NFL Says Negotiations Are Not Going Well
By BARRY WILNER
Friday, February 03, 2006
There's nothing like a little gloom and doom at the end of Super Bowl week. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's pessimism about labor negotiations with the players' union permeated his annual state of the league address Friday.

"We're not making the kind of progress we need to be making," he said. "I don't think negotiations are going very well."

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said the same thing the previous day. Upshaw warned that without significant movement by March 9, the union will consider its legal options.

The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2007 season. But under the current contract, there would be no salary cap in 2007. Upshaw insists if the cap disappears then, it won't come back.

Tagliabue doesn't recognize March 9 as any particular deadline _ after all, there are two full seasons remanning under the deal _ but he has a sense of urgency.

Unfortunately, he believes the owners and players are drifting farther apart.

"I do think there needs to be an outreach and more reality on both sides," Tagliabue said. "There needs to be a positive dose of reality on both sides of the table. To some degree, positions are hardening on both sides when they shouldn't be."

He wasn't optimistic about making much progress in negotiations before the league's meetings begin March 25 in Orlando, Fla.

"A lot of things get done at the 11th hour and 59th minute," Tagliabue said. "I don't know if we'll get something done by the league meetings."

These talks have become more contentious in great part because team owners can't agree among themselves how to divide revenues that will go to the players. High-revenue teams who make more money from sources other than television and ticket sales are balking at contributing the same percentage of their income as low-revenue franchises.

Patriots owners Robert Kraft, one of the league's power brokers, believes a CBA extension must preclude any agreement among the owners on how to split money.

"Until we know what our deal is with the union, we can't come together among ourselves on revenue sharing," he said.

Upshaw talked Thursday about a potential decertification of the union. Tagliabue conceded those were possibilities, but "I don't think we'll be in litigation or decertification."

Tagliabue also:

_ noted that while the "Rooney rule" that requires interviewing minority candidates for coaching and front office jobs is working, no minorities got any of the eight openings filled thus far.

"I thought we were getting beyond the stereotypes and these men were accepted as coaches, not as minority coaches," Tagliabue said. "I thought it would carry over to the hiring process and it didn't.

"We all understand the need to be aggressive to blitz this issue. We need to be measured by what we do and achieve, and not by what we say."

_ reiterated league support for keeping the Saints in New Orleans, saying the commitment is multiyear. He hopes all eight of their regular-season games next season will be played at the Superdome.

"The team coming back and the Superdome coming back can be a magnet to attract other businesses," he said.

_ virtually ruled out another international regular-season game in 2006. Although the *****-Cardinals game in Mexico City last October was a huge success, "right now it would be difficult to play a regular-season game outside the United States in this upcoming season."

_ expressed his support for instant replay as an officiating tool, even as he acknowledged the botched reversal in the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis playoff game.

"It's perfectly clear that in an overwhelming number of cases, it eliminates mistaken calls and gives officiating crews the chance to see things they do not see in real time."

_ saw only expansion to Los Angeles anytime soon, even though it would give the NFL an odd number of franchises.

"To me, the only possibility in the foreseeable future for an expansion team would be Los Angeles," he said. "I could not see a decision with two expansion teams."