The NFL players union’s executive committee voted 6-5 Friday to recommend that members reject the terms of a labor deal approved by NFL owners the previous day.
The owners’ proposal features a 17-game season, shorter preseason, larger rosters and limits on the number of international games. It will next be voted on by the 32 player representatives. Even if they reject it, the union is expected to bring the plan to the entire membership.
If the NFLPA does not approve the terms, the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which expires in March 2021, would remain in effect and further talks would be required.
The proposed terms of the deal, which would run through 2030, are not being made public. But several people familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on condition of anonymity, say they feature increases in minimum salaries, changes in practice squad makeup and eligibility, and reduced offseason and preseason requirements as pivotal parts of the deal.
Objections to an expanded regular season are considered the main stumbling block for player approval.
An expansion of the playoffs to seven teams in each conference, with only the top seed in the AFC and NFC getting a wild-card bye, can be instituted by the league without any negotiations — as long as the postseason remains in a four-week format. Several owners are strongly in favor of doing so regardless of the CBA status.
One of the wild-card weekend games might wind up as a Monday night contest.
The 17-game schedule actually is a compromise offer for some owners who wanted 18 games. Adding the one regular-season match would seem to indicate each of those games would be at a neutral site.
But the league has promised the union to cap the number of international games and that there would not be a full week of such contests. More likely is a continued mix of games in England (and other European sites) and Mexico. Most team schedules will have nine home games and eight road games.
The preseason would be reduced from four games to three, not counting the Hall of Fame game that starts the exhibition schedule.
Training camp practices in pads would be reduced from a total of 28 to 16. A five-day acclimation period would precede summer practices. There would be more days off during camp — eight instead of five — and a limit on joint practices.
There would be no second bye week in the regular season, something that had been discussed. However, teams would basically have two weeks to prepare for the season opener, with the elimination of the fourth preseason game.
Rosters would expand from 53 to 55, with 48 players able to dress for games, rather than the current 46. Practice squads would go from 10 players to 12 and eventually to 14, probably by 2022. There would be more flexibility for protecting practice squad players from becoming free agents.
Suspensions for a positive test for marijuana likely would end, except for cases of tampering with a test. But doctors appointed by the league and union would have the ability to recommend players be held out if they are not under treatment or are at risk if they suit up.