Thanks to the NFL for passing along the transcript of Murphy's appearance on NFL Network last night. I was so buried getting ready for Transplants that I didn't get a chance to post it.
Below is the full exchange between Murphy and Rich Eisen.
Eisen: Mark, we appreciate you taking some time to explain to us and the fans watching this show the ramifications of what would be a monumental shift in the way the National Football League games are played in the regular season. 2012 is the first order of business for you guys if you can get this thing through?
“Yes, 2012 would be the earliest. It’s really something we’ve talked about for well over a year as owners. If you look across the whole spectrum of everything the NFL does, everything is of great value. We do first-quality work. If you look at our regular season games, postseason, the Draft, the Combine; one thing that really stands out as being different is the preseason. Fans don’t like the games. There really isn’t a lot of value in the games and I think a lot of us look at it and say, ‘Our players and our teams don’t need four games to get ready for the regular season.’ So what we’re really looking at is how we might be able to change it. We’ve looked at three (preseason) and 17 (regular season) games and I think the real focus now, and I think that it’s gained quite a bit of momentum among the owners, is to move to two (preseason) and 18 (regular season) games. And quite honestly, I think we see it as possibly a way to reach an agreement with the players.
We’re working together with (the players) to grow the game and find ways to generate additional revenue.”
Eisen: Let’s sink our teeth into what this would look like. I’m sure when coaches hear two extra games, they’re thinking extra players, they need extra players. How would that be addressed?
“We’ve talked to the union about it, that we’re willing to look at the whole offseason, what we do with the players, what we ask of them and also looking at things such as the number of players on the practice squad and players on the active roster. We would also look at the injured-reserve rules. It used to be that a player could go on IR, then come back after a set period of time; I think it was six weeks. So maybe reinstituting a rule such as that would give teams a little more flexibility because they’re going to need that.
We want to work with the players to identify what things we can do to make the game as safe as possible.”
Eisen: That brings up the issue of player safety. With the Green Bay Packers, 31 players in the last three seasons have gone on injured-reserved. Last year, two major players for you, Al Harris and Aaron Kampman, went on IR in weeks 12 and 13 (respectively) late in the season. A lot of fans and players are thinking the weeks 17 and 18 with games is too long. How does that jive with the Commissioner’s drive to make sure that player safety is at the top of the list?
“This is an area where we have the same interests as the players. We want to do everything we can to make the game as safe as possible. The reality in football is that you’re going to have injuries, but you want to try to minimize it. You mentioned two of our players (Aaron Kampman and Al Harris). Those were two non-contact injuries. They both blew out their knees and neither one of them was hit on the play. So you wonder if it’s not only just the wear and tear of the season, but over the whole offseason, are we asking too much of our players throughout the offseason? What can we do to make sure that they’re staying healthy throughout the entire season?
On the other side of it, coaches look at it and say, ‘We need to develop young players. We need to get young players in a position to where they can develop as players and become solid NFL talent. One of the things we talked about today and have discussed in the past is the possibility of a developmental league. I think a lot of us looked at NFL Europe and a real benefit of that league is that we found that it was a great way to develop young players. I think a real concern is particularly young quarterbacks. They really need the game experience. So I think quarterbacks and offensive linemen, as well as all players, are the focus. So if we could have a developmental league to develop younger players and quite honestly, also to develop coaches and officials, it would really be positive for the league with the possibility of having a developmental league with games not only in the spring, but in the fall.”
Eisen: You’ve mentioned a couple times in our interview what the league and management is asking from the players in the offseason. Do you mean fewer OTAs or do you mean also addressing the culture that seems to prevail now that even though something is quote-unquote “voluntary,” it really is in the eyes of management and the coaching staff mandatory that a player be there?
“I think we need to look at both of those things. We do ask a lot of the players in the offseason and I worry not only about wear and tear on their bodies, but what the players are doing on their own. They’re working out and training and we need to really do a good job of looking at everything they do.
From a longer-term perspective, I want to make sure that the players have enough time in the offseason to finish their degree, get their degree, start getting experience in another job, doing some things to get themselves ready to make the transition into life after football. I think that would be very beneficial for all of our players to start to think about things other than football to help them make that transition.”
Eisen: What about the money aspect of it? So many players I’ve spoken to have said it’s more than just taking what they’re already earning and slicing it up between an 18-game check as opposed to a 16-game check. They want to see more money. How have you addressed the compensation issue on this front with the enhanced season?
“This is something that we’ll address at the bargaining table and we have a system in place with our players now. We’re partners with them. We share revenue and we think there is a pretty substantial amount of additional revenue in a move from our current setup from four and 16 to two and 18. Players will share in that additional revenue and that’s really the concept. Right now we’re playing 20 games. We’re just packaging them differently. We’re enhancing it with two and 18 and that allows us to generate additional revenue and the players will get a percentage of that.”
Eisen: You’re talking about a potential D-League, changes to IR rules and an expansion of the roster, not only practice, but also active. How has the Players Association received all this from your estimation?
“You’ll have to talk to them. I don’t want to speak for De(Maurice Smith) and the others, but as I’ve said before, they have a lot of the same concerns that we do. What’s the impact on player safety and injuries and that’s where we want to work with them to minimize the impact this change may have on injuries.”
Eisen: Where are we with you and DeMaurice Smith and the union. You were at a conference at St. Norbert College in late May and you were quoted by the McClatchy-Tribune Regional News Service saying, ‘I see no chance of a strike. If there is a work-stoppage, it would not be a strike.’ What did you mean by that?
“First of all, we still have nine months until the end of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and I’m hopeful that we can reach an agreement. I really think the more we can focus on issues like this where we’re working together, trying to grow the game, grow the interest in the game, we’re going to have a better chance to reach an agreement.
I don’t think there’s any discussion on the players’ side about a strike. From our side, our first priority is to get a deal done with the players and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we get that done by the expiration of the contract.”
Eisen: From a personal aspect, do you ever sit there on the side of the Management Council and look across at the players’ union that you used to be a part of and think, ‘I can’t believe I’ve been on both sides of this table?’
“It’s made for some interesting sessions. There was one session last summer in Washington, D.C. We were in the Ed Garvey conference room and before we started we had a little bit of free time, so I was looking around and they had pictures up and they were of the NFLPA through the decades. There was a picture of a bargaining session in 1982 and it was a picture of me sitting right there on the side of the players and it did strike me a little bit. But at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want what’s best for the league and for the players and the owners. I think we all know that the NFL is a phenomenal sports league and we want it to continue to be. I think having someone such as myself who has played and has worked with the Players Association in the role that I’m in now is beneficial. I do think that I can see things from the perspective of a player and hopefully that will be helpful to us as we move towards the expiration of the contract and we’re able to reach an agreement before the contract expires.