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League plans to walk fine line with union on playoff expansion


Monday’s comments from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones applied an unexpected twist to the topic of playoff expansion. Asked if the league needs the approval of the NFLPA to grow the field from 12 to 14 teams, Jones said, “Not to my knowledge.”

The remark has sparked an impromptu analysis of labor law, which requires “bargaining” between management and the union if/when any changes are contemplated to the terms and conditions of employment.

The league, per a source with knowledge of the situation, recognizes that the union will want one or more concessions for something that the NFL believes the players already should want -- an increased chance of getting to the Super Bowl. Throw in the fact that the money generated by expanded playoffs goes into the pot from which the salary cap is calculated should be more than enough, in the NFL’s view, to get the union to agree to expanded playoffs without getting anything else.

As former NFL punter Chris Kluwe observed via text to PFT, a revenue spike that bumps up the cap means a lot more to the owners than it does to the players.

“You’re essentially dividing one half of that revenue between 1,800 guys and the other half between 32,” Kluwe said.

Of the amount that’s spread among the 1,800, here’s the kicker -- the kickers aren’t getting much of it.

“It’ll probably all go to quarterbacks anyway,” Kluwe said, adding a colon and a P. Which either means that he’s sticking his tongue out at the notion or that he is died.

The issue of playoff expansion is far from died, and the league seems to be planning to walk a fine line as it relates to the union. The NFL recognizes that bargaining is required, but the NFL doesn’t believe that the union approval is needed.

Technically, the league may be right. There’s a duty to bargain over terms and conditions of work. But if the bargaining leads to an impasse, the NFL can implement the change without official union approval.

It’s unclear at this point how it will all play out. But America’s ultimate reality show suddenly has a new subplot that could make the otherwise slowish period of the calendar a bit more intriguing.