Preliminary congratulations are in order for the NFL and its players union. The sides apparently have agreed upon a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement without public threats of a strike or other unseemly caterwauling. If you want to join the celebration, party favors should include a big, fat doobie.
Nothing is official yet, but owners voted to approve the deal Thursday in New York. According to NFL.com, the 32 players representatives will vote Friday in a conference call, and if it passes by a two-thirds majority, the proposal would go to the players for a final vote, requiring a simple majority.
Upon passage, several elements could be implemented ahead of the March 18 start of free agency, including a $5 million bump in the salary cap for each team. Reportedly, the pending expansion of the playoff field from 12 to 14, which would push the the Super Bowl to the end of February, could happen as soon as this year. Down the road, another part of the plan is to add a 17th game (and drop a preseason game — hallelujah!).
Buried in the details is a non-cash change for players that is a matter of, well, high intrigue — a liberalization of the marijuana policy to the point where one could see the NFL finally entering the 21st century.
According to Pro Football Talk, the proposal shrinks the current testing period for marijuana from April 20/early August to just two weeks. Those two weeks haven’t been disclosed, but two weeks . . . if a player can’t stay clean ahead of that window, he needs to get an internship at the Real Wellness by Ricky Williams pot store and play to his strengths that don’t include football.
The proposed change isn’t a full legalization — we all know that a sober, saintly figure such as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wouldn’t tolerate such an outrage — but a PFT source said penalties for a positive test would dramatically decrease, with suspensions happening only in the repeated disregard of the policy, or significant violations of applicable law regarding possession.
You know, like OL Greg Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft by the St. Louis Rams, getting busted by the feds in Texas this week with 157 pounds of marijuana in his rental car. After the Cleveland Browns let him go into free agency, Brown was going to be an unrestricted free agent until he won the annual Malik McDowell Award for Inexplicable Career Sabotage.
Snark aside, the decriminalization of marijuana in the NFL is a big health deal. All players must manage chronic pain. Some choose opioids, and athletes are as prone to addiction as ordinary folks.
When it comes to grim consequences of football, concussions get most of the attention, but opioid abuse will be the next crisis. The NFL is trying to get ahead of it a bit by allowing choices in self-medication, particularly now that medical usage of marijuana is legal in many states.
As to the non-medical big picture of the pending CBA, the NFL hasn’t increased its playoff field since 1990, which, for a greedy league, shows some discipline. So even though the current 12-team set-up works well in keeping out the un-pedigreed, the one-team bump per conference is hardly an over-reach.
The biggest competitive loss is the reduction of first-round byes from two to one, in order to allow three games on wild-card weekend of seeds 2-v-7, 3-v-6 and 4-v-5, all of which become attractive sweeteners for the TV networks in the next negotiations.
Even though the Seahawks in their playoff history have never been a two-seed, the opportunity for a week’s rest in January always was a powerful incentive to keep going hard in December. In January, the NFC’s No. 2 spot went to San Francisco, which lounged about as the fifth-seeded Seahawks traveled to Philadelphia, then Green Bay, where they were ousted. The Niners beat the Vikings and Packers, both at home, to reach the Super Bowl. As much as it is about who you play, it is also about when you play.
Regarding money, NFL.com reported the players get a one percent bump from the current CBA in the annual share of total revenue, to 48 percent. When the 17th game is adopted, perhaps by 2022, the share goes to 48.5 percent. The latter would shift to the players more than $5 billion in gross revenues over the life of the CBA.
When the 17th game arrives, the new deal reportedly will require each team to play a game out of the U.S. or in an American city that doesn’t have an NFL team, like San Antonio, or perhaps Columbus and Ann Arbor.
The Seahawks have traveled abroad only once, in 2018, to London. But the NFL has ambitions to play more regular-season games in Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere in Europe, and perhaps Japan, China and South America. Since the Seahawks were 7-1 on the road last season, let me be the first to suggest the Colosseum in Rome. What a great Throwback Sunday doubleheader, starting with a Christians v. Lions rematch.
The biggest news is that, barring the unexpected, NFL owners and players, who have yet to figure out pass interference, nevertheless figured out how to look like smart business people.