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Proposed NFL Labor Deal Comes With Drama And Strings

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While there are no actual NFL games at the moment, there’s also no shortage of drama during what is supposed to be an offseason.

Some of it is ridiculous, as in the three-month long slog to April’s college player draft. Presently, a group of prospective players is gathered in Indianapolis for what is colloquially called the Underwear Olympics.

There, these young men run and jump and lift weights and get measured, while team executives drool over these prime physical specimens like prized cattle.

Then, there’s the manufactured drama of possible free agency, highlighted this year by the chance that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may leave New England after 20 seasons.

The possibility that the six-time Super Bowl winner may abscond from the only team he’s ever played for has been discussed in sports talk circles with the same breathlessness that the Democratic presidential race is picked over on MSNBC.

And then there’s NFL theater of consequence, namely the negotiation between the league and the players union over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Normally, discussions of labor negotiations are just as exciting as watching artificial turf grow, but this round could be interesting for what it yields.

Specifically, NFL owners are seeking to add a game to the regular season, from the current 16 to 17, as well as increase the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14 in the course of a 10-year pact.

The owners are pledging to give the players 48.5 percent of overall revenues, which could be in the billions of dollars, in the deal. They would also increase roster sizes and reduce the amount of time players would have to take part in offseason workouts.

Sounds heavenly, right? Well, maybe not.

Though a board of player reps voted to send the owners’ proposal onto the membership for ratification, the vote was a narrow 17-14.

Perhaps more significantly, a number of high-profile players have expressed either severe reservations about the deal or outright opposition.

That list includes Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Houston defensive lineman J.J. Watt and, tellingly San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman, a member of the aforementioned executive board, the group that negotiated the deal.

The issues are two-fold from the naysayers’ end.

They see the owners’ offer as a cynical ploy to divide the higher earning players from those who earn near the league’s minimum and would gladly accept what appears to be good money and some additional benefits, even if a new deal hurts players in the long run.

And that’s where the second gripe comes in. At a time where all parties have preached the need to boost player safety, it seems incongruous to add another game and, thus, more opportunities for career-ending or even life-threatening injuries.

If the players do as expected and ratify the deal, the owners will inevitably take their hard-bought labor peace and go to the television networks and media outlets for new, multi-billion dollar contracts.

More money, less safety, plenty of drama. Sounds like a winning formula, doesn’t it?

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

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 Email: sportsatlarge@gmail.com

Twitter: @SportsAtLarge