Chiefs owner Hunt touts reduced preseason, 17-game schedule
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By DAVE SKRETTA
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The chairman of the Kansas City Chiefs believes the NFL must “seriously consider” reducing the preseason and expanding the regular season to 17 games, giving the league additional inventory that would allow for more games internationally.
Clark Hunt, the most visible face of the Chiefs ownership family, also said such ideas have been batted around since the last round of collective bargaining in 2011. But with another round of CBA talks heating up, Hunt believes the schedule will become a crucial issue.
“I think reducing the preseason is something everybody would be in favor of,” Hunt said during a wide-ranging availability Wednesday. “If you replaced a game, perhaps two, with one regular-season game it would give you an odd number of games with 17. One thought is you could play at least some of those games at a neutral site and obviously internationally would be one way to do that.”
Hunt has long been a proponent of expanding the NFL to new markets. The Chiefs beat the Lions at Wembley Stadium in London during the 2015 season, and they face the Chargers in Mexico City on Monday night - a do-over of sorts after their game there last year was moved because of field conditions.
Hunt said the new playing surface at Azteca Stadium has allayed any lingering concerns.
“I think all the international games are important to the league, and they are important to the Chiefs from a branding standpoint,” Hunt said. “Frankly, I did not think we’d be going to Mexico City so fast. It was not something I lobbied the league for. When I looked at our schedule, I didn’t think it would work out from a scheduling standpoint.
“I guess at the end of the day,” Hunt said, “the Chargers were willing to give up a home game to play down there, even though we’re a divisional team.”
In other news, Hunt said the Chiefs hope to sign MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes to an extension that keeps him in Kansas City his entire career. But he declined to say whether that will happen after this season, when Mahomes becomes eligible to sign a deal, or after the following year.
“That’s a decision we will have to make with his representatives, if this is the right time,” said Hunt, who also declined to say whether Mahomes could become the NFL’s highest-paid player.
Hunt did acknowledge feeling a sense of disbelief when Mahomes dislocated his kneecap on a sneak against Denver earlier this season. The freak injury caused him to miss two games, though Mahomes came back to throw for 446 yards in last week’s last-second loss in Tennessee.
“I was concerned he was lost for the season,” Hunt said, “and perhaps beyond that.”
Among other topics Hunt discussed Wednesday:
Like most NFL fans, Hunt has mixed feelings about the rule changes this year allowing for pass interference penalties to be challenged. He also thinks it’s an issue that will be revisited by the competition committee and that changes are likely for next season.
“I definitely think it’s a learning experience for everyone involved,” Hunt said. “I’ve seen the statistics that show the very few times coaches are being successful in their challenges, particularly after we got past the first two games of the season.”
FEELING A DRAFT
The NFL awarded the 2023 draft to Kansas City, and Hunt predicted it could be “the biggest event ever” to take place in the city. He said most of the work on the draft will begin after this season, though the franchise is in constant communication with civic leaders.
PAYING BIG FOR HILL
Tyreek Hill spent the offseason banished from the team amid allegations of domestic abuse - he was ultimately cleared by the league and prosecutors. And when that happened, the Chiefs wasted little time in giving their star wide receiver a $54 million, three-year extension.
The deal, though, includes plenty of safeguards for the organization.
“We obviously had some level of comfort with the information we received,” Hunt said. “We looked at the season and thought it was important to get Tyreek done early in the year. We were able to reach an agreement with his representatives that rewards Tyreek for the level of play we’ve seen out of him the past three-plus years but also protects the organization.”
ALSO JONESING FOR A DEAL
The Chiefs also have been discussing a contract extension for Chris Jones, who has emerged as one of the NFL’s premier defensive tackles. Jones held out all offseason, hoping to pressure Kansas City into getting a deal done, but was left to play out the fourth year of his rookie contract.
“We’re very hopeful we can extend Chris’ contract and bring him back to Kansas City for many years to come,” Hunt said. “He’s obviously a fantastic player, great guy in the locker room, and we like what he brings to the Kansas City Chiefs.”
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Updated November 13, 2019