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Volume 26 No. 207
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Focus Turns To Players' Union After NFL Owners Approve CBA

NFL owners ratified terms of a new CBA on Thursday, with the NFLPA player reps and Exec Committee are set to meet Friday by phone. If at least two-thirds of the player reps approve the proposed deal, it will go to the full membership for an up-or-down vote, where only a simple majority is needed. A source said that Thursday's owner's vote was not unanimous (Ben Fischer, THE DAILY). In N.Y., Ben Shpigel notes the NFL released a statement after Thursday's owners' meeting, acknowledging that the current CBA, ratified in '11 and effective through March '21, would "continue to define operations should the players not reach an approving vote on the new proposal by next week, when the league holds its scouting combine." The statement "suggested that teams would not consider amending their current proposal," though negotiations have been "less acrimonious than they were a decade ago." The owners are "determined to resolve this impasse soon, aiming to have a new deal in place before the league year begins on March 18" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/21). ESPN's Jeff Darlington said if an agreement is not reached "this week and this thing goes off the rails a little bit, it's going to shift to next year." Darlington: "It's not like next month they'll reconvene on it. It will wind up being likely next year, and then you start to get really sticky because then we're talking about work stoppages. This could be really good if we can just get it done right now" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/20).

MONEY MATTERS: NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman noted aside from the 17-game regular season, the "central issue throughout negotiations has been the revenue split." In the new proposal, players would "receive an uptick" from the 47% of total revenue they are currently guaranteed. NFL.com's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport report that under the proposed CBA, the "players' share would increase" to 48% each year if the league stays at 16 games, and up to 48.5% "if or when a 17-game schedule is approved." If the league stays with a 16-game schedule, players would receive a $2.5-3B "shift over a 10-year deal." If the "lever is pulled for a 17-game schedule, the players would reap a potential shift" of over $5B (NFL.com, 2/20). ESPN's Elle Duncan said there is "no doubt owners will lean on the idea that the players will get more money to sweeten the pot for 17 games" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/20). THE ATHLETIC's Lindsay Jones wrote it is "clear why owners want 17 regular-season games." It "means money, and lots of it." For players, that 17th game "being subject to their agreement is about the only real leverage they hold," which is "why that extra game every year, for every team, is far more important than two more teams reaching the postseason and the addition of two wild-card games." Players have "asked for reductions in padded practice time in training camp, for changes to the drug policy and the commissioner's disciplinary power and for increases in the minimum salaries for all players." But if they "want expanded benefits (like lifetime health care), negotiating on the 17th game is the way to try to get them" (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/20). CBS Sports Radio's Jim Rome said the owners want to expand the playoffs "because they can," and "money is driving this" ("The Jim Rome Show," CBS Sports Radio, 2/20). CNBC's Eric Chemi said expanding the playoffs "dilutes it, but they're trying to make money (and) games and more games is how you make money" ("Power Lunch," CNBC, 2/20).

OFFERING CONCESSIONS: In DC, Mark Maske notes the NFL's "marijuana policy would be made significantly less punitive" under the proposed CBA. The testing window for THC would be "narrowed from four months to two weeks at the start of training camp," and players "no longer would be suspended solely for positive THC tests." The number of players tested also "would be reduced and the threshold for what constitutes a positive test would be increased." Commissioner Roger Goodell would "retain his disciplinary authority in integrity-of-the-game cases, but other player disciplinary rulings would be overseen by a neutral decision-maker" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/21).

PUT IN A TOUGH POSITION: In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote the players "should reject this proposal," and "hold out for much, much more." The owners being "behind this proposal and pushing it out of nowhere with an attached deadline of next week" should "tell you a lot." If anyone "puts a deadline on something that doesn't need one," it "tells you the deal is bad for one side and they're trying to cram it down your throats" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 2/20). In N.Y., Pat Leonard writes the owners' "silence on Thursday seemed telling." The league "initially appeared prepared to hold some sort of post-meeting press conference, but when the meeting ended they decided their best course of action was to not talk at all." This proposal will "force the players to vote yes soon or to vote no and publicly explain why." If the players reject the new deal and "list their grievances, though, they will look like they have gone on the offensive." The players will "come off as the party willingly becoming the impediment to a deal, even though all they would be doing is advocating for their own interests, as the owners are" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/21). FS1's Marcellus Wiley said, "We're seeing more money for the players, we're seeing greater benefits," but the players "should have been already at 50%" with the revenue split. He said, "I don't feel like we're moving forward" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 2/20).