NFL lockout will soon imperil preseason, commissioner Roger Goodell says


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the owners’ meetings in Indianapolis. (AJ Mast/AP)
May 25, 2011

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league still intends to play a full season this fall but the time is nearing when the lockout will imperil the chances of a full training camp, preseason and 16-game schedule.

“We don’t have a date,” Goodell said when asked about the lockout jeopardizing a complete training camp and preseason. “But obviously that time is coming. . . . We’re getting close enough now where those will have to be considerations.”

Several owners expressed similar sentiments.

“Obviously, the closer we get, the more concerned you are,” New York Giants co-owner John Mara said Wednesday, the second and final day of an owners meeting here. “But we haven’t set a date. . . . But I believe very strongly we’re going to have a 2011 season and there will be a Super Bowl in Indianapolis.”

Asked whether he is confident there will be a 16-game season, Mara said: “Let’s hope so.”

The lockout reached its 71st day Wednesday, with owners and players awaiting a June 3 hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis on the legality of the shutdown imposed by the league March 12. A three-judge panel will take up a lower court ruling that lifted the lockout. By a 2-1 vote, those judges have allowed the NFL to keep the lockout in place while the legal process continues.

Goodell said Wednesday that the league remains willing to compromise in negotiations with the players even after recent rulings by the appeals court that have gone the NFL’s way.

“When there’s uncertainty, there’s a great chance to get a resolution because there’s risk for everybody,” he said, adding, “The longer it goes, the more damage there is to the game.”

But Goodell also said he expects the revenue losses caused by the lockout to be reflected in the NFL’s future proposals for a new collective bargaining agreement.

“We’ve made it very clear that is occurring and continuing to accelerate,” Goodell said. “That will obviously impact on the owners and the ability to make proposals that [the players] find attractive.”

During the lockout, teams have suffered a drop in ticket sales for next season, Goodell said, though he provided no details.

The league and players are scheduled to resume court-ordered mediated talks in Minneapolis on June 7. That will be four days after the hearing in St. Louis, but probably weeks before the appellate court rules. Goodell said the struggle for legal leverage must give way at some point to serious negotiations.

“That’s where we are,” Goodell said. “It’s time to negotiate. We have to reach an agreement.”

Goodell left open the possibility of roster sizes being increased if teams must open the upcoming season with a reduced amount of preparation time in training camp and the preseason, and said the league has “contingency plans for our contingency plans.”

The NFL Coaches Association filed an amicus brief with the appeals court supporting the players’ legal effort to have the lockout ended. The trade association for coaches, which is not a union, shares office space with the NFL Players Association in Washington.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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