FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Before receiving an ovation from owners and team representatives, new NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith held a very amicable conversation with league commissioner Roger Goodell in a hallway at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the site of the NFL Spring Meeting.
All things appeared peaceful -- for now, to borrow a phrase from Brett Favre.
League owners opted out of the labor pact with the union last year and will begin negotiations for a new deal as soon as next month. The current collective bargaining agreement technically expires after the 2010 season, which also could be played without a salary cap. If no accord is reached by then, a work stoppage in 2011 is a possibility.
Both the NFL and NFLPA said they would like to come to terms and avoid any of the negative triggers that could disrupt play. Hot-button issues in forming the new labor contract will deal with the distribution of revenues to players, a rookie salary cap and a regular season that could grow from 16 games to 17 or 18.
After addressing league owners and representatives, Smith reiterated the NFLPA's desire to review all of the league's finances and revenues and also to find out why the owners were so dissatisfied with a previous agreement that seemed lucrative to all parties.
Goodell reiterated his stance when it comes to the league opening up its books to the union for review.
"I think I've been pretty clear on this one," Goodell said. "They know our revenue to the penny, and it is audited by outside auditors. They clearly know our player costs. That's the majority of our costs. They know about our stadium costs.
"As it relates to getting an agreement, we're going to share the appropriate information to try and come to an agreement that's fair. There is a very clear understanding to our economics. If De, being new to the situation needs a better understanding of our economics, we'll certainly be willing to go through that."
In terms of extending the regular season, Smith said everything goes back to the league disclosing its financial history of how much teams made per regular-season game so salaries could be adjusted accordingly, should players be asked to put themselves more at risk.
"What does the average team make per game?" Smith asked. "The players understand the cost to their bodies and how difficult it is for them to get through the regular season."
Goodell said they will show the NFLPA research and data that could illustrate the positives and pitfalls of extending the regular season, and a decision as to whether to change the current 16-game schedule will be determined. Goodell did say that television contract extensions with Fox and CBS include the flexibility to expand the regular-season schedule. There will be no vote by owners regarding restructuring the schedule at these meetings, but it likely will be taken up in the coming months.
As for a rookie salary cap, Smith said it isn't an issue that should be taken up with the players. It's the owners who draft players and decide how much to pay them, Smith said, and asking them to agree to reset a pay scale that teams allowed to grow to these proportions in the first place is something with which the league might have to deal.
However, in light of Matt Ryan's six-year, $72 million contract last year and Matthew Stafford's deal that guarantees him $41.7 million before he even takes the field in 2009, several veteran players believe rookie contracts need to be reviewed. There is a feeling among some veterans that a portion of the money being paid to rookies could be re-distributed to players who have proven themselves.