NEW YORK -- Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL no longer needs four preseason games, but the league should change its offseason training programs.
"It's clear the fans don't want four preseason games," Goodell said Thursday after speaking to high school players at an NFL football clinic in Queens. "It's clear the players don't want four preseason games. They tell me that all the time. You ask them that question and they'll tell you. And we really don't need it to make the game better. So we have to evolve just as we did a couple of decades ago when we went from six preseason games to four."
NFL and union officials discussed adding two games to the regular season when they met Wednesday for their first negotiating session since February. Teams would still play a total of 20 exhibition plus regular-season games under the proposal. The league would go from four in the preseason and 16 in the regular season to two and 18.
Players have expressed concerns about an increase in injuries. Goodell suggested adjustments in the offseason programs could alleviate that.
"I think you do have to make changes," he said. "We've been very open about that from Day 1. I think we have to do it regardless."
Players don't have much of a true offseason these days when they can rest and take a break from football. While certain workouts are technically voluntary, they may not feel that way.
"Obviously there's a lot of pressure from teammates and coaches," Goodell said, "so I think we're going to have to have some guidelines and restrictions on what can be done and can't be done in the offseason."
The collective bargaining agreement expires in March, which could lead to a work stoppage during the 2011 season. Goodell said he wasn't concerned about the tone of the back-and-forth between the league and the NFL Players Association.
"This is a negotiation," he said. "You have to have a dialogue about how to make the game better."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press