When it comes to potentially expanding the 2020 playoffs, the NFL has positioned the cart before the horse.
Unveiled yesterday as a done deal (in the event regular-season games are lost to the pandemic), it won’t be a done deal until the NFL Players Association agrees to it. The NFLPA has not yet agreed to it.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL had informed the union that the contingency plan would be considered, but the league had not yet approached the NFLPA to engage in formal bargaining.
The union remains open to creative ideas for getting through the season. However, expansion of the playoffs constitutes a mandatory subject of bargaining. The league, in the union’s view, cannot unilaterally impose this change in working conditions.
The NFL waited for several year, for example, to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 because the union had a say in the move, and because the union declined to agree to it. Agreement came only as part of a broader, comprehensive labor deal.
Now, with the league wanting to stage two extra playoff games, the union will have a say in the matter. The union also will have the right to seek a concession. For example, the union could ask for players who otherwise weren’t paid for any lost regular-season games to get their checks as part of the agreement to allow two extra teams into the postseason field.
Whatever the concession may be, the union is entitled to seek one. The union also is entitled to say to the NFL, “We’re fine with 14 teams, as we previously agreed.”
Thus, even though the league has removed the sheet from the statue, the statue remains unfinished. Technically, it may never be.