NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said Friday the players union has yet to see a workable 18-game schedule plan from the NFL owners as part of ongoing talks about a new collective bargaining agreement.
Smith told ESPN's Cameron Wolfe he doesn't foresee a scenario in which players accept an increased regular-season slate.
"I don't see an 18-game schedule—under any circumstance—being in the best interest of our players," he said. "If somebody wants to make an 18-game proposal, we'll look at it. I haven't seen anything that makes me think that it would be good for the players."
Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal reported Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft led a discussion about adding two games during the latest talks, and ownership suggested a 16-game cap for each player to avoid an increased workload.
"They're looking at it like, 'Hey, get back into the mine and start mining coal,'" NFLPA President Eric Winston told Beaton.
Smith, who said the Players Association still has serious, wide-ranging questions even amid discussion about the 16-game cap, told Wolfe:
"Fans and media discuss what would happen to ratings and revenue or whether [18 games] is a good idea or bad idea. For us, it comes down to who players are as men, and is it good for us. If a coal miner is willing to spend more time in the hole, does it likely result in more money? Yeah. Is that a good thing for him as a person? Probably not. That's the question nobody confronts. It's easy to say it's more money. But is it good for us? The answer is no."
Smith otherwise described the CBA talks as "positive," and Wolfe reported discussions are expected to continue as the sides attempt to reach an agreement before the start of the 2019 regular season. The current CBA runs through the 2020 campaign.
An 18-game schedule raises concerns among not only players but also fans who pay to watch the NFL's biggest stars. It's unlikely they would be fond of attending a game in which a player like the Patriots' Tom Brady, Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes or Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald is a healthy scratch.
It's unclear whether NFL owners view an 18-game schedule as a make-or-break facet of a new deal.