The NFL Players Association has done an excellent job of creating the impression that it does not want 18 regular-season games, under any set of circumstances. That consistent position has forced the NFL to realize that, to get what it so badly wants, it will have to make the NFLPA an offer it can’t refuse.
49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, a member of the NFLPA executive committee, essentially has confirmed that reality.
Asked by Peter King of Football Morning in America for Sherman’s opinion of an 18-game schedule, Sherman did not reiterate the “no way, no how” mantra that others from the union has consistently recited.
“I think it has very little chance of happening unless something astronomical is conceded,” Sherman said.
That’s not a dramatic shift in the union’s position, but it’s significant. It shows that, even though the NFLPA has steadfastly refused to consider 18 games, there’s an offer they won’t refuse. The question becomes: What is that offer?
And if the NFL asks, the NFLPA should say, “We’re not negotiating that issue. If you want to make an offer, make it. But we’re not negotating.” Once the NFLPA engages the league in negotiation, the question of 18 games becomes one of when not if. If the NFLPA can persuade the NFL to just make offers and keep making offers until the NFL makes the offer that can’t be refused, that’s the better outcome.
The NFL surely won’t like that, balking about bargaining etiquette and not “bidding against themselves.” To that the union needs to say, “Fine. We don’t want 18 games anyway. And we won’t want 18 games until you make an offer that changes our mind. If you want to try, feel free.”