OXNARD, Calif. -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says that he and his fellow NFL team owners don't necessarily need to reach a revenue-sharing accord at the same time they complete an extension of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has been conducting the two sets of talks -- the revenue-sharing deliberations among the owners and the labor negotiations with the NFL Players Association -- concurrently, hoping to have deals in place on both fronts around October. The union also wants a revised revenue-sharing plan to come as part of a new labor deal.
But Jones says the owners could ensure continued labor peace for the NFL by extending the collective bargaining agreement without settling the contentious revenue-sharing issue.
"The two, in my mind, from my perspective, aren't connected," he said during an interview here Thursday at the Cowboys' training camp. "That's those [owners] that want to get more revenue-sharing and want to make that an issue. I don't see that. I think if we ultimately see something that is do-able between labor and the league, then you can have it without any additional revenue-sharing."
Tagliabue is attempting to get the owners to agree to a system that would transfer more locally generated revenues -- from suites, sponsorships and stadium naming-rights deals, among other things -- from the wealthiest franchises to less prosperous clubs.
Some owners have expressed concerns that the growing revenue disparities between the richest teams -- including the Washington Redskins, New England Patriots, Houston Texans and Cowboys -- and the other clubs eventually could lead to a competitive imbalance. The league's strength, those owners argue, was built on the competitive balance created by teams sharing their revenues equally, as they do with national television contracts.
But Jones says that teams already share 85 percent of their revenues and that's enough. The richest clubs deserve to keep their additional revenues, Jones says, because those owners generally have paid more for their franchises, have more debt and have invested more money to create new revenue streams.
"That allows that entity that has put in a substantial investment to compete with 26 or 23 other clubs that don't have that kind of investment," Jones said. "These are teams that we're talking about that want additional revenue-sharing that don't have anything like the investment of teams that don't want to share the revenue."
Jones says that if the clubs share more of their revenues, it would make no sense for a potential owner of a prospective Los Angeles franchise to pay the sort of premium price that the league will be seeking for a team in the nation's second-largest TV market.
"If there were no difference [in revenue-generating potential] between Los Angeles and Indianapolis, do you really think you're going to get a team in Los Angeles?" Jones said. "Let's be real . . . . If we keep things like they are right now, the incentive is there for a team to come into L.A. But if we think it's going to come in as part of a communal effort by the NFL, it doesn't happen.
" . . . Nobody is thinking they're going to come out here and put a team here and become a multimillionaire. I don't know anybody that comes into the NFL like that. They've got a lot of places they could put their investment and do better than that. But they can't get their financial soul handed to them if they come in. It's got to somehow make some sense at some time that you could get on a livable basis with the other teams in the NFL. But if you look at teams that want to share more revenues, they're teams that don't have a lot on the table. They've long since not had any serious investment in their team."
Players Association chief Gene Upshaw is seeking, as part of the labor negotiations, to expand the pool of revenues from which the players are paid, and says the league's current proposals are insufficient. Jones says the union should be wary of seeking drastic changes to a system under which the players have flourished financially.
"That's what I'm trying to be a proponent of: Let's look at what has happened with the revenue that we do share and that we don't share, and how the league has had success and gone forward on that basis," Jones said. "Now if players want to change their percentage that they've done so well with and want more, then that's another negotiation. That has nothing to do with the revenues. If they think they could get more by making those seven or eight teams at the top [share more revenues], watch out what you wish for because it will probably lessen the kinds of revenues that come into this league. That's my point."
Content in California
The Cowboys are conducting their camp next to a golf course in Oxnard, about an hour's drive from Los Angeles, for a second straight year, and Jones said he'd be interested in striking a long-term arrangement to keep the team's summer home here. The weather is not oppressive -- the Cowboys' practice Thursday was conducted on a sunny but breezy and pleasant afternoon -- and Jones said he likes the notion of using camp to continue to cultivate a national following for his club.
"I really like the idea of having the exposure for the team, the interest in the team on the west coast," he said. "All of that is really a positive . . . . We gain fans that otherwise we wouldn't have by just visibility, by just association when we come out here. But perception is the big value. It's the same thing that happens when we play preseason games in Mexico. We certainly want to gain fans right there that can come out and watch us if they can. But the perception is, it endears us to our fans back in the States, our Hispanic [fan] base back in the States. The same thing is true when we come to California. You're not only gaining fans by coming to California and gaining supporters, it also sends a message that the Dallas Cowboys are America's team. We do play in Texas and train in California and play our biggest rivalries on the East coast. That's valuable." . . .
Jones said he's happy with the offensive stability he's seen from his team in training camp with Drew Bledsoe, signed as a free agent in the offseason, at quarterback. And he indicated he's not as concerned as some outsiders are about potential defensive instability created by the Cowboys' indecision about whether to use a four-linemen, three-linebacker setup or a 3-4 scheme this season.
Coach Bill Parcells had his defensive assistants learn how to coach a 3-4 alignment, and the Cowboys are alternating between the two defensive systems on their training-camp practice field. If learning the 3-4 becomes too much of a struggle, Jones said, the Cowboys simply will switch back to a 4-3 full-time.
Still, rookie Demarcus Ware acknowledged Thursday that his adjustment to the NFL has been complicated a bit by alternating between playing defensive end in a 4-3 setup and outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. "One play I'll be down at defensive end, and the next play I'm up at linebacker," Ware said.
But Ware, one of the Cowboys' two first-round draft choices in April, said he's not the only one adjusting and he's confident that it all will work out.
"Once you come from a college that really played a majority of 4-3, and moving to linebacker, you have to really study the play book, knowing what the offense is doing and what your responsibilities are," Ware said. "Everybody is sort of in a learning process." . . .
The Cowboys lost reserve offensive tackle Jacob Rogers for the entire season because of a knee injury that will require surgery.
Gates Could Sit
The San Diego Chargers have threatened to make tight end Antonio Gates inactive for three games, including the regular season opener, if he doesn't report to the team's training camp by Saturday afternoon.
The Chargers told agent Andre Colona that they'd place Gates on their roster exempt list -- requiring a player to be inactive for three games after he reports to the team -- if he doesn't meet the 12:30 p.m. deadline.
Gates has refused to sign the one-year, $380,000 contract that the Chargers tendered in the offseason as an exclusive-rights free agent (one ineligible to negotiate with other clubs based on his limited service time) and has refused to report to camp. The two sides have been unable to agree to the sort of long-term deal that Gates feels he deserves after establishing himself as one of the league's top tight ends last season . . . .
The Chicago Bears have made what they've termed a "final" contract offer to tailback Cedric Benson, the fourth overall selection in the draft. He is the last unsigned first-round pick league-wide.
The Bears had the league's last-ranked offense last season by a wide margin and will enter their Sept. 11 regular season opener against the Redskins at FedEx Field without their starting quarterback (the injured Rex Grossman) and with their prized rookie and would-be centerpiece runner either absent or having missed most of the preseason . . . .
The New York Giants and Miami Dolphins are among the teams that reportedly have expressed interest in quarterback Tim Couch, the former top overall draft pick by the Cleveland Browns who was out of the league last season after experiencing arm problems in training camp and being released by the Green Bay Packers.