“I don’t have an answer for you,” one person close to the deliberations said.
The CBA would have to be approved by two-thirds of the 32 player reps. If that happens, the deal would be put to a vote of all NFL players and would have to be ratified by a majority of them, under NFLPA procedures. It’s possible the vote of all players could be taken electronically.
NFLPA officials declined to comment and would not officially confirm Thursday’s meeting or disclose its location. The player reps also met last Thursday in Miami.
The proposed CBA would last for 10 years and give the players slightly more than 48 percent of the league’s revenue under the salary cap system, according to people close to the negotiations. It would extend the regular season from 16 to 17 games per team beginning at some point during the deal. The preseason would be reduced to two to three games per team in conjunction with the lengthening of the regular season. The NFL’s playoff field likely would be expanded from 12 to 14 teams beginning at some point during the duration of the CBA.
The new CBA would make changes favorable to the NFLPA to the league’s system of player discipline and its drug policies. The league’s marijuana policy likely would be made less punitive. There probably would be further restrictions placed on teams’ offseason workout and practice programs for players.
Some players and agents voiced objections last week to the 17-game season. San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said publicly it was hypocritical for the league and team owners to seek a 17-game season at a time when player health and safety is a prominent issue. Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Russell Okung said last Thursday at the NFLPA’s annual Super Bowl week news conference that he agreed with Sherman.
But the league and owners have tied a variety of concessions to the players to approval of a 17-game season. Owners want the additional games as a revenue-boosting measure, and believe the longer regular season would be valuable in upcoming negotiations for new broadcasting contracts.
The current CBA runs through the 2020 season. If this new CBA is ratified in the coming weeks, some but not all provisions in it would take effect for next season. But if the players reject the proposed CBA because of opposition to a 17-game season, it’s likely that the league and owners would consider that a major setback in the negotiations. Many on the league side believe it is now the responsibility of the NFLPA leadership, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, to usher the proposed deal through the ratification process to completion. A breakdown in negotiations at this point could lead both sides to intensify their preparations for a potential work stoppage in 2021.
There had been hopes that the proposed CBA would be ratified by the Super Bowl, but that didn’t happen when the player reps declined to take a vote last Thursday. The next major goal appears to be early March, before the beginning of the new league year and the opening of the NFL’s free agent market. The NFLPA is due to change its player leadership later in March at its annual meeting. Eric Winston, the retired offensive lineman who has served as the union’s president, is ineligible for another term.
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