GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers, a vocal opponent of the collective bargaining agreement, isn’t sure whether it will pass the full NFL players vote that is underway because he isn’t sure how many of the rank-and-file in the league care enough to consider all the provisions.
That’s the sentiment he expressed Friday during an interview on ESPN Wisconsin radio’s Wilde & Tausch.
Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers‘ representative to the NFL Players Association, said he sent multiple electronic messages to his teammates about the talking points of the CBA ahead of the vote and “got next to no responses.”
“That’s probably the most disheartening thing,” Rodgers said on the show. “This is a society we live in now that’s so distracted by the swiping world of apps and social media. I don’t know. Do guys really care about this stuff? Unfortunately, or fortunately — however you look at it — for the people wanting to push this deal through so badly, that’s kind of a win because nobody’s critically looking at this or thinking about it. They’re just like, ‘Oh, what’s my salary going to be? Oh, OK, cool.’ Not like, ‘Are we taking care of former players? What kind of additional player risks are we taking on? What are we getting in return for that?'”
Rodgers previously explained his decision to vote against the deal by saying it was “based off conversations I have had with the men in my locker room that I’m tasked to represent.”
“There’s not a lot of critical thinking going on,” Rodgers said Friday. “There was a ton of information out there. I sent out the large email, and you email 73 guys; how many responses you think you’re getting back on this 2,000-word email that goes out? You’d be really disappointed to hear the actual answer. That’s the problem. I think we just haven’t had a chance to look at this critically and it’s kind of been pushed through, pushed through, pushed through, pushed through, and it’s bullet-point highlights in quotations with this deal that’s like, ‘Well, no, that’s not the whole deal’ and also ‘understand what you’re signing and what this means for the future of this game.’ I’d like to hit the pause button, but I’m not sure that’s even going to be a possibility. We’ll find out in a few days if this goes through or not.”
Rodgers was most vocal against the addition of a 17th game and the limits on long-term health care benefits for retired players. He said early discussions among players indicated that they were against the 17th game.
“A lot of us are wondering how the hell that even got into the conversation,” he said, “because nobody wanted it.”
Although he’s one of 32 elected player reps, Rodgers said he felt his “involvement was more under the show-pony guys. Just bring in the guy with the name who’s going to be in the room. I don’t think they realized maybe my ability to speak in those environments and what I really was passionate about.
“The point that I was trying to make in that meeting and as we talked to the PA afterward was, ‘Tell me what I can go back and tell my veteran players. What are we getting in return for this 17th game?'” Rodgers said. “To me, it just wasn’t substantial enough to go back and tell those young players and older players, ‘Hey, look, this is what you’re going to be getting.'”
Rodgers tried to caution the younger players who would see their minimum salary increase under the new CBA to think longer term, but he admitted that there could be a significant divide between the highly paid veterans and the younger players.
“It’ll be interesting to see the numbers on who actually votes,” Rodgers said. “I know there’s a lot of us who have or will vote ‘No’ on this and believe that there’s a better deal to be made, but I know there’s guys who want to do it and see the minimum jump and are OK with 17 games, which, again, I don’t relate to that. But I understand there are some good things in it. I really don’t have a feeling. I thought when we voted, post the meeting with the owners, I was looking around the room, kind of counting up the ‘No’s and I thought we were going to be at seven or eight and it was basically 15 because the one abstained vote was a no vote. I was surprised it was 15.
“I think it’s going to be a lot closer than people think. Obviously you know [Eric] Winston and [DeMaurice] Smith are gung-ho trying to push this thing forward, which again I don’t quite understand the necessity for speed in pushing this through and the information that’s being put out there, but I do think it’s going be a close vote, and hopefully we make it public.”
Rodgers also said the players are undervaluing themselves by accepting provisions such as limits on training camp and offseason practices and relaxed marijuana testing.
“To hang our hats on some of these things that to the owners are a nothing, to me lessens our value,” Rodgers said. “And I think we should’ve stood firmer on revenue and player safety instead of trying to get some of these concessions where we don’t have, again, we don’t have lifetime health care. I’ve seen a lot of former players talking about that. I don’t know, that obviously wasn’t one of the main things negotiated.
“I think some of the gains we made on player safety, we take a step back if this gets ratified and goes through and there’s 17 games and another game on wild-card weekend, and we didn’t adjust any of the playoff pay, which is already significantly less than regular-season pay. I really don’t understand the major, major points that people are trying to sell this to.”
While most of Rodgers’ appearance on ESPN Wisconsin was devoted to the CBA, there was a pertinent on-field topic discussed. General manager Brian Gutekunst admitted recently that the Packers could draft Rodgers’ eventual replacement soon. Rodgers was asked whether that would bother him, given that the team could use help at other spots to get over the NFC Championship Game hump.
“Well, look, I’m realistic; I know where we’re at as an organization and where I’m at in my career,” Rodgers said. “I still feel like I have a ton of years left playing at a high level. I’m confident enough. I’ve always felt like it doesn’t matter who you bring in, they’re not going to be able to beat me out any time soon. I feel really confident about my abilities and my play.
“We’ve drafted guys over the years. I think my first year starting we drafted two quarterbacks, in 2008. We’ve drafted various guys over the years. I understand the business and the nature of it, obviously love to bring guys in that are going to be able to play and compete right away. I understand it’s a business. I wouldn’t have a problem.”