After a comparatively quiet low season, N.F.L. gamers and coaches are again in coaching camp.
The league’s homeowners and gamers union, although, have been at work for a lot of the summer season, holding a number of rounds of talks about renewing their 10-year labor settlement, which is due to expire in March 2021. The N.F.L., although, desires to forge a brand new settlement sooner so it might probably focus on negotiations with tv networks and expertise corporations for the rights to broadcast video games.
The two sides will return to the bargaining desk this week in Chicago at what is probably going to be a pivotal second within the negotiations. The handful of conferences to this point have largely been an alternate of concepts as both sides tried to decide the opposite’s priorities. Those embody points like low season practices and medical take care of retired gamers.
This week, the homeowners and union are anticipated to begin discussing the only largest situation of any potential labor deal: how to share the league’s roughly $14 billion in annual income.
In the present collective bargaining settlement, gamers get roughly 47 % of the league’s income. It is extensively anticipated that the proportion may rise to as a lot as 50 % in a brand new deal, which might put soccer gamers nearer according to their brethren within the N.B.A..
“The big pie-splitting is already done,” mentioned one proprietor, talking on the situation of anonymity, as did others concerned within the negotiations as a result of the proprietor was not approved to publicly focus on the bargaining. “The goal is how to grow the pie.”
For the homeowners, the simplest resolution to pay for giving the gamers an additional three share factors of income is to develop the common season. An extended season would assist the N.F.L. cost extra for media rights and sponsorships, and promote extra tickets, sizzling canines and beer. A piece of that cash can be shared with gamers.
Currently, groups play 4 video games within the preseason and 16 within the common season. One or two preseason video games, which aren’t common with gamers or followers, is perhaps dropped so the common season may develop to as many as 18 video games. A second bye week can be added, and the playoffs may develop to embody two extra groups. The Super Bowl can be pushed to later in February.
The gamers rejected an identical proposal for an extended common season in the course of the lead-up to the present settlement. The homeowners have but to make a proper proposal this time, however the gamers stay adamantly opposed, saying that extending the season will lead to extra accidents and shorter careers.
“I don’t see an 18-game schedule — under any circumstance — being in the best interest of our players,” DeMaurice Smith, the chief director of the N.F.L. Players Association, told ESPN this month. “If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we’ll look at it. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think it would be good for the players.”
Some owners say that concerns over player health can be alleviated by expanding rosters to, say, 57 from the current 53, a move that would also increase the number of dues-paying union members.
Several prominent players, though, are more interested in expanding medical benefits for retired players, possibly including lifetime care.
“I know a big concern for guys is medical care for lifetime,” Malcolm Jenkins, a union representative for the Philadelphia Eagles, said on “The Rich Eisen Show.” “We put our bodies on the line. Guys are dealing with some serious medical issues once they leave the game.”
Players receive five years of medical insurance immediately after they retire, but only if they have spent at least three seasons in the league.
Improved retiree medical benefits, though, are unlikely to substantially soften the union’s stance on a longer regular season.
“It would have to be a ‘Godfather offer’ to make us move,” said a union official who is not directly involved in negotiations. “And what’s the offer we can’t refuse? That’s up to our guys.”
Raising the percentage of total revenue devoted to salaries would be the most obvious way to compensate the players for agreeing to an expanded schedule, but there are several other significant concessions the owners could make, whether the schedule expands.
Minimum salaries could be increased. Rosters could be expanded. The number of years needed to become a free agent could be lowered. The terms of the franchise tag — which lets teams hold on to a player for a year or two after he is eligible for free agency — could be changed. Expanded pensions are another option. Many players also want the league to relax its prohibition on the use of marijuana. N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s near total control of player discipline also is not popular.
Negotiators on both sides have said they are encouraged by the tone of the meetings, particularly compared with eight years ago, when the owners essentially demanded roughly $1 billion in givebacks and locked out the players for four and a half months, delaying the start of training camps. The union is taking no chances this time. This month, it sent a letter to players’ advisers encouraging them to tell their clients to save additional money in case of a work stoppage.
Indeed, the current bonhomie could change once there are concrete proposals to hash out.
“The players are not going to get something for nothing,” an owner said.
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