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NFLPA warns players to prepare for a lockout while NFL floats idea of 18-game schedule again

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Contrary to initial reports detailing an amicable to start to negotiations, it is clear the league and the players union have a very long way to go to find common ground.

Super Bowl XLVIII NFLPA Press Conference Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

Despite bringing you news of positive meetings between the NFL and the NFLPA last week, it appears that both sides in the negotiation are intent on playing out much of their drama in the public eye over the coming 18 months.

Within hours of a New York Times report detailing productive discussions, reports began to emerge of an email sent out by the players union advising all members to save money in preparation of a potential work stoppage in 2021. A reminder of a similar warning they had given to players the year before and one that just happened to wind up in the hands of the media. As reported by Dan Graziano of ESPN, the email read:

“We are advising players to plan for a work stoppage of at least a year in length. We are also encouraging players to save 50% of their salary and bonuses and to save the entirety of their Performance Based Pay amounts they should earn over the next two regular seasons.”

And with the NFLPA more than willing to flex their strongest negotiating tactic in the press, the league office did not take long to come back with some flexing of their own via a report in the Washington post citing a mysterious unnamed high-ranking NFL official.

In an article that reiterated the league’s desire to expand to an 18-game schedule, the prospect of changing disciplinary rules and relaxing laws on marijuana were dangled as a carrot.

“Some owners who would like to expand the season” to 18 games, adding it’s not clear “if there is much support from the players on that. The commissioner discipline and marijuana policy will come up at some point, and I suspect the owners will be a little more flexible on both subjects.”

The players position on expanding to an 18-game schedule has already been made quite clear over the years, with many owners noticeably undecided about the proposal themselves when the discussing the subject publicly in the past. The suspicious timing and intent of the Washington Post report not going unnoticed by those with experience of the previous CBA negotiations either.

With the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) not due to end until after the 2020 season, it is interesting to note how much the saga is already playing out in the press. But while both sides will do their best to elicit support from the fans over the coming months, it will be hard for many to relate to either side in this battle set to be waged between mostly millionaires and billionaires.