After hearing about some wild demands from NFL owners in regard to a new collective-bargaining agreement, players are starting to seriously brace themselves for a lockout in 2011.
The NFL's current CBA expires in March 2011. If the league's owners and NFL Players Association don't reach an agreement for a new CBA prior to then, there will be a work stoppage for the first time since 1987.
The biggest disagreement, according to one NFL player, has to do with the schedule. Owners want to eliminate two preseason games and add two regular-season games, but the players want nothing to do with it.
"I have yet to hear from one player who wants 18 games," the source said.
The scheduling dispute comes from a variety of areas, most notably the injury risk.
"Guys already have a hard enough time playing through 16 games," the source said. "And that's not even counting four possible playoff games."
Then, if there are only two preseason games, it will make it exponentially more difficult for underdogs to make the roster. Typically, players on the roster bubble receive more playing time in the first and second preseason game, but that sometimes tapers off in the third and fourth games. If the preseason is shortened, bottom-of-the-roster players won't have nearly the opportunity to prove their worth to their current team and opposing scouts.
The owners' demands get even stranger after that. First, the players took it as an ominous — and insulting — sign that the NFL has hired lawyer Bob Batterman, who represented the NHL prior to their work stoppage earlier this decade.
Under the NFL owners' new set of demands, according to the source, they want players to pay for their own flights and hotel rooms for their road trips. Owners also want the players to pay for the police escort that travels with team buses on road trips, and they want the players to rent locker space on road trips, too.
These demands have infuriated the players.
"We're out there risking our lives for them to put money in their pockets," the player said, "and they give us a list like this? It's ridiculous."
The players have been told the NFL made $8 billion in 2009, yet the owners are saying they're short on cash. In return, the players want the owners to open their books to see where the money is going before a new CBA is reached.
Players have been told to save at least 20 percent of their 2010 salary to live through that in the event of a work stoppage.
If a new CBA is reached, it won't happen "until the last second" before the current agreement expires next March.
The player wouldn't rate the likelihood of a lockout, but the feeling around the league seems to be this: A lot of people are saying there will be a lockout, but they're still not sure it will happen because of how much money each side will lose in that case. It would "be so dumb," the source said.
Get ready for a wild eight months.