NFL players approve 17-game regular season

The NFLPA has voted for an extended regular season, higher salaries and increased roster sizes

NFL players have approved a new collective bargaining agreement with the league which features a 17-game regular season, higher salaries, increased roster sizes and larger pensions for current and former players.

The deal, which runs through the 2030 season, was accepted by the 32 team owners last month. The NFL Players Association's membership spent the last week voting on the 439-page document after its executive board narrowly rejected it by a 6-5 vote, and the player representatives voted 17-14 in favour, with one abstention.

The total vote, among the nearly 2,500 union members who participated, was 1,019 to 959. Ratification required a simple majority - results were announced Sunday - and there could be lasting resentment among union members, given how close the vote was.

"Can't believe we agreed to that lol," Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron tweeted.

"We can only play this game for so long and y'all didn't want everything we could get out of it? ... 2030 y'all do better."

Others were urging unity, particularly in the face of the criticism from within their ranks.

"The democratic process has played itself out," tweeted Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most influential voices in the union.

"We must be committed to unifying our current and former members. While I don't agree with the decision because of its negative impacts on some current and former players, I do respect our process and will push forward accordingly."

A 17-game schedule won't happen before the 2021 season. The mechanics for an uneven number of games - neutral sites or which teams get nine home games - will be worked out in the interim.

Adding two playoff teams was not part of the bargaining process, however the owners can do so without union approval. That is expected to occur this season, with only the top team in each conference getting a wild-card bye.

Pre-season will be reduced initially from four games to three. Among other player benefits, there will be more time off during training camps and two more roster spots per team, extended from 53 to 55.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, not surprisingly, praised the players' acceptance of the new CBA.

"We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football," Goodell said in a statement.