When the NFL Players Association says that a series of local postseason bubbles constitutes “a big ask,” the NFLPA is actually saying something else.
The NFLPA is saying, “Pay me.”
It need not be money. But the union definitely wants something in return for agreeing to make hotel stays mandatory every day from the start of the playoffs until each team finishes, all the way until two teams are locked down for two weeks before the Super Bowl.
The league knows this. The duty to bargain with the union over any such request compels the league to come to the table with something other than a polite request, or an argument that it’s a win-win. The union will want something (just like the league always does whenever someone makes an “ask” of it, big or small), and the league wants to give the union nothing.
So the league simply isn’t asking.
Ultimately, the league likely believes it won’t have to ask. The league likely believes that, when the playoffs roll around, teams will create voluntary bubbles, and the team’s locker-room leaders will lean on all players to volunteer to stay there.
Teams that don’t do it run the risk of losing players to the virus and, in turn, losing playoff games. It’s that simple. So the quid for the quo becomes not something the league would offer the union to agree to mandatory bubbling, but the increased playoff share and the shot at immortality that comes from securing a Super Bowl ring.