As the NFL Players Association prepares to convene a key meeting of leadership on Thursday regarding a proposal from the league based on a 17-game season, a member of NFLPA leadership has spoken out about the notion of adding a regular-season game.
“I think it’s the owners using the media in the way owners use media to try to control the rhetoric,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, a member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. “And I don’t think it’s something that players are interested in, honestly, and if that’s the point they’re negotiating on I think these negotiations are going to go on a lot longer than anticipated. Because it’s odd to me, and it’s always odd, when you hear player safety is their biggest concern . . . but it seems like player safety has a price tag.
“Player safety, up to the point of, ‘Hey, 17 games makes us this much money, so we really don’t care how safe they are, if you’re gonna pay us this much money to play another game.’ And so that’s the part that’s really concerning for us as a union and us as players because they think that players have a price tag on their health and I don’t think we’re in the same ballpark in that regard.”
In other words, Sherman is admitting that, when it comes to 17 games, safety does have a price tag. But that the price isn’t right, at least not yet.
“Players have been more aware of player safety and longevity and just life after football,” Sherman added. “The league kind of pretends that they’re interested in it, pretends that they care about it, makes all these rules, fines all these players, but then still proposes players to play an extra game. And not just 17. They’re really just saying 17 so that they can get to 18. And so that’s two more opportunities for players to risk their bodies, put their bodies on the line. And that’s what so ridiculous about it, and nobody calls them out. Nobody calls out the hypocrisy. I’m hoping that one day people will be brave enough to call out the hypocrisy of saying, ‘Hey, we really care about player safety but hey we also want you to play an extra game, put your body on the line, and risk your career.”
He’s flat wrong when he says that people haven’t pointed out the hypocrisy of wanting to play more games while also being committed to player health and safety. It’s an obvious disconnect that multiple members of the media have noticed, and mentioned. But with the NFLPA negotiating a new CBA based on 17 games (instead of taking the position that 17 games is a non-starter), it’s hard to expect the media to get worked up about something to which the union is obviously willing to agree, if the price is right.
The problem is that the price, at least in Sherman’s view, isn’t right, yet. On Thursday, we’ll find out whether enough members of union leadership are happy with the currently proposed price to push the current proposal toward a full union vote.