Commish: “It sounds like football – Packers, Steelers”

From Dallas, Texas

It has become one of the signature moments of every pre-Super Bowl Friday. A lot of folks call it the Commissioner’s state of the NFL speech, except that it’s really not so much a speech but a press conference as the Commish talks about what’s going on within the league.

On this Friday in a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel is downtown Dallas the subject that brought the most questions and the most answers for Commissioner Roger Goodell was the labor situation and the potential for an owners’ lockout of the players on March 4 when the current collective bargaining agreement ends.

However, before he got rolling on that topic, Goodell wanted to pump up his championship game that really didn’t need to be pumped up any more than it already has been.

“It sounds like football – the Packers, the Steelers, it’s why the whole country is excited about this game,” Goodell said. “These are teams from small cities and their success now and in the past speaks to what make this game so special.”

For the game to remain special there must be a fair agreement reached between players and owners. Without one, the NFL would be facing a very different and in some cases uncertain future.

So that brought the questions. Here are a few of his answers:

On the players’ union request for the NFL owners to open up all their books:

“The reality is they have all of the information that is necessary to make these decisions. We’ve had collective bargaining agreements for 17 years; they have all of our revenue, they have the majority of our expenses, they have audit rights in there. They know and have stated to us that they understand why the economics aren’t working. It’s now time to get beyond those negotiating ploys and get into serious discussions, a negotiation we have to have.”

On the level of trust between the league and the union:

“I’ve been in the league for 30 years. You saw it in other sports. The NBA opened their books and at the end of it what did the union say? ‘It’s baloney.’ There is never going to be a time where the union is going to look at the numbers and say we accept that. It’s a negotiation, that’s what it comes down to. What you want to do is make sure they have sufficient information to be able to make those decisions. But we need solutions now. We need to get to the point now where we’re talking about the economics and the other issues so that we get resolution because the uncertainty is going to hurt everybody.”

On free agency not starting without a new collective bargaining agreement in place:

“It’s a fact: if you don’t have an agreement, there won’t be free agency movement and that is the problem. For the players, that’s why you want to get an agreement now. And if it extends out further, if it went so far as to get into the regular season, obviously that free agency period is going to have to be reduced. That’s not good for the players. That’s why we need to get this done sooner rather than later.”

On whether he believes the union feels March 3 is an important deadline:

“I do believe that DeMaurice (Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association) understands that after March 4, this becomes more difficult to reach an agreement. I think he recognizes that, I think his players’ association executive team also recognizes that, and we need to get to work. Good news is we’re going to have a negotiation tomorrow, I believe we’re going to have several negotiations in the near future following this, and eventually it’s going to have to be around-the-clock discussions.”

On what is ahead:

“I believe we have to create that framework. I believe we have to create a series of meetings that will lead to around-the-clock negotiations. That means give and take. That means identifying the issues, listening to one another, creating solutions and reaching an agreement. But you need that commitment that you’re going to reach that agreement by that March 4 date.”

Would he consider extending the deadline:

“You have to see where you are. I’m hopeful that we’re going to be close to making an agreement at that time, and if we are close to that agreement, then you certainly would consider that so that you can finish the deal. But you have to have that commitment; you have to be at a certain point in the negotiation to make that determination.”

One Response to “Commish: “It sounds like football – Packers, Steelers””

  • February 6, 2011  - Gary says:

    I think this will drag on until the players fracture and cry “uncle.” He who has the gold, makes the rules. However, the owners must realize the risks with perception among the football-hungry public and lawmakers. I am sure they understand these risks and it appears the owners are “all in.”

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