NFLPA president JC Tretter sends reminder of benefits players received in exchange for 17th game, asks for understanding from fans

News of the NFL’s owners’ decision to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17, which became official on Tuesday, sparked mixed responses from everyone from fans to league officials and players themselves. 

In the days leading up to the vote, several players voiced their displeasure of the looming approval given the added wear and tear a 17th game would subject their bodies to. Meanwhile, some fans responded critically, saying players shouldn’t complain because of the luxurious lives that their profession affords them.

NFL Players Association president JC Tretter said he understood the concerns voiced by his fellow players and that he doesn’t fault any of them for begrudgingly gearing up for an extended season. He wants NFL players to remember that, in exchange for that 17th game, they have and will continue to receive improved working conditions and benefit packages thanks to provisions negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement that the owners and NFLPA hammered out last year.

Without agreeing last spring to a 17th game, the players would not have secured increases in salaries and revenue sharing, improved benefits and other provisions designed to help take care of their bodies, Tretter explained during an interview Wednesday with USA TODAY Sports.

“Simplistically, (the 17-game increase) was the main crux of the discussion of the last CBA,” said Tretter, a ninth-year veteran and starting center for the Cleveland Browns. “And if we take a step further back from that, prior to 2011, the NFL had the right to go to 18 games whenever they chose, and in the 2011 CBA, the union leadership at that time negotiated that right away from the NFL, where they couldn’t unilaterally increase games. Fast forward to now, about a decade later, they wanted to increase games, so they had to come back to us and negotiate to increase that game. There was no interest in going to 18 and the discussion started on ‘What would it cost to get to 17?’ That’s where you see the things in the deal that was signed. 

“You see the substantial increase in minimum salaries, which over 60% of our guys get immediate raises, you see percent greater in revenue share, on top of that you get the media kicker based on these TV deals the NFL just went out and negotiated,” Tretter continued. “That percent revenue goes even higher based on how big those TV deals are, so that was part of it. We got better health and safety rules that will continue to change, and we’ve just done a lot of good things in the CBA. So, that was really the crux of the decision guys had: ‘Is there enough in this CBA that makes you willing to play a 17th game?’ In the end, it was a slim margin but more players said yes, that it was worth it and once the NFL negotiated for the right to go to 17, it should’ve been everybody’s expectation that it was going to come.”

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