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NFLPA boss understands player disdain for 17th game, expects CBA to pass anyway

He said NFL owners made an early agreement contingent on adding the extra game. Players have cited their own safety in arguing against Game 17.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith defended the proposed Collective Bargaining Agreement on Thursday.
AP Photos

INDIANAPOLIS — NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith sounded confident Thursday that his union would ratify the new collective-bargaining agreement in the coming weeks. But he understood why some high-profile players were upset about, among other things, the inclusion of a 17th regular-season game starting in 2021.

“I get that,” he said. “I think that no player would want to play an extra game. And that’s why it’s been such a long, tortured process of talking about it.”

He said NFL owners made an early agreement — the CBA doesn’t expire for another year — contingent on adding the extra game. Players have cited their own safety in arguing against Game 17.

Smith said he didn’t mind players advocating against the deal on social media.

“How can I not be proud of people that have taken it seriously, dived into the mix and really embraced that democracy sometimes is kinda messy?” he said.

Smith didn’t commit to a timeline for the vote, which only requires 51 percent approval from about 2,000 players to ensure labor peace for the next 10 years. Lawyers have to perfect the wording of the proposal first.

He defended the deal that the owners approved a week ago before their committee sat down with select NFLPA members earlier this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. He said 60 percent of the league makes the minimum salary, and the players would all receive a $100,000 raise in 2020 under the new CBA.

The new CBA includes one added playoff team per conference. The salary cap would rise for 2020 and provide welcome relief for the Bears.

Contributing: Jason Lieser