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Goodell: Owners not planning for lockout

UPDATED (5:27 p.m.)...

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla.--NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said here Friday that the league's franchise owners are not making plans to lock out the players in 2011, and the leaders on both sides of the sport's brewing labor dispute "would all have failed" if there's a work stoppage.

"We want an agreement," Goodell said at his annual state-of-the-league news conference. "I think every owner will say the same thing.... The idea that ownership would be anxious for a work stoppage is absolutely false. You don't make money by shutting down your business."

Goodell's relatively conciliatory tone was echoed by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who was in the audience to listen to Goodell's remarks.

"There's a time and a place for that," Kraft said following Goodell's news conference. "We've got something great going. We've got to be smart on both sides. The fans don't want to hear about well-to-do owners and well-to-do players squabbling. We've got the greatest game in America. We've got to find a way to solve it."

The owners and the players' union are negotiating a possible extension of their labor deal, which expires after the 2010 season. This season is the final one in the agreement with a salary cap, and Goodell said earlier in the week it's virtually certain that next season will be played minus a salary cap.

But the real concern for everyone in the sport is that the lack of progress thus far at the bargaining table could produce the NFL's first work stoppage since the two players' strikes in the 1980s.

The parties' public comments have been increasingly combative in recent weeks. New York Giants co-owner John Mara said recently that there had been no progress in the negotiations and the union had not responded in a meaningful way to a proposal by the owners. Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said this week that some franchises were hurting financially and those economic woes possibly could lead to a lockout in 2011.

On the players' side, Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae, the president of the union, told a Congressional subcommittee during a hearing last month on Capitol Hill that the players are fully anticipating being locked out by the owners in 2011. DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the union, said Thursday that the owners had taken a series of steps that appeared designed to lock out the players.

Asked during his annual news conference Thursday about the prospects of a lockout in 2011, Smith called the urgency of the situation a 14 on a scale of 1 to 10.

In response to that comment by Smith, Goodell said Friday: "I couldn't make that prediction, and I sure hope he's wrong. I sure hope it does not become a self-fulfilling prophecy.... We will have an agreement. It's just a matter of when. But talking about options like work stoppages is not going to get us there.... I'm not much on rhetoric."

Goodell's tone was not confrontational.

"We have to sit at the table and we have to get an agreement that works for everybody," Goodell said. "That's what people expect. They expect solutions.... In the next 30 days or so, we'll be going into an uncapped year if we're not successful. A lot of players will be affected by that. We'd like to see if something can get done.... I don't think anybody wants to see a work stoppage.... It's a negative. It's a negative for our fans. Frankly if it comes to anything like that, we would all have failed."

But Goodell also said that "the system isn't working" for the owners. According to Goodell, the NFL has generated $3.6 billion in new, incremental revenues since the last labor deal with the players was struck in 2006. Of that total, $2.6 billion has gone to the players while the owners have had $200 million in losses, Goodell said.

Smith and Mawae said Thursday that the owners' proposal calls for the players' portion of league revenues under the salary cap system to be reduced from approximately 59 percent to 41 percent. NFL officials have disputed that characterization, saying they merely want more money removed from the revenue pool--for operating expenses--before the players' cut is calculated. Goodell said the owners are asking for "an 18 percent cost recognition."

Said Goodell: "We want the players to be paid well. The owners want the players to be paid well. The issue is creating a system that will allow everyone to benefit, and to grow the [revenue] pie so that everyone benefits."

Owners have called the last deal overly favorable to the players. The owners voted in 2008 to exercise a reopener clause in the agreement and end the deal two years early.

On other topics, Goodell said the league will consider additional measures to try to prevent players from suffering concussions. Potential proposals include reducing the number of offseason practices that teams can conduct, and limiting the amount of contact permitted in practices in training camp and during the season--perhaps to the point that players wouldn't wear helmets in those practices in which hitting would be banned.

"All of those things are under consideration," Goodell said. "... What is it that the league can do to try to make the game safer for our players? And that includes rules, equipment and offseason training.... I think we'll continue to make improvements in that area."

On the issue of former players, Goodell said: "We all have to do more for our retired players. There's just no two ways about it.... These are the men that helped us build this great game, and we need to make sure we are doing the right thing for them."

Goodell said the league will continue to look for possible ways to improve minority hiring after two teams, the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks, were accused by some observers earlier this offseason of violating the spirit of the NFL rule requiring each club with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one minority candidate.

But Goodell has said previously that both the Redskins and Seahawks complied with the so-called "Rooney Rule," and he said that "significant progress is being made" in the area of minority hiring.

Goodell said he does not envision any change to the sport's overtime format, in which a coin toss determines possession and the first team to score wins.

"We spent an awful lot of time looking at overtime rules, tweaking them and trying to come up with something we thought was better," Goodell said. "... We haven't been able to find a better solution.... We'll continue to look to see if there's a better solution. But I wouldn't hold your breath on that solution."

Goodell said the league is working to get a franchise to Los Angeles but he can't guarantee there will be a team there.

He said the NFL would like to see the Rams, who are considering offers from potential buyers, remain in St. Louis.

He called the move of the Pro Bowl to the site of the Super Bowl, and playing it one week before the Super Bowl instead of one week after, a "huge success." The game goes back to Hawaii the next two years.

The commissioner continued to express support for the proposal to lengthen the regular season from 16 to 17 or 18 games per team, while shortening the preseason accordingly. That issue is being addressed in the sport's labor negotiations.

Goodell said there are "real benefits" to a proposal to put a future Super Bowl in New York but he intends to remain officially neutral on the matter.

The league will reinstate Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who was suspended after being involved in an alcohol-related accident in which his vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian, after the Super Bowl, Goodell said. Stallworth pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and served 24 days in prison.

Goodell did not add himself to the list of people, including President Obama, who have declared they are rooting for the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl.

"I feel good for the people of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast," Goodell said. "They've got a great team. They've got a team that they identify with.... We worked hard with the partners in Louisiana. We worked hard to get that dome rebuilt.... It's a great success story for us and while I can't root for a team, I'm really proud of what happened there and I'm thrilled for the people of the Gulf Coast."

By Mark Maske  |  February 5, 2010; 1:20 PM ET  | Category:  League , Union Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Go ahead and fail, you bunch of money hungry bums. Both players, owners and those that pay to see them are all idiots.


Posted by: mortified469 | February 5, 2010 5:03 PM

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