Published February 11, 2011
Tom Brady's agent thinks he has a solution for an 18-game NFL regular season: Limit how many games each player can suit up.
The players' union opposes expanding the season by two games, one of the main sticking points in negotiations with the league for a new collective bargaining agreement.
Though agent Don Yee believes 18 games mean more bodily punishment, leading to shorter careers and possibly shorter life spans, he had these suggestions for making the change more acceptable:
— Increase the roster from 53 players to 58, and make all eligible to play on game day; currently, only 45 can play.
— Institute a rule that prohibits any player from appearing in more than 16 games.
"This compromise will create even more interest from fans," Yee said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "What two games will the head coach sit the starting QB? That's a discussion that will set sports talk radio airwaves afire.
"This compromise will also be popular with coaches and general managers who want a greater opportunity to develop younger players," he said. "The NFL doesn't have a minor league, and this compromise will force meaningful participation by younger players on the roster.
"Players also would endorse this because each would effectively get two bye weeks during the year. Bye weeks afford important healing time and personal time away from the game."
Yee sees a lengthened regular season as a virtual free revenue stream for the league.
"The owners want two more regular-season games to sell to television networks, and give their own NFL Network more games. More games mean more money. And the NFL Network is a growing asset owners don't share with the players," he said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had no comment on the proposals.
In addition to Brady, New England's quarterback and the NFL MVP, Yee represents New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and is an adjunct law professor at Southern Cal and a visiting law professor at his alma mater, Virginia.
Jeopardizing the 2011 season because of the 18-game proposal and spending too much money on rookies "is ludicrous because both issues are easily solvable. And if they aren't quickly solved, the owners and players will be insulting the intelligence of football fans everywhere."
Yee addressed misspent money on draft picks, saying: "Each year brings high-profile rookies who end up making a lot of money and contributing very little. The Oakland Raiders' experience with JaMarcus Russell infuriated many and is the owners' 'Exhibit A.'
"But JaMarcus Russell didn't draft himself in the first round. The Raiders did. And Russell didn't write himself a check for more than $30 million guaranteed dollars. The Raiders did, and did so willingly.
"Every NFL team has a JaMarcus Russell story. Now the owners want the players to bail them out of this situation."
Yee suggests the solution is drafting more wisely.
"There really isn't any excuse for significant blunders like Russell," Yee said. "NFL draft choices undergo a level of scrutiny that would make a TSA agent blush. Every potential draft pick's personal, social and academic history is analyzed, sometimes by former FBI agents employed by the league or team. Their entire medical histories are revealed. Every game and practice is available on tape. Psychological profiles and intelligence tests are given.
"The prospects also participate in all-star games and the NFL combine. Yet, poor decisions happen every year. An obvious conclusion is that some teams employ poor decision makers, and this is within the owners' control to fix, not the players'."
Yee also advises teams who don't think a player is worth the money he's slotted to receive when that team's turn to choose arrives, pass on the pick. He admits it "takes guts," but notes a substantial portion of the New England Patriots' roster is made up of undrafted players. Teams don't necessarily need a roster full of high draft picks to win.
Another suggestion: If a draft pick is demanding too much money, don't pay it. History shows when teams have done that, they usually are right.
"In 1979, the Buffalo Bills made Tom Cousineau the first pick in the entire draft," Yee said. "The Bills refused to pay Cousineau what he was being offered by a Canadian Football League team. Cousineau went to Canada and on to a modestly successful pro career. The Bills did OK, too. Shortly after rejecting Cousineau's demands, they went to four Super Bowls."
Other issues in the bargaining process involve, among others, treatment of retired players and continuing health care coverage for those who leave the game.
"But paying rookie players and having a longer season shouldn't be the impediment to an exciting 2011 season," Yee said.