NEW YORK — No NFL salary cap next season seems a foregone conclusion to Roger Goodell.
Without any substantive negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement, NFL commissioner Goodell said Thursday team owners are preparing for an uncapped 2010 season, the final year of the current deal that the owners opted out of last year.
“Because of the timing, we recognize there’s a strong reality there will be an uncapped year, and the owners have planned for it,” Goodell said. “What the owners’ intent is is to get an agreement.”
Goodell also bristled at the notion the owners would lock out the players in 2011.
“That a lockout would be their objective, that’s foolish,” he said.
Goodell met with union chief DeMaurice Smith on Tuesday over lunch, but no negotiations took place.
“I told De, ‘Let’s start negotiating,” Goodell said, “and that’s our intent.”
But there is no timetable for beginning significant talks, and the union says the onus is on the owners to present an offer.
According to league figures, the players have received about 75 percent of revenues since 2006, while the other 25 percent has gone to costs, plus another 6 percent over that which owners have absorbed because of rising costs.
The union disputes those numbers.
“The CBA explicitly restricts player costs to just under 60 percent,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told The Associated Press. “That is fixed. They’d have to provide relevant information to support that wild claim, because we certainly don’t have it.”
Goodell insisted the union knows everything about the teams’ finances.
“The union has incredible information with respect to the teams. They have audit rights,” Goodell said. “I think that’s a distraction from the real issues. We don’t want to get into rhetoric. I told that directly to De on Tuesday.”
Citing a recent survey by Forbes magazine showing 19 franchises are worth at least $1 billion, Atallah said: “Average team profits last year increased by 31 percent and labor costs by only 4 percent. Historical reports by Forbes also reveal that team values have increased exponentially. The Patriots, for example, increased in value from $172 million in 1994 to $1.4 billion today. That’s 713 percent in the past 15 years. Doesn’t seem like a broken model to me.
“Just tell us directly the specifics of why this CBA is not working,” he added. “We can’t be forced to negotiate over a proposal that doesn’t yet exist.”
Early in a news conference Thursday at league headquarters, Goodell announced Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be eligible to play in Week 3. Originally, Goodell ruled that Vick, who completed a 23-month federal sentence for dogfighting earlier this summer, could not return before the sixth week of the season.
“He understands he has very little margin for error,” Goodell said of Vick, who played Thursday night against the Jets.
-Noted several early-season games are not sold out and could be blacked out locally. He said “our worst-case projection is at least 80 percent of our games will be shown in local markets and are sold out.”
He reiterated his support for an expansion of the regular season to 17 or 18 games, eliminating two preseason matches. That issue has been discussed with the union.
-Said the video boards in the new Cowboys Stadium won’t present a significant problem for punters.
After Titans punter A.J. Trapasso hit the video board at the $1.3 billion facility in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 21, the league altered its playing rules. The boards hang at 90 feet, which is 5 feet higher than NFL guidelines.
When asked how concerned he was about punters consistently hitting the bottom of the video screens, Goodell responded: “One kick in a preseason game?”
“What’s become clear from research is that up to 85 feet [is a maximum], and that’s our guideline,” he said. “Above that is not supported by our research.”
But he recognized the need for a rule for such situations, and how game officials should handle them.
“We have to have a rule that deals with anything that strikes an object — a speaker or scoreboard — and we didn’t have that in place specifically as it relates to instant replay,” Goodell said.
That rule, issued last Friday, calls for an immediate whistle and a replay of the down, with no time taken off the clock. Plus, the replay official can ask for a TV review to determine if a ball hit the video boards, regardless of the time in the game.
-Expressed optimism about the league’s presence in England. So much so that he envisions more than one regular-season game in London next year, and perhaps a London franchise in the future.
-Insisted team owners will continue to address concerns over pensions for retired players.
“Owners are committed to it,” he said. “They have demonstrated that.”
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press