Illustration for article titled This Is Huge: NFL Players Approve 17-Game Season, Playoff Expansion in New Collective Bargaining Agreement
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Over the weekend, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that will introduce some major changes to a sport we all know and (at least used to) love.

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ESPN reports that players voted 1,019-959 in favor of the new deal that will include significant changes to player pensions, the league schedule, and other aspects of the sport and will remain in place until the NFL’s 2030 season.

“Vote is close because you had a group of people who certainly cared about certain issues in the collective bargaining agreement,” DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Monday on the ESPN Daily podcast.

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He also noted that the new deal not only benefits current players, but retired players as well.

Smith continued, “In a country where virtually no large company is certainly creating new pensions and certainly not increasing pensions, we are a large corporation in the United States that not only only has secured pensions for another three, four generations of players, but also increased the pensions of every former player prior to 2011 and bringing them up to a 2011 standard for their pensions—those things are huge.”

So what other big changes can players expect with the new CBA?

17-Game Season

The unthinkable will soon become a reality: Owners have been given the green light to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games sometime between the league’s 2021 and 2023 seasons. There are still some kinks to work out, as far as how bye weeks, additional compensation, and home games will be assigned, but this was a compromise that players had to make in order to complete a new CBA.

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While a 17th game has always been wildly unpopular with players due the increased risk of injury, owners have long championed the opportunity to generate additional revenue through tickets sales, concessions, and parking while securing more lucrative television broadcasting deals in the future—and it would appear that the owners finally got their way.

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New Playoffs Format Expands Teams From 12 to 14

Beginning next season, each conference will receive a third wild card berth and only the top seed in each conference will earn a bye week. This will expand the playoff field to 14 teams and would’ve allowed for the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers to sneak into the playoffs had this format been in place this past season.

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Shorter Preseason

With the expansion of the playoffs and regular season, it only makes sense to shorten the preseason. So instead of four preseason games, each team will only play three. The fourth week will become a bye. This goes into effect in 2021.

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The NFL is Pumping the Brakes on Drug Testing

The new CBA will have a dramatic effect on drug testing, especially for players who just can’t leave weed alone. The testing window will officially narrow from a full four months to a mere two weeks at the beginning of training camp, positive tests will be much more difficult to qualify for—from 35 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter of urine to 150—penalties and suspensions have either been reduced or eliminated entirely, and a “neutral decision-maker” will rule on player disciplinary decisions in place of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

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And if you’re curious as to how this will affect players like troubled Seahawks receiver Josh Gordon, who’s been suspended five times for drug-related offenses, you’re not alone.

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Other changes in the new CBA include a revenue split increase of 48 percent, rosters expanding from 53 players to 55 players, and raises for minimum salary contracts.

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All in all, while playing a 17th game isn’t ideal, this new CBA definitely sounds like a win for the players.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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