NFL owners will gather for their annual spring meeting in Hawaii on Monday with the labor peace prevalent since the end of the 1987 players’ strike seeming less certain to continue in the long term.
If an agreement on an extension for the labor contract can’t be reached before 2007, that season would be played without a salary cap, a fact of NFL life the past 11 years. And without an extension, the collective bargaining agreement itself will expire in 2008.
The NFL Players Association wants to expand the pool of revenue to include nondesignated income like suite and club seat sales while maintaining its 65 percent slice of the pie.
Doing so could aggravate tensions between high-revenue teams like the Washington Redskins and low-revenue teams like the Arizona Cardinals and could threaten the NFL’s socialistic economic model, which has allowed teams in both Green Bay and New York to thrive.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said yesterday the league has moved closer to the union’s position on what revenues to include in the next CBA but said the sides are far apart on the percentage the NFLPA would receive.
“These are our toughest negotiations since 1992,” Aiello said. “Everyone understands what’s at stake. To date, progress has been slow.
“There’s a long way to go.”
While the ongoing NHL lockout certainly has the NFL focusing more on its labor situation, of more pressing concern in Hawaii will be the contracts for the league’s prime-time television package that long has been carried by ABC and ESPN and expires after this season.
The owners also will discuss the progress of the four proposed stadium sites for the NFL’s possible return to the huge Los Angeles market, which was abandoned by the Rams and Raiders after the 1994 season. Also on the agenda are the awarding of the 2010 Super Bowl to New York — contingent on the Jets getting a domed stadium built on the West Side of Manhattan — and a title game to Kansas City anywhere from 2012 to 2022, again contingent on the construction of a covered facility.
A Super Bowl in Washington, which was seriously considered three years ago, is not on the agenda, but Aiello said it has not been ruled out down the road. The lack of a roof on FedEx Field is Washington’s major drawback. Super Bowl XL in Detroit’s Ford Field in February will be the first in a northern city in 14 years.
The competition committee will offer to do the following: make down-by-contact calls with a change of possession reviewable by instant replay, make pass interference a 15-yard penalty instead of an automatic first down and crack down on dangerous cut blocks.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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