The day before the Super Bowl, the NFL owners and NFL Players Union will have their representatives sit down for their first formal negotiations since November.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday he wants the owners and players union to reach a new collective bargaining agreement “in the next few weeks.”
At a Super Bowl news conference, Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco was called on by Goodell to ask a question. Ochocinco said that on behalf of all players he wanted to know “how far away are we from realistically getting a deal done?”
“I can tell you the commitment on behalf of the ownership is on getting an agreement,” Goodell said. “I think that’s only going to happen when there’s intense negotiations from your union and the owners. This is the window of opportunity to get this done right. Otherwise, uncertainty is going to seep into all of our operations. … I say, let’s get to work, let’s get an agreement that works for everybody.”
Goodell and union officials are scheduled to meet Saturday, the first formal bargaining session since November.
“Status quo is not acceptable,” he said. “We have to address these issues going forward.”
The league’s collective bargaining agreement expires March 3. A lockout is widely expected, although Goodell said owners are only “committed to a deal that works and is fair to the clubs.”
“We need to sit down and have healthy negotiations about how to address the issues we have,” he said. “But the only way is by sitting down and making sure everyone knows what those challenges are and addressing them in an appropriate fashion.”
Extending the regular season by two games, to 18, is among the major issues. However, Goodell said “there are no deal-breakers.”
The main issues between the owners and players union include how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues; the owners’ push to expand the regular season to 18 games; a rookie wage scale; and benefits for retired players.
Goodell also said he has spoken to Eagles quarterback Michael Vick several times in the past few weeks. Vick was reinstated during the 2009 season after spending 18 months in prison on federal charges of running a dogfighting ring.
“He’s paid a very significant price and he’s doing the right thing,” Goodell said. “I don’t want him to put himself in a position where bad things can happen around him. He takes that seriously. I am frequently in contact with him. I want to see him continue to succeed off the field as much as on the field.”
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