Roger Goodell hopeful NFL labor deal can be reached by end of the postseason

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 16, 2010; 12:16 AM

FORT WORTH, TEX. - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday he is hopeful that labor talks between team owners and the players' union could result in a settlement by the end of the postseason, but the negotiations first must move from mere dialogue to hard bargaining that yields progress on key issues.

Goodell, speaking to the media after team owners finished a one-day meeting here devoted largely to the negotiations, said he does not believe a pact is "practical by the end of the regular season. I certainly would work day and night to do that. But I think the end of the postseason is realistic if we all commit to it and work hard at it."

But first there must be substantive progress between the two sides at the bargaining table, Goodell said.

"I think it's a positive sign that we're having dialogue but, as I said, it's not just about meetings or dialogue," Goodell said. "It's about getting real, significant progress on the key issues."

New York Giants co-owner John Mara said the owners' discussions Wednesday of the labor situation were "mostly informational.

"Nothing has changed," Mara said. "We're still hopeful of getting an agreement sometime. But I'm always optimistic until proven otherwise."

Said Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: "Everyone wants to head in the right direction. That's everyone's intention."

The current labor deal between the owners and players expires in March. Players and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the union, have said they expect the owners to lock out players next year.

Goodell and others on the management side have said the owners would prefer to reach an agreement with the players that addresses what the owners consider the sport's financial inequities.

The players could decertify the union in a bid to avoid being locked out by the owners and potentially expose the owners to an antitrust lawsuit.

The league and NFL Players Association did reach an agreement last week that allowed the union to postpone filing a collusion case against the owners.

Goodell said Wednesday of that agreement: "I hope it's a sign that we're going to do everything to allow negotiations to resolve the issues. I've said this repeatedly: I believe this will be resolved at the collective bargaining table. Obviously we're seeing a lot of rhetoric and different tactics, including litigation strategies, that I think are all distractions and attempts to get leverage. I understand that. But at the end of the day, this will get solved at the negotiating table. That's where we should be."

Goodell also said he expects to make a decision soon about whether to discipline Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre under the league's personal conduct policy.

"I got a report last week and I expect that some time in the near future, I'll be making a decision on that," Goodell said. Asked whether that means the decision will come before the end of the season, Goodell said: "I expect so, yes."

The NFL has been investigating whether Favre sent inappropriate electronic messages and photos to a former New York Jets employee, Jenn Sterger, when both were with the team.

The owners were shown a video Wednesday depicting legal hits during games. Goodell said he believes the league's crackdown this season on enforcement of existing rules that prohibit certain hits to the head has been good for the sport.

Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said he expects discussion during the offseason of a re-seeding proposal for the playoff. Under such a proposal, it would be possible for a wild-card playoff team with a better record than a division-winning team to be seeded ahead of the division champ.

Currently, division winners get the top four playoff seeds in each conference, and the wild card teams are seeded fifth and sixth. The higher seed plays at home in each postseason matchup.

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