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NFL labor talks shifting to Boston

By Barry Wilner
Associated Press / June 22, 2011

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — The next time NFL owners meet over labor, there is hope it will be to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with the players.

Don’t get carried away thinking a deal is imminent. Optimism is in the air, for sure. That doesn’t mean the end of the lockout is at hand.

Owners were briefed yesterday on discussions for a new CBA that would net the players just under 50 percent of total revenues. Next up: more talks with the players in the Boston area.

Several people with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press that commissioner Roger Goodell and his labor committee will meet with players association chief DeMaurice Smith in Boston today and tomorrow. The owners spent five hours yesterday getting updated on various CBA issues. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are supposed to be confidential.

“We’re going to meet with them soon and we’re eager to accelerate the pace of the negotiations,’’ said Jeff Pash, the NFL’s chief negotiator.

“We have a lot of work to do and we’ve got to do it right,’’ Goodell added.

One person told the AP that the players’ share would approach the 50 percent the NFLPA has said it has received throughout the last decade. But the expense credits — about $1 billion last year — that the league takes off the top would disappear.

Also, there would no longer be “designated revenues’’ from which the players would share, the person said. Instead, the players would share from the entire pie, which they project will grow significantly over the course of the new CBA, which is expected to run anywhere from six to 10 years. So if they are taking 48 percent or more of a much higher revenue stream — without the initial NFL deduction for operating expenses — the players still would receive far more money than under the previous agreement.

A salary floor keeping teams within 90 percent of the cap also would be included. The players have been concerned that some teams whose revenue streams don’t match up with the richer clubs would try to hold down salary spending.

“It was a good day in the sense of we had a full discussion on the issues,’’ Goodell said. “Ownership is united and determined to reach an agreement and have a full 2011 season. The ownership has a better understanding of the framework [of a new CBA].’’

Several owners were expected to have objections to some of the proposals. Goodell was asked if there was a consensus among owners, to which he replied that “is a little deceiving because we don’t have an agreement’’ with the players.

“The membership has a strong view of the priorities and what we need to do, and a determination to get there,’’ Goodell said.

Asked how close an agreement might be, neither Goodell nor Pash would put a timetable on it.

“I have no idea,’’ Pash said.

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