One of the hot topics for the NFL over the last several years has been adopting an 18-game regular-season schedule. One person who supports the movement is former defensive tackle Sean Gilbert, who is making a push to replace DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the NFL Players Association.
According to the report released by Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, Gilbert's plan for a longer regular season is part of a bigger picture to gain "financial concessions elsewhere from owners" in the collective bargaining agreement:
Gilbert, however, predicted he could draw owners to a reasonable bargaining position by conceding an 18-game season, which Smith successfully fought off in the 2011 CBA. NFLPA president Eric Winston has maintained staunch opposition to an expanded regular season, but Gilbert said he has spoken to "a number of players" about the issue.
Gilbert is quoted as saying that he's spoken to various players about increasing the length of the regular season and that they were on board with it.
"Once I broke down what 18 games meant," Gilbert said, "in terms of playing only two preseason games and getting an increase in salary, they understood what I'm trying to implement in terms of growing the game."
However, Gilbert has resistance in the form of NFLPA president Eric Winston, who told Tom Pelissero of USA Today in March that he didn't want to see an expanded regular season.
"A lot of that's theory," Winston said, "I can tell you 16 to 18's dead in the water. I won't let it happen. I don't think any of these other guys are going to let it happen. It's a safety issue."
Dan Graziano of ESPN.com wrote after Winston's comments that the union was right to oppose an expanded regular season, for obvious reasons:
If the legacy of the men who currently run the NFLPA is that, during their tenure, strides were made to improve the short-term and long-term quality of life for their members, they would have the right to feel proud. And in standing up to the owners on this issue, that is what they're doing. Sure, more money is always great, but not if it means you're in a wheelchair when you're 45.
While Gilbert plans to use an expanded regular season to get owners on his side, assuming Smith doesn't have his contract renewed when it expires in 2015, his overall platform might raise some eyebrows.
Per Seifert's report, Gilbert's demands would include reducing rookie contracts to three years with renegotiation allowed after one year, "removing commissioner Roger Goodell from his role as 'judge, jury and executioners on matters of players' discipline'" and giving players 10 percent of the nonguaranteed money in their contract after early termination.
Gilbert claims to have proof owners have violated the CBA's collusion rules, which—if true—would allow for early termination. The current deal, which was agreed upon in 2011, expires in 2021. His ideas are geared to give players a bigger cut of the pie, which makes sense considering the league generated over $9 billion in revenue last year, according to Monte Burke of Forbes.
In order to get the owners to give in to some of Gilbert's demands, he has to give them something back. The easiest way to do that is simply line their pockets with more money, which can be done by adding two regular-season games to the schedule.
All of this is a pipe dream for the time being. Smith has given no indication he won't seek to continue in his role in 2015, nor is there any evidence right now that the NFLPA wants him out. Gilbert has big ideas and claims to have the proof needed to reopen the CBA. Now, he just needs the backing to be elected as executive director.
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