NFLPA quiet on CBA talks; players discuss 17 games

While NFL players union leaders acknowledged they are in talks with the league about a new labor agreement, they weren't interested in providing much more information about those negotiations when speaking with reporters Thursday in Miami.

"The job of this [executive committee] and the job of the board is to represent the interest of the players," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said when asked if player reps will be voting on a collective bargaining proposal. "And anytime that we get together and talk about our family business, we treat it as family business. So, that's pretty much the answer. Our job is to make sure that we represent the interest from our players and to make sure that we hear from our leadership. One of the great things about being able to bring player leaders in is hearing from them."

But there was a modicum of information on the collective bargaining agreement talk, mostly in relation to a 17-game regular season.

NFL Network's Judy Battista asked outgoing NFLPA president Eric Winston if he feels a 17-game schedule remains a viable option.

"I think Ben [Watson] said it best when he said we represent nearly 2,000 men that have 2,000 opinions," Winston said. "We have 10 guys on the EC that have 10 opinions. Some of them are similar. Some of them are different. And I think it's about looking at the entire package and saying: What exactly is this? And I think it takes time to work through something like that. And you can't say that you're gonna have one meeting and then all of a sudden it's gonna be [decided]. ... The players vote. I don't vote. ... That democratic process takes a while. It can get a little messy. But our guys will be informed and our guys will make the right decision."

The prospect of 17 regular-season games, even if that means chopping the preseason schedule in half, didn't sit well with some players.

"Health and safety will always be paramount," Patriots tight end Ben Watson noted. "That's why we got different changes in the work rules (in 2011) on how much hitting, offseason workouts. For every player, health and safety has to be at the forefront. We all know football is a violent game, beautifully violent. We love to compete, but in that we want to be safe."

Winston, who has retired after 12 seasons, admitted the 17 games is one of many negotiating points as the league and union seek a new deal more than a year before the 10-year current CBA expires. Another could be additional roster spots per team in exchange for a longer season.

Battista reported that Winston made it clear that the goal is to have a new deal struck before the start of the new league year in March. The current CBA expires after the 2020 season.

"I think there's obvious deadlines when you start talking about implementation for the 2020 season, frankly," Winston said. "And there's things that you've got in place. Again, we'll see if we get there. And if we don't, then obviously this season has its rules that are set out for it and we'll continue to operate under them."

Smith was far less forthcoming Thursday than was Commissioner Roger Goodell the previous day. Goodell said the two parties "have been having incredibly productive dialogue" over the past seven to eight months.

"I think we have addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward. The process will close when the process closes, when all of us feel comfortable that we can reach an agreement ... I do not know when that will be, but I think it is more important to get it right."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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