During the Q&A period of last Wednesday’s conference call with Competition Committe co-chair Rich McKay, a certain Internet hack with whom you might be acquainted posed the following questions regarding the proposed changes to the overtime procedure: “Has the union signed off on it? If not, will union approval be sought before this will be finalized?”
Said McKay in response: “No. What we do, when we meet with the NFL Players Association, we tell them what’s on our plate. That’s on about the third day in Indianapolis [during the Scouting Combine]. So it’s not like we’ve sat there and written down all our proposals and what they will look like. We will send them our proposals. They don’t traditionally vote or have a vote.
But I will say this. They usually have input.
“In this case I will be quite frank,” McKay added. “The players have always said to us consistently over probably the last five to six years, ‘Overtime works well, sudden death is a good way to go.’ For this one, it’s not like we spent a lot time with them saying we still believe this proposal is sudden death, it’s just modified in a certain way.
But the game can still end on one play at any time. But I would say to you that players traditionally have thought, as a lot of coaches have thought, the system works okay. It’s sudden death. It works okay. Let’s keep it as it is.
We will send them this proposal. If we hear any feedback, we’ll obviously listen to it and tell the membership what it is.”
But here’s the catch. NFLPA Assistant Executive Director for External Affairs George Atallah told us this afternoon via e-mail (in what our friend Richard Deitsch of SI.com might agree was an “exclusive interview“) that the union believes the question of lengthening games via modified overtime must be cleared with the players.
“We believe the OT proposal needs to be bargained,” Atallah said. “Obviously,
I expect that they [the owners] don’t.”
Generally speaking, labor law requires the parties to bargain over work rules that have a direct impact on the terms and conditions of employment. Since the proposed overtime change potentially extends work hours during postseason games, it appears to us at first blush that the union is right.
This means that, before implementing the rule, the NFL and the union would have to reach an agreement. If, as McKay said, the players don’t want the current procedure to change, the NFL would be required to give them something in return, such as more money for postseason games.
This potential complication could be enough to kill a proposal that already seems to be wobbling. Then again, it’s also possible that the union’s opposition to the move could, given the current climate, galvanize the owners to push for change — and to force the union to fight.
Though we badly want to see the overtime rule change, we actually prefer in this instance that the league find a way to avoid this battle, and to focus instead on securing permission to expand overtime in 2011, as part of the new CBA.