Goodell says he's hopeful of labor deal by end of postseason
By Mark Maske
FORT WORTH, Tex.--After the NFL's franchise owners finished a one-day meeting here Wednesday devoted in large part to discussions about the status of the league's ongoing labor negotiations with the players' union, Commissioner Roger Goodell said he's hopeful there could be a settlement with the players by the end of the postseason.
"I don't think it's practical by the end of the regular season," Goodell said. "I certainly would work day and night to do that. But I think the end of the postseason is realistic if we all commit to it and work hard at it."
But Goodell said there first must be substantive progress between the two sides at the bargaining table.
"I think it's a positive sign that we're having dialogue but, as I said, it's not just about meetings or dialogue," Goodell said. "It's about getting real, significant progress on the key issues."
New York Giants co-owner John Mara said the owners' discussions Wednesday of the labor situation were "mostly informational."
Mara said: "Just a lot of discussion. Nothing has changed. We're still hopeful of getting an agreement sometime. But I'm always optimistic until proven otherwise."
Said Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: "Everyone wants to head in the right direction. That's everyone's intention. That's all I can say at this point."
The current labor deal between the owners and players expires in March. Players and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the union, have said they expect the players to be locked out by the owners next year. Smith said Tuesday the union believes the owners have continued to take steps to prepare for a possible lockout. Goodell and others on the management side have said the owners would prefer to reach an agreement with the players that addresses what the owners consider the sport's economic problems.
The players could decertify the union in a bid to avoid being locked out by the owners, and expose the owners to an antitrust lawsuit by the players.
The league and union did reach an agreement last week by which the union postponed filing a collusion case against the owners.
Goodell said Wednesday of that agreement: "I hope it's a sign that we're going to do everything to allow negotiations to resolve the issues. I've said this repeatedly: I believe this will be resolved at the collective bargaining table. Obviously we're seeing a lot of rhetoric and different tactics, including litigation strategies, that I think are all distractions and attempts to get leverage. I understand that. But at the end of the day, this will get solved at the negotiating table. That's where we should be."
Goodell said he recognizes the prospect that a labor confrontation between the owners and players could produce a negative reaction by fans.
"That's why we all want to get it done," Goodell said. "And that's why we're completely focused to make this the highest priority, to get a collective bargaining agreement. The fans want football. That is what we all need to make sure we continue to do, is bring football to our fans.... I think we've been very clear about the fact when there's uncertainty, that's not a good thing. It's not a good thing for the fans. It's not a good thing for your business partners. It's not a good thing for the potential for revenue.... It can be damaging to the game, and that's something we're trying to avoid."