-- Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, told team owners Wednesday that the league's 1,700 players should receive a larger share of the revenue teams are generating from local sources, adding that "we're running out of time" if a fourth extension of their landmark collective bargaining agreement is not reached soon.
Meeting for several hours with 13 of the league's 32 owners on the first day of the two-day fall meetings, Upshaw argued for a larger piece of revenue from sources including stadium naming rights, signs, concessions and local radio deals. He said not enough of that revenue is used in determining the salary cap, now at $80.58 million for the 2004 season.
"The message I gave them today is that we're running out of time," Upshaw said. "We had a good deal, but the model has to change. . . . We want more money. They understand that. We want the fairness that was in the '94 deal to be there as we go forward. We're not here to destroy the goose that lays the golden eggs. We just want it to be fair."
Upshaw spoke to eight owners on the Management Council, and five more asked to attend. He told them he would like the highest revenue-producing teams, including the Washington Redskins, to put in a larger share of their locally produced revenue than teams that he called the "have-nots."
The first contract with free agency and the salary cap took effect in 1994 and always has been extended before it expired to avoid the uncapped year. It was last extended in 2001, with that extension providing for a salary cap through 2006, followed by an uncapped year in the final year of the agreement in 2007. The agreement would expire after the 2008 college draft, and Upshaw warned that "if we ever get to uncapped years, we'll never go back" to a salary cap.
Upshaw said that in 1994, league revenue was about $1.7 billion. This year, he said the union estimated revenue of about $6 billion. He also said the players receive 64.75 percent of the league's designated gross revenue, which does not include much of the money individual teams are making on locally earned revenue.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder was not at the meeting, and, reached in Washington, said he had no comment. Several other owners described Upshaw's comments as a negotiating ploy.
"I thought Gene handled it very well," said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. "We asked a lot of questions. . . . I would say these thoughts were along the makings that we can work something out. It will be a tough negotiation, but I think we can do it."
Harold Henderson, the NFL's executive vice president for labor relations and chairman of the Management Council, which will negotiate any extension, said the union's "money demands and expectations are excessive and probably difficult to reach. But this is a negotiation."
Henderson said the union and Management Council began talks on the extension last February, but that the pace of discussions will intensify in order to complete the process, preferably by the start of the NFL's calendar year on March 1. Any agreement would have to be ratified by a three-quarters vote of the membership. The owners' next major meeting will be in Hawaii in mid-March.
In other developments, a number of league committees met Wednesday, including the panel attempting to get a franchise for Los Angeles by 2008. Only one of the four competing groups was in attendance. Two representatives from the Los Angeles Coliseum were at the meeting but did not make a formal presentation. The Rose Bowl and the cities of Carson and Anaheim are in the running, and owners are expected to make a decision in March.