- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Talks between the NFL and the players association about extending the collective bargaining agreement beyond its scheduled expiration after the 2007 season are at a standstill, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue told the owners at the start of the league’s spring meeting yesterday.

“We’re at a dead end,” Tagliabue said. “The challenges are not easy. We’re not all going to like everything, but if we’re not able to reach an agreement, then the alternatives will be far more negative.”

Tagliabue has scheduled a special league meeting April 19 but said it will be held only if some progress with the union is made beforehand. NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw was vacationing and couldn’t be reached for comment.

The main CBA issues are what additional revenues, such as luxury suites and club seats, will be shared with the players; what percentage of those revenues they will receive; and how to address the debt service accumulated during the ongoing stadium construction boom that accounts for 3 to 4 percent of league revenues.

“All of us with a stake in the league’s future success need to address these financial realities with openness to new solutions,” Tagliabue said. “Together with the players association, the league faces challenges that present a compelling need to come together and recognize that, ultimately, all franchises are made better by strong and balanced league institutions.”

While noting the $2 billion in debt service, which wasn’t a factor when the CBA was reached in 1992, Tagliabue claimed “a consensus,” not only within the league but with the union on the definition of “total football revenue.”

However, not all of the owners are so sanguine. Pittsburgh’s Dan Rooney said there’s more disagreement within the league on the CBA than there is with the union because of the gap between the high-revenue clubs, such as Washington and Dallas, and the lower-revenue clubs, such as Arizona and Minnesota.

“We can’t get a labor deal without any agreement in [the owners’ meeting rooms],” Rooney said. “The union is asking for a lot of money. That’s typical. We can’t even get to that because of where we are. [The high-revenue clubs] don’t have a gun to their heads. Maybe they will get brains soon. The clock is ticking [with the salary cap set to expire after two more seasons].”

Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones said the owners “have to be open-minded” about different approaches.

“We need to come up with some models here that the ownership can think about so that when we leave here we can have some good direction as to what we ought to be looking at,” Jones said.

Atlanta’s Arthur Blank summed up the situation.

“We’re further apart than in the past, but progress has been made,” Blank said. “We have to solve all these equations, and it’s more complicated than it has been in the past.”

Notes — Tagliabue said he’s “comfortable” with the NFL’s steroids policy even though “it’s not perfect.” … Miami is proposing to build a permanent, expanded NFL experience complex outside of Pro Player Stadium that would ensure it plays host to a Super Bowl every few years. Tagliabue said one idea would be to play the Pro Bowl there on the Sunday between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. … Tagliabue said he hasn’t received the report from NFL security about Vikings coach Mike Tice scalping Super Bowl tickets.

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