Gene Upshaw is on vacation at Lake Tahoe until Labor Day, but the executive director of the NFL Players Association said his union is "not even in the same zip code" with league owners on reaching a final settlement on an extension of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out after the 2007 season.
"If we don't get it done by October, it will be too late," Upshaw said in a telephone interview. League owners met last week for a day in Chicago with the CBA a major topic of discussion. The owners will meet again on the same subject Sept. 14-15 in Atlanta and again at their regular fall meeting Oct. 26-27 at a still undetermined site.
While Upshaw conceded there has been some movement on the owners' position, he said, "They still haven't moved to where we think it should be."
The main issue, Upshaw said, remains the percentage of total football revenue the union wants for its members. He indicated the owners have come up from previous proposals to offer 57 percent of the revenues, but that the NFLPA is seeking 64 percent. The owners, meanwhile, have still not come to a consensus on revenue-sharing among the 32 teams and what exactly will constitute total football revenue.
"By what they're proposing, we think we'd be getting less than what we're already getting now," Upshaw said. "I'm not going to do that. They say we should be happy, but to me, to stand still is to lose ground. What they're offering is a bad deal, and we're not going to agree to a bad deal for the players."
An NFL spokesman declined to comment.
The players are now getting 65 percent of what has been known as designated gross revenues. One league source said yesterday that 57 percent of the new category of "total football revenue" actually computes to more revenue than the players had been getting under the old system.
Under terms of the current agreement, a salary cap would be in effect for 2005 and 2006, but the 2007 season would be an uncapped year, meaning teams can spend as much or as little as they want on player salaries.
"Once we get to 2006, it's going to be hard for me to turn the players around because of that uncapped year," he said. "The players will want to go to an uncapped season. I know no one believes that, but trust me, that's what they're telling me. The longer we take on this, the more guys will be willing to take their chances in that uncapped year."
Still, according to the current collective bargaining agreement, an uncapped year is not all in the players' favor. In a capped year, players can become unrestricted free agents after four seasons; in an uncapped year, a player becomes unrestricted after six seasons in the league. In an uncapped year, the league also is not required to contribute as much to a wide variety of player benefits, including pension and health benefits.