Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said today that his organization will begin negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the league Feb. 16.
"We will hold a three- to four-day session in Miami," Garvey said. "We hope that negotiations would be wrapped up no later than May 1. There is no reason why you can't achieve an agreement before May 1 and avoid the pitfalls that baseball went through (with a strike)."
The current agreement between the league and the NFLPA expires July 1. Garvey used a news conference at the Super Bowl press headquarters to put pressure on the NFL to commence serious bargaining at the Miami session.
But it was apparent during the course of the conference, which was also attended by members of the NFLPA executive committee, that a strike is a distinct possibility next season.
"We have learned how to strike," said Stan White, a Detroit linebacker. "We've learned the proper time to strike."
Garvey said more than 92 percent of the players support percentage of gross as a No. 1 priority and that a membership survey showed that 95 percent are willing to strike for it. The association's bargaining proposal calls for distributing 55 percent of the league's annual gross revenue among the players.
Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL Management Council, said the owners oppose the concept of revenue sharing and would reject the proposal even if the players asked for less than the 44 percent the league says it currently spends.
He discounted the 95 percent strike-support figure presented by Garvey. "Unions are political organizations," he said. "Any self-respecting union can get a 99 percent vote to strike months before contract expiration. That's no big deal."