The NFL and NFL Players Association have realized a significant benefit from negotiating a new labor deal during football season: Football season provides the perfect cover for labor negotiations.
With so much news and so many developments related to the game, media interest in the topic has been lower than it would be during the offseason. That’s because fan interest in the subject is minimal to non-existent.
This has allowed the two sides to quietly continue their work toward a new contract, with league still holding out hope that a deal can be finalized before the end of the season. One source with knowledge of the dynamics suggests that January remains a realistic target. This would allow the NFL and NFLPA to take a joint victory lap in Miami during Super Bowl week.
Ideally, the league would also like to do a separate victory lap regarding a fresh set of broadcast deals at the same time. At some point, the talks with the NFLPA and the talks with the networks would have to overlap, if both sets of deals are going to get done before the NFL’s 100th season ends.
Despite the quiet optimism that a deal can be done, the NFLPA continues to advocate preparation for a work stoppage in 2021. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith hammered this message during his recently-completed team visits. And that’s what he needs to do; the more the union can persuade the league that the players are ready to do without game checks, the less likely the NFL will be to play the same kind of hardball that the league played in 2011.