NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has been deluged with phone calls, text messages and emails from players who were unhappy to hear a report that progress was made last week on the proposed 18-game regular season. Smith sent a memo to all NFL players on Monday to explain the union's position.
"A lot of players were worried when we sent a counter-proposal on the 18 games," said NFLPA president Kevin Mawae. "The players wonder why are we even countering if we don't want 18 games to begin with so we're in the process of explaining the duties we have as a union in the collective bargaining process."
Mawae added, "Make no mistake, we have not talked to one player who wants 18 games and they have made that clear to [Smith] and the rest of us."
The memo briefed players on the slow progress of negotiations and, as Mawae noted, explain the fiduciary duties the union has to bargain with management in good faith.
"The owners sent us an 18-game proposal three months ago even though we have told them over and over again we can't sell 18 games to the players," explained Mawae. "But, as we told the players, we are bound by labor law to negotiate in good faith so an impasse can't be declared. The players wanted to know why they haven't been getting information on bargaining and we wanted to explain it's really because there really hasn't been anything going on.
"It's just the beginning of bargaining and our stance is we're going to the table, bargain and negotiate. If they bring an 18-game proposal to the table, we have to address it. But our stance remains: How is this good for the players' health and safety? What about all the hits? The concussions? Career longevity? Post-medical benefits? We'll bargain because we have to but until it makes sense -- if it ever makes sense -- we're not going to agree to any 18-game schedule. I think you can see by our counter-proposal that this isn't going to be a rubber stamp deal, not at all."
Asked about the optimism being sold on a December deal on a new CBA, Mawae laughed, saying, "I wish but that's not even close. There's a lot of work to be done."
NFL management has maintained that much research is being done to address the concerns of the health and welfare of players concerning the 18-game schedule.
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.