With Super Bowl LIV in the books, members of NFL Players Association leadership are set to vote on whether to approve an expansion of the league’s regular-season schedule as part of ongoing negotiations toward a new labor deal, according to a report Sunday.
The NFLPA’s executive board will meet with player representatives from all 32 teams to review a collective-bargaining agreement that includes 17 regular-season games, ESPN reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. Under the NFL’s current labor deal, teams play 16 games over a 17-week schedule.
Player representatives will be asked to vote on whether to approve the expanded slate of games in exchange for several concessions from NFL team owners. The player officials were “just about unanimous” in their opposition to a 17-game season at an initial meeting last Thursday but softened their stances following a close review of the overall labor proposal.
The proposed labor deal is for a 10-year term. NFL owners are reportedly willing to “table” negotiations for the 2020 season if their current proposal is rejected by players, heightening the risk of a work stoppage when the league’s current collective-bargaining agreement expires in 2021.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declined to comment last week on whether a 17-game schedule was a dealbreaker for owners in current labor talks.
The two sides have negotiated for months toward a new labor deal. Aside from the longer schedule, NFL owners and players are discussing whether to add another playoff game and reduce the length of the preseason, which currently includes four games.
NFL players have long opposed an expanded regular season, arguing in past labor negotiation cycles that a longer schedule would exacerbate health and safety concerns.
Other elements of the owners’ labor proposal include an elimination of penalties for positive marijuana tests and a larger revenue share for players if a deal is in place before the 2020 NFL league year begins in March, according to ESPN.