PALM BEACH, FL—This week's league meetings don't formally include a new Collective Bargaining Agreement as a main topic of discussion, but it would seem to be foremost on everyone's mind.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with reporters Monday afternoon and most of the questions concerned the current CBA and the possibility of its nullification on Nov. 8. Should owners vote to void the agreement, 2010 would become an uncapped year and '11 could result in labor unrest.
"We are doing a tremendous amount of analysis to understand the true impact of the deal," Goodell told reporters of the current CBA, which allows players to share in total football revenue. It's a model that's thought to be causing financial distress for several franchises.
"I think we knew the pendulum would swing very much in favor of the players," Goodell said when asked what the thinking was when owners agreed to the current CBA two years ago. "I don't know that anyone thought it would swing as much as it has."
Pursuit of a new labor agreement and nullification of the current CBA will be more intensely debated at the league's May meetings, and Goodell said, "I anticipate something will happen just before the end of summer or (early in the) fall."
What exactly does happen will be critical to the Jaguars, one of the league's small-market, low-revenue teams that has intense interest in the game's threatening economic landscape.
"We're dealing in an environment now with a great more risk," Goodell said, referring to the current CBA and an American economy that teeters on the brink of recession. "I hope it doesn't come to that," he added when asked about an uncapped year in 2010. "I hope we can come to an agreement" with the players.
On everyone's lips is this question: Are we seeing the final years of the salary cap? Goodell clearly favors a salary cap system, but he acknowledged the possibility that it could expire.
"We will continue to look for some system that works," he said. "There are clubs that believe they can build a winner without paying high-priced contracts."
In other words, there are teams in the league that believe the salary cap system and its minimum-cap requirement will force them to lose money. Goodell was referring to teams that believe they can operate beneath the minimum and still remain competitive.
"I think the players need to appreciate the risks and the great costs at generating revenues," Goodell said.
When asked if there's enough "leaguethink" mentality among owners to allow small-market teams to prosper, Goodell said: "Absolutely; you saw it in the postseason this year."
On other issues:
• Goodell clearly favors the proposed playoff re-seeding format that would strip division winners of their guaranteed home game in the playoffs and, instead, re-seed division winners according to record.
"We should give incentive to win every game. The fans should expect that," Goodell said.
The final weekend of last season resulted in several surrender games and there's a camp of supporters who believe re-seeding is needed for the purpose of eliminating such lackluster efforts. Owners are to vote on the proposal this week.
• Goodell announced that the '08 season will begin on Thursday, Sept. 4, with the Super Bowl-champion Giants hosting the Redskins. The other prime-time games for that weekend are: Chicago at Indianapolis on Sunday, Sept. 7, and Minnesota at Green Bay and Denver at Oakland in a Monday night, Sept. 8, doubleheader. The league is expected to announce its full schedule next week.
• Troubled Titans cornerback Pacman Jones still has to earn reinstatement, but Goodell has no problem with the Cowboys attempting to trade for Jones, despite his suspension.
"He has to accept responsibility for his actions and, when he does, I will consider him for reinstatement," Goodell said. "If he doesn't meet that status, I don't feel any obligation to reinstate him."
• "Spygate" apparently is far from over. Goodell said he's "very anxious" to meet with former Patriots videographer Matt Walsh, who claims to have been ordered by Patriots coach Bill Belichick to spy on the St. Louis Rams prior to the 2001 season's Super Bowl, which was won by the Patriots in an upset. Goodell said Walsh is seeking some sort of protection for providing his testimony.
"If he has a tape, I would be interested to get it," said Goodell, adding that the league remains aggressive in its pursuit of "Spygate" and spy-related tactics. "We were the ones who discovered it, disclosed it and disciplined it. I believe in our integrity and we're going to take steps to reassure our fans of that."
• The "tuck-in-the-hair" proposal made by the Kansas City Chiefs could be tabled for more discussion and a decision may not be rendered until May's meetings. "I am aware of the sensitivities. I'd like to hear the players' sensitivities to it," Goodell said.