NFLPA to meet Thursday with board of player reps to talk CBA

  • By Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero
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NFL Players Association leaders have scheduled an important meeting Thursday morning with the board of player representatives to discuss the status of collective bargaining talks and get the board's input on how to proceed, according to sources familiar with the plan.

It's a significant step after months of formal and informal bargaining sessions between the union and the NFL, which continues to push for the option to expand the regular season to 17 games as part of the next TV deals as a condition for increasing players' share of revenue and other issues. The current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in 2021, and both sides want to avoid a work stoppage.

The chances for striking a deal hinge in large part on how players respond to the idea of 17 games. Some players -- including 49ers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who played 17 regular-season games this year because of a midseason trade -- have already spoken out strongly against it. So the NFL must make it worth their while, financially and otherwise, or else players opposed could band together and try to block it.

Under the NFLPA's constitution, the 11-man executive committee, led by president Eric Winston, is responsible for negotiating a new CBA and making a recommendation to the board with the best offer. The board of 32 reps (one for each club) then votes, with two-thirds of needing to vote to approve the deal before it is passed to all dues-paying players, who must ratify by a simple majority.

The executive committee has not yet made any such recommendation, per sources. One source said it's possible the board could bring a proposal on a new collective bargaining agreement to all players after the meeting; another source called that a "dream scenario" that is unlikely.

The meeting will take place in South Florida, with many players already in town for Super Bowl festivities.

The central issue throughout negotiations has been the revenue split, and players are expected to receive an uptick from the 47% of total revenue they are guaranteed under the current CBA, which was approved in 2011. The union has long hoped to achieve that increase without adding games, but the league has pushed all along for a lever that would allow them to add games as part of the next TV deal.

In a Jan. 16 memo to players, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wrote: "The negotiations thus far have proceeded with the NFL conditioning proposed increases in economics and other improvements on a potential 17 game model, with reduced preseason games and potentially an expanded playoff schedule."

Smith's memo confirmed the sides have reached tentative agreements on numerous issues, including increased guaranteed revenue to players, increased minimum salaries, reduction of contact during training camp, decreases in fines for on-field conduct and significant modifications to the drug policy. But the sides remain apart on other issues, including maximum revenue split, minimum cash spend requirements, the continuation (and ultimately increase of) the NFLPA Legacy fund that increased pensions for pre-1993 players, removing the escrow requirement/funding rule as a barrier to guaranteed contracts, rules on first-round picks and restricted free agents, and an NFL-proposed liability waiver.

"While we remain committed to the bargaining process," Smith wrote, "the major issues separating us are significant enough that we cannot recommend to our membership that we should accept a deal in this state at this time."



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