There’s much to hammer out if the NFL is going to achieve its goal of enacting a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the start of the new league year on March 18. With matters such as, it appears the league is using such a concession in the hopes of swaying the NFLPA into voting in favor of items like an , but the latter is routinely catching mighty blowback from players who simply don’t want it to happen.
The latest is running back Leonard Fournette, who took to social media ahead of the latest reported meeting between the NFL and the NFLPA, to make it known he will not vote in the affirmative. The former first-round pick got straight to the point, summing up his stance in six simple words.
“I disagree with the 17 games,” he wrote.
Fournette is not the only notable NFL player bucking the ask. Far from it, actually. All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman spoke with media before Super Bowl LIV and railed against any suggestion of extending the regular season, going so far as to say it’s simply the NFL trying to soften everyone up for what they really want and will push to install — namely an 18-game season. That is something the league initially wanted to approach the NFLPA in CBA talks, but scaled back to 17 games for fear it’d be too massive a challenge to convince players to add two games.
So they’re instead taking a home run swing at just adding one, but Sherman — a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee — isn’t falling for it.
“I think it’s the owners using the media in the way owners use media to try to control the rhetoric,” he said, via 95.7FM The Game.
Sherman also believes any talk of a longer regular season spits in the face of the supposed focus on player safety.
“I don’t think it’s something that players are interested in, honestly,” he added. “And if that’s the point they’re negotiating on, I think these negotiations are going to go on a lot longer than anticipated, because it’s odd to me — and it’s always odd — when you hear player safety is their biggest concern. …But it seems like player safety has a price tag. Player safety, up to the point of, ‘Hey, 17 games makes us this much money, so we really don’t care how safe they are, if you’re gonna pay us this much money to play another game.’
“And so that’s the part that’s really concerning for us as a union and us as players, because they think that players have a price tag on their health and I don’t think we’re in the same ballpark in that regard.”
Few know what a 17-game season would feel like outside of Sherman’s teammate, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was forced into one in 2019 — by way of his trade from the Denver Broncos to the San Francisco 49ers. The move came before the Broncos bye but after the 49ers bye, erasing a bye week of any sort from his schedule last season. For his part, like Fournette, Sherman and many others, Sanders doesn’t want a 17-game regular season to become a consistent thing for himself or anyone else.
“It was definitely tough,” Sanders said in January, via Pro Football Talk. “If the NFL wants to change the season to 17 games they should ask me, and I say no, because my body was hurting and I needed that break. Certain things were just aching. My ankles were sore. My big toe was sore — just everything.”
Not only is player safety a concern, albeit the most obvious, but there’s also the matter of how things would work financially when considering player contracts are currently based on a 16-game payout.
If another game is added, would that be owners asking players to participate in another regular season game for what can only be mathematically viewed as free? Or would contracts now be structured to reflect the added game? And while the latter is an easy fix, what about the players who signed contracts prior to the installation of the new regular season format? Would all of theirs be retrofitted to the new standard??
All of this and lots more must be ironed out before the NFLPA will bend to the NFL on this matter, and it hints at CBA talks going on longer than the league would like.