The current NFL CBA expires following the '20 season, and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said the "likelihood of either a strike or a lockout in '21 is almost a virtual certainty." Smith in an interview with The MMQB's Albert Breer said it was too soon to know if that meant games would be missed, but he said, "Let's look at our history. The owners do a deal in 2006 and opt-out in 2008. We do a deal in 2011 with no opt-outs because we like the benefits under the current deal and we didn't want to give the owners the opportunity to opt out and take back the gains that we currently have. If there is no renegotiation of the collective bargaining agreement and we reach 2021, there is no uncapped year. So why would I do that again? All of the mutual benefits that were supposed to happen as a result of the opt-out didn't happen last time. Owners colluded with each other and we found out they colluded with each other." Smith added, "We have a new deal here where if it doesn't get fixed, you head into a certain -- small 'a' -- armageddon" (SI.com, 8/17). In N.Y., Hannah Withiam notes the current CBA "has resulted in five years of relative stability" after the 132-day lockout in '11. However, the league and the union have "frequently butted heads over player discipline, with the tension reaching a peak this week over Ezekiel Elliott's domestic violence case" (N.Y. POST, 8/18). USA TODAY's A.J. Perez notes while the revenue split between the players and owners will "again by a major issue," the power NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wields under the personal conduct policy will "almost certainly come under scrutiny" (USA TODAY, 8/18). In Newark, Joe Giglio writes Smith "sounded like a leader who feels his side hasn't gotten its way lately." Giglio: "Expect this to become a big story in the coming years" (NJ.com, 8/18).
LATEST CALL TO ARMS: CBSSPORTS.com's John Breech noted Smith is "ready to take the NFLPA to battle with the NFL" over the CBA. The union is "taking the possibility of a work stoppage so seriously that it warned players in May to start saving money" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote every time the NFL "antagonizes the NFLPA, we're reminded that the CBA has many years to go." That also means there is a "lot of time to make nice and come to common ground on some contentious issues." Smith's threats "might just be a negotiating ploy." In addition, it has been a long time since NFL players were "willing to miss game checks to strike for better conditions." Schwab: "We'll see if they are more willing to do so after the NFL has taken plenty of victory laps about its perceived wins in the last CBA" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/17). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said the current system is "so inherently designed and built for the owners to win any power struggle they really want to” against the NFLPA. ESPN's Will Cain noted Smith “has no unified front to represent." Cain: "He has a fractured group of people he represents and he cannot get all of their interests going in the same direction” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 8/18).
GUARANTEED MONEY THE MAIN ISSUE: NBC Sports Bay Area's Ray Ratto said the NFLPA has "never had leverage because the nature of the sport is contracts are not guaranteed and careers are short." Ratto: "Players want to get their money right away because they can’t guarantee it’ll be there in five years, so they always cave on things like player discipline and all of the other things that DeMaurice Smith is waving his arms about.” NBC Sports Bay Area's Kelli Johnson said the union will use subjects like the lack of consistency in player discipline, head trauma, the number of preseason games and playing overseas "to get the one thing they really care about, which is guaranteed money." Johnson: "They're going to start pointing to all of these other leagues that are far less violent and career-ending in terms of injuries and don't have the long-term effects that we know football has in terms of head trauma" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 8/17).
NOTHING COMES EASY: FS1's Jason Whitlock said the increasing tension between the NFL and NFLPA regarding the Elliott case "will become the next Deflategate." FS1's Colin Cowherd agreed it will reach the same level of legal maneuvering as Deflategate, but it will not "hurt the product" in terms of ratings. He said the NFL has "shown an ability to overcome these big, ugly distractions." Whitlock: "This isn't about ratings. To me, this is about a relationship between ownership and the players, and about the ability to conduct business in the best interests of the league and both parties." Whitlock said the "acrimony between the union and ownership is just going to spill out and continue to make it hard to do great business in the NFL." FS1's Greg Jennings said this will be "bigger than Deflategate simply because we're dealing with the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 8/17).