Some NFL Owners In Favor Of Longer Season, Expanding Playoffs
Some NFL owners "favor revisiting the possibility of an 18-game regular season or an expanded playoff field" amid "intensifying negotiations on a new labor deal," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Many owners seem "willing to make concessions to the union on the commissioner's disciplinary authority and the sport's marijuana policy." A high-ranking team official said that there are "some owners who would like to expand the season" to 18 games, adding that it is "not clear 'if there is much support from the players on that.'" The official also said, "The commissioner discipline and marijuana policy will come up at some point, and I suspect the owners will be a little more flexible on both subjects." Maske notes NFLPA leaders "warned players and their agents to be prepared for a potential work stoppage." However, the league and the union recently have "begun to forge a more cooperative relationship after years of combativeness." That "spirit of cooperation has sparked hope within the sport that a new labor deal could be struck in advance of the expiration of this CBA and avoid a work stoppage." Maske notes it is not clear "how many owners want an 18-game season or how hard they would push on the issue if the players remain firmly opposed." For some owners, one potential "revenue-boosting alternative to the 18-game season" would be "increasing the NFL's playoff field from 12 to 14 teams" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/29).
EARLY STAGES: ESPN's Dan Graziano said it is still "very early" in the CBA negotiations, and the two sides are "sketching out where each other stands on key issues, what the priorities are going to be." Graziano said, "You'll see it talked about in terms of, can the players get back some of the revenue share that they gave away last time? Can the owners get fresh stadium credits for new construction, renovation on the stadium projects they want to do?" He added players will bring up "issues like the franchise tag, and how long rookie contracts are and how long it takes to get to free agency." More Graziano: "I don't know that there's going to be major movement on those kinds of fronts, but you already see some of the ancillary stuff, some of the non-economic stuff coming to fruition" ("OTL," ESPN, 5/28).
FRIENDLY DIALOGUE: PFT's Mike Florio said for now, "everything is friendly and collegial" between the NFL and NFLPA in their CBA negotiations, despite the NFLPA's letter warning players to "save money and prepare for a work stoppage that would last at least one year." Florio said, "This is an obvious reaction because you can't have anyone with their guard down, especially from the players' perspective. You can't have players just assuming, 'Oh, we'll get a deal done,' because the owners will see that and they will see it as weakness and they will pounce." NBCSN's Chris Simms said it is "smart" for the NFLPA to prepare for a work stoppage, because when it "shows you're prepared to do something, the other side loses a little leverage in their negotiations." He added, "But it doesn't seem like it's going to an ugly fight this time around" ("PFT," NBCSN, 5/29).