INDIANAPOLIS -- Executive director DeMaurice Smith expects the NFL Players Association to accept the proposal from league owners to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement in a union-wide vote expected soon.
Smith and NFLPA president Eric Winston have said they believe the new labor agreement will be approved by the union with all active players eligible to vote via email to ratify a deal Winston said he has spent "300 days" negotiating with owners. Major changes - including 17 games in the regular season starting in 2021 and big raises for players earning the minimum -- are part of the proposal, which was amended during a four-hour meeting between the NFL and NFLPA executive committee on Tuesday night.
"Man, democracy is messy," Smith said before addressing agents at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "And when you urge players to become part of a union, when you decide instead of having sort of a bubble that excludes people, that you want people not only to become involved in your union but become reps in the union, to take leadership roles in your union, how could you ever take a position that you have some sort of adverse effect if they express their feelings, right? Can you imagine a role where you go through this whole thing and nobody cared?"
Attorneys for both sides are working to refine wording in the proposal before making it available to the player populace.
While Smith preached progress, including removal of commissioner Roger Goodell as judge, jury and executioner in off-field conduct matters, several prominent veterans took the opposite position.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt all used social media to air grievances or issues with the proposal. Each said they would be voting "no" to the CBA.
"For a player that doesn't want 17 (games) under any reason, those players will vote their conscience," Smith said.
If ratified, the CBA also calls for the preseason to be reduced to three games from four starting next season.
--By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media