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NFL commissioner Goodell doesn't have target date to finish new labor deal

  • By Associated Press
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Headed into contract talks with the players' union, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that there is no timetable to reach a new agreement.

Goodell and the owners will meet with the NFL Players Association on Wednesday to begin negotiations, although the initial session is expected to deal with procedural questions.

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The collective bargaining agreement expires after the draft in 2011. But if the two sides don't reach an agreement by next March, the final year of the deal calls for an uncapped year, something that hasn't happened since free agency and a salary cap were instituted in the 1993 contract.

"We are not focused on that," Goodell said Monday after a news conference at the Meadowlands concerning the new stadium being built by the Jets and Giants.

"We are focused on getting an agreement that works for the long term," Goodell added. "We're not specifically setting any deadlines or dates. Our issue is we know we have two more years of football. We would like to have an agreement that works for everybody in that period of time. If it takes up to the final moment, it takes up to the final moment."

Goodell will be at the meeting, but Jeff Pash, the NFL's attorney, will be the league's lead negotiator. The union recently selected DeMaurice Smith to succeed the late Gene Upshaw as executive director.

Under the old system, teams had to pay at least 80 percent of the salary cap. In an uncapped year, they could spend as much or as little as they want.

Giants punter Jeff Feagles, who is entering his 22nd NFL season, said an uncapped year could help some veterans receive fatter deals, but it also would hurt some young players.

"I think we need to get something done amicably and soon," Feagles said, adding Upshaw once predicted that if the salary cap disappeared, it would never return.

Added Giants player representative Shaun O'Hara: "I don't think every team is going to start being like the Yankees and start throwing money around. Some teams will do that, but on the flip side, others will say since we don't have to spend $102 million, we'll spend $80 million. The landscape will definitely change, and it won't be a windfall for everybody."

Quarterback Eli Manning is entering his sixth NFL season and could be one of the big winners in an uncapped season. He refused to discuss that.

"Hopefully, everything works out for the best for the NFL," he said. "We got a good thing going. The NFL is very strong, and we want to keep it going that way."

In other matters, Goodell again refused to say whether he planned disciplinary action against suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick or former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress. Vick was released from federal prison last month, but he still has to serve two months' home confinement for operating a dogfighting ring. Burress faces illegal gun possession charges in New York after accidentally shooting himself in the thigh in November.

"Those are decisions I will make as they come to me," Goodell said. "As I said in the Michael Vick case, until he has concluded all of his legal process, I will not address it, but I will in due course."

The same will apply to Burress.

"You want to make sure you understand all the facts, make sure what has transpired and you do what is in the best interest of the overall game," Goodell said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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