NFL labor: What's ahead? Perhaps silence
NEW YORK: As one of the strangest NFL seasons - on and off the field - winds down, football fans can begin contemplating playoff matchups, followed by the Super Bowl, then the draft.
And then, perhaps, nothing. Dark stadiums. Empty Sunday afternoons and Monday nights. No fantasy teams.
The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players expires March 4. Team owners have gone from voicing optimism to basically clamming up about reaching a contract with the players union any time soon.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith emphasize the need for substantive negotiations now. Yet the two sides remain far apart on the major issues, particularly the players' share of revenues, and a switch to an 18game regular season.
"If both sides give a little, everyone will get a lot," Goodell says, "especially the fans." Counters Smith, "The players believe this lockout is going to occur."
They certainly do, say Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, two of the NFL's top player agents, with a clientele that includes the Manning brothers, Drew Brees and Patrick Willis.
"I think the players are taking this very seriously," says Condon, who has been through three other labor disputes: in 1974 as a rookie, in '82 as a part of the negotiations, and as an outside counsel to the players in 1987. "They know what is at stake here and all the reaction to preparing for it has been positive. We have encouraged them to talk to their player reps, who are their direct lines to the union, to discuss the issues, and to discuss the issues among themselves."
Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, a 15-year veteran, says he has advised younger players on saving money. -Ap