NFL's Goodell hopes labor settled by Super Bowl

Associated Press
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell smiles after a question during a news conference after the NFL football owners meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010. (AP Photo)
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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said a new labor agreement could be in place by the Super Bowl "if we all commit to it and work hard at it."

Goodell made it clear Wednesday that NFL negotiators are willing to do so.

"There's no higher priority than getting a collective bargaining agreement," he said following a day of meetings with NFL team owners. "So we will work night and day to get that done."

Asked whether he expects the same from the NFL Players' Association, Goodell said, "I hope so."

NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis said, "We have no comment at this time."

The major sticking point is the owners demanding to restructure the players' share of designated revenues. Another point of contention is the owners wanting to turn two preseason games into regular-season games; the union fears more injuries and has countered with a request for additional roster spots and cutting offseason workouts by about one-third from the current 14 weeks.

Goodell said the league has no deadline, but noted the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4.

"This becomes harder after the labor agreement expires," he said. "We want to get this done as soon as possible."

At the league's fall meetings in October, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he considered it realistic to have a new CBA by the end of the regular season, which is Jan. 2.

Goodell said he doesn't think it is practical to expect negotiations to get serious enough fast enough for that to happen. However, he said, "I think the end of the postseason is realistic."

Kraft left the meetings saying he didn't want to discuss the negotiations.

"Just a lot of discussion. Nothing's changed. We're still hopeful of getting an agreement at some point, but I don't have any substantive comment about where we are," New York Giants co-owner John Mara said. "I'm always optimistic until proven otherwise."

Colts owner Jim Irsay said these negotiations felt like all the others he's been involved with over the last few decades.

"There's nothing that's unusual or anything earth-shattering right now," he said. "The process continues is the best way to put it."

Last week, the league agreed to give the union more time to file a collusion claim against the NFL. It was announced in a joint statement.

"I have said this repeatedly: I believe this will be resolved at the collective bargaining table," Goodell said. "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 it's a good sign that the league and the NFLPA are talking, but he called that only a start.

"It takes productive dialogue, which means we've got to get to that place where we're making significant progress in getting an agreement," he said. "It's not just about meetings and dialogues. It's about getting real, significant progress on the key issues."

The owners also watched a video on helmet hits and discussed reseeding for the playoffs.

Owners have discussed before whether to change the current system of rewarding division winners with a home playoff game, or if playoff seeds should be based strictly on record. It's an issue again because the winner of the NFC West could be 8-8 or 7-9, while a team with 10 or 11 wins could have to go on the road.

"I see the merits of what they're talking about," Goodell said. "But I also believe that our playoff system has worked quite well. ... We were focused a lot on (whether) the priority should be win your division, get a home game. That's what clubs really felt should be the priority."

The two clubs most likely hurt by the existing rules are the Giants and Eagles. They are tied for the NFC East lead at 9-4.

Mara said he understand the logic behind the way things are done, "though I don't necessarily agree with it."

"For me, a team that wins their division with a .500 record or worse shouldn't necessarily get a home game over a team that wins 10 or 11 games," Mara said. "I can't tell you I have a lot of hope about that passing. It's been discussed in the past and never gone anywhere."

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said he didn't have a stance.

"It's a tough question," he said. "You keep having to go back and forth with that every year."

The commissioner said a decision could be coming soon on the investigation in Brett Favre's possible improper conduct, and that another investigation is ongoing regarding a tampering charge between the Chiefs and Lions. Asked about a team moving to Los Angeles, Goodell said the CBA has to be resolved first.

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