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Amid hardliner dissent, NFL players to vote on new CBA terms

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (right) walks off the field after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Feb. 2, 2020.
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (right) walks off the field after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Feb. 2, 2020.

Owners don’t have to revote after latest tweaks

INDIANAPOLIS — Richard Sherman doesn’t like it. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t like it. The Pouncey twins don’t like it, and the majority of NFL Players Union executive council members don’t like it.

But because the narrowest possible majority of the 32 union player reps (17) voted early Wednesday to endorse proposed terms for a new collective bargaining agreement with the league, rank-and-file members of the NFLPA will now vote on whether 10 more years of NFL labour peace is upon us.

If a simple majority of the 2,100 or so dues-paying players endorses proposed terms agreed to last week by owners, then a new CBA covering the years 2021-30 would be approved.

That would conclude 10 months of negotiations, as owners hope to bag a new 10-year CBA before terms of the final year of the current CBA (covering the years 2011-20) kick in.

Owners want the certainty of labour peace through 2030 arranged before opening negotiations for new TV contracts with NBC, FOX, CBS and ESPN.

Owners don’t want to wait for next year. TV ratings for NFL games may dip this fall because of the distracting U.S. presidential election — as happened four years ago — and the booming economy could cool off by then. Hence, owners have been impatient to get players on board quickly for a new CBA, so as to approach networks with maximum leverage.

In the NFL TV-rights revenues dwarf all others. Billions could be at stake.

The owners most of all sought from players the right to expand the regular-season schedule to 17 games per team, from 16, with no additional byes. To get players on board, owners have offered a slew of concessions so good as to shock many veteran NFL writers when they leaked out late last week. These concessions include:

  • Expanding rosters from 53 to 55 and game-day active rosters from 46 to 48.
  • Expanding practice squads from 10 to 14.
  • Increasing the players’ portion of shareable revenues from 47% to 48.5%, amounting to a $5-billion bump over the 10-year life of the new deal.
  • Hiking minimum rookie salaries from $510,000 to $610,000 in 2020, to $780,000 in 2021 and to $895,000 in 2022 — when appreciably more than 40% of all players this past season earned less than $600,000.
  • Hiking practice-squad weekly earnings per player from a minimum of $7,600 US this past season (or $129,200 US over 17 weeks) to $10,500 (or $178,500).
  • Improving and expanding benefits to active and retired players alike.
  • Doing away with marijuana-related suspensions.
  • Diluting the power of the commissioner in matters of player discipline.
  • Making training camps much safer and less physically taxing for players, by reducing the number of padded practices from 28 to 16, adding a five-day no-hitting acclimation period at the start of camp, increasing days off during camp from five to eight, and — with the reduction in preseason games from four to three — creating a two-week no-games lead-up to the regular season.

The NFL’s management council executive committee (or CEC) is composed of eight prominent owners, and it met here for nearly four hours at a downtown hotel Tuesday night with leaders of the NFL Players Union.

Players had requested another face-to-face meeting to seek further clarifications, or concessions, to the above. Reports said owners removed the contentious cap of $250,000 on the 17 th game for existing player contracts that extend into 2021 or beyond.

Neither side has been willing to discuss negotiated terms on the record, but Postmedia learned Wednesday from someone in the position to know that whatever modifications both sides agreed to Tuesday night were minor enough to be considered within the parameters of the principal elements approved by owners last week.

Hence, owners don’t have to take another vote themselves.

The board of player representatives reportedly voted 17-14 (with one abstention) in favour of sending these terms to full membership for ratification. A simple majority had been required, and 17 is the smallest majority possible.

The union’s executive player council had voted last Friday 6-5 against endorsement, and reportedly increased its opposition to 7-4 by Tuesday. President Eric Winston, treasurer Eric Herzlich and VPs Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander, Zak DeOssie, Thomas Morstead, Russell Okung, Sherman, Michael Thomas, Adam Vinatieri and Benjamin Watson comprise the council.

Sherman (San Francisco), Mike Pouncey (Los Angeles Chargers) and Rodgers (Green Bay) are their respective teams’ players reps. Others include Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams), receiver Adam Thielen (Minnesota), Calais Campbell (Jacksonville) and Matt Slater (New England).

Mike Pouncey’s twin brother Maurkice, the Pittsburgh Steelers centre, tweeted this on Wednesday:

“I vote no. Our NFLPA, the dudes at the top, the leaders, that’s f’ing bs. F that. They’re not looking out for the best of the players. If y’all want my vote, the Pouncey twins vote no.”

Apparently Rodgers attended Tuesday night’s talks and pushed for more time-off concessions than players already had won. Sherman told reporters at the Super Bowl four weeks ago he adamantly opposed a 17 th regular-season game.

Multiple reports said a full-player vote was unlikely to be held this week. Whenever, it will be conducted electronically, per numerous reports.

“The one thing we’re not doing is rushing through this thing,” NFLPA president Winston told a group of reporters here Wednesday before a competition committee meeting. “Every ‘I’ will be dotted and every ‘T’ will be crossed. And when it happens, it happens.”

How will NFL decide which teams get the extra home game?

INDIANAPOLIS — Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was asked about the proposed 17 th game on Tuesday, and he brought up a helluva point.

“Who gets that extra home game? That’s what I want to know,” he said.

Right. An uneven number of games, with 17, means half the league’s 32 teams will get nine home games in a given season, and the other half only eight.

Will the league even it out on an alternating-year basis? Presumably. And will two teams in every four-team division get the extra home game, and two not — or might some poor team get only eight home games while, say, all three division rivals on year get nine? That hardly would be fair.

You can expect this to become a hot, front-burner item of discussion should players ratify negotiated terms in the coming days.

“The one thing about labour (negotiations),” Arians said, “is as a coach you’ve got s— to do with it. So you might as well just buy in, you know what I mean? So whatever they decide, we’ll do.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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