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Ben Watson: Different opinions on 17 games, but NFLPA won’t sacrifice safety

49ers cornerback Richard Sherman explains why he believes there's hypocrisy with the NFL wanting to expand the regular season but also preaching an importance of player safety.

Earlier this week, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman was asked about the NFL’s push for a 17-game season in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations and called it a hypocritical position for a league that also purports to hold the health and safety of players as a priority.

Sherman is a member of the NFL Players Association Executive Committee, but wasn’t at Thursday’s NFLPA press conference because he’s getting ready for the Super Bowl. His fellow committee members didn’t veer too far away from his talking points, however.

Chargers tackle Russell Okung said that he shared Sherman’s view and thinks that owners minimize the risks for players that would come with additional games. Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson acknowledged “different opinions” about increasing the number of games exist within the membership of the NFLPA, but added that the union won’t sacrifice the health and safety of its membership regardless of what financial incentives may be part of the league’s offer.

“We have kids, we have sons who could play this game after us and we want to leave the game better than when we found it, because we have to look guys who came before us and who come after us in the eye.”

All of that said, there’s been no sign that the notion of a 17-game season has derailed talks and been a line that the NFLPA is totally unwilling to cross to get a deal done. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said only that “we’re going to keep our negotiations with the league outside of the press,” which was in the same vein as his other responses to questions about the status of talks and sheds little light on the chances that deal gets done before the current one expires after the 2020 season.