably the best way to describe the Eagles. The offense has pieces missing, although both Jackson and Maclin have their timing down with quarterback Kevin Kolb. The line of scrimmage is the focal point to improve on that side of the ball.
The defense has had a good run to work together. You can see it getting better and better in practice. There is a ton of speed on defense and there remain a bunch of question marks.
So we move forward in training camp. It is a day-by-day process. The regular season seems years away. The NFL is in wonderful shape, with the looming battle ahead to shape the future. Goodell is a calm, cool and collected fellow who knows he has a battle on his hands with the resolution of a new CBA.
And here, in training camp, the Eagles have to come together and work through the nicks and bumps and bruises. The talent level is obvious. The fun part is ahead.