In a not surprising at all development, the NFLPA's head man DeMaurice Smith has stated that the union will not even consider moving to an 18 game schedule. "First of all, the league has never presented a formal proposal for 18 games," Smith told Jim Trotter of SI.com. DeMaurice Smith added, "But more importantly, it's something that our players don't want. Eighteen games is not in the best interest of our players' safety, so we're not doing it." Some might see as posturing, but matter of fact statements like that would make it difficult to back down at a later date.
Now, this could just be my own conspiracy theory brain going into overdrive, but I never thought an 18 game schedule was a real position by the owners. I assumed it was more a rouse the owners could use as a bargaining chip to have a major issue to concede on. While there are reports refuting Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports' claim that an NFL rookie wage scale has been agreed upon, I trust there will be one. I believe that once one is officially agreed upon, the NFL will back off the whole 18 game talk and it will be seen as a major negotiating concession for the owners.
The big issue in labor talks right now is the financial split, and quite frankly once that is figured out, everything else will fall into place rather quickly. The good news is the owners have come down from an extra $1 billion off the top to around $800 million off the top, in addition to the $1 billion they already receive. The players union is still trying to get specific team-by-team financials however, but many feel like the league is asking too much in that regard.
These negotiations are going to get ugly, as most involving billions of dollars do, before it gets better. Always keep in mind during the ups and downs of this negotiation however, the NFL is an 11th hour league. They typically do their best negotiating as the deadline gets closer. It's always the darkest before the dawn.