NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith told The MMQB/Sports Illustrated in a video interview posted Thursday that he expects a work stoppage when the league's current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021.
"I think that the likelihood of either a strike or a lockout is almost a virtual certainty," he said.
"So we have a new deal where if it doesn't get fixed, you head into a certain 'small-a' Armageddon." DeMaurice Smith on the current CBA
The NFL and its union agreed to the current 10-year CBA on July 25, 2011. That agreement came after a 132-day lockout.
The agreed-upon CBA hasn't meant there has been labor peace, however, as the NFLPA has clashed with the NFL over player discipline in such high-profile cases as Adrian Peterson's suspension for child abuse, Tom Brady's Deflategate suspension and, most recently, Ezekiel Elliott's suspension for alleged domestic violence.
On Wednesday, the NFL and the players' association released dueling statements in which the NFL alleged that the union was releasing details of Elliott's accuser's text messages to discredit her. The NFLPA responded by calling the accusations a lie.
The previous NFL CBA was agreed upon in 2006. The owners, however, opted out of the agreement in 2008, and it expired on March 11, 2011, after a one-week extension of negotiations failed to result in a new agreement.
The last time NFL players missed games was the 24-day strike in 1987, which began after Week 2 and prompted the NFL to cancel its Week 3 games and shorten the season to 15 games. The league played with replacement players for the next three weeks until the players ended their strike after Week 6.
Smith was asked whether he expected there would be missed games if a work stoppage happens in 2021.
"I don't know now, but I mean let's look at our history," Smith said. "The owners do a deal in 2006 and opt out in 2008. We do a deal in 2011 with no opt-outs because we like the benefits under the current deal and we didn't want to give the owners an opportunity to opt out and take back the gains that we currently have.
"If there is no renegotiation of the collective bargaining agreement and we reach 2021, there is no uncapped year, right? Because the last time we went through it, we found out the owners lied and cheated about the uncapped year. So why would I do that again?"
Smith said the union hasn't seen the benefits it thought it would when it agreed to the current CBA.
"All of the mutual benefits that were supposed to happen as a result of the opt-out didn't happen last time," Smith said. "Owners colluded with each other, and we found out they colluded with each other. And all of the bad things that went to the players happened, and none of the bad things that went to the owners happened. So we have a new deal where if it doesn't get fixed, you head into a certain 'small-a' Armageddon."