NFL owners begin labor meeting
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — A sense of urgency fills the NFL owners' meetings Tuesday as they discuss progress made in recent talks with the players.
"This is the season to get a deal," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said before entering the conference room where representatives from all 32 teams were being updated by Commissioner Roger Goodell and his negotiating committee. "I think the logic that you're pushing on both sides is saying why get a deal Oct. 1, or whenever, when you could have had July 7, or whatever."
The lockout began March 12. Training camps are scheduled to open in late July.
"Let's get some work done," said New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, one of the league's most influential executives.
Several owners are expected to have objections to some of the proposals, which could lead to lengthy discussions lasting perhaps into Wednesday. But both sides appear eager to find common ground for a new collective bargaining agreement rather than going back into court. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the league's appeal of a lower-court injunction that originally blocked the lockout. That injunction is on hold, and a ruling could come anytime.
A new CBA is not imminent, but enough progress was made in talks over the last three weeks that a framework for a deal could come together quickly. First, though, the owners are examining such issues as overall revenue sharing, free agency, a rookie wage scale, and health benefits.
The key topic unquestionably is how to split revenues in the future. The NFL is a $9.3 billion industry, with projections such revenues will increase substantially soon when broadcast contracts come up for renewal. For the 2010 season, the NFL set TV ratings records.
Although no teams are claiming they aren't profitable, they say their profit margins are shrinking rapidly. Many franchises have heavy debts from stadium constructions, too.
So the owners have sought an additional $1 billion of league income before sharing with the players; the league already gets more than $1 billion off the top.
Those expense credits have been a major sticking point, though both sides recently have made some movement toward compromise. How much compromise is needed for labor peace is a key topic being discussed Tuesday.