INDIANAPOLIS -- Officials in Indianapolis expect next year's Super Bowl to be played on its scheduled date, Feb. 5.
If it's not, well, the host committee believes a title game will be played there in another year.
On Wednesday, for the first time, chairman Mark Miles acknowledged that although the committee plans to be ready on game day 2012, league officials have indicated that Indianapolis would host a future game if a labor stoppage forced a cancellation.
"We believe we will have a Super Bowl in 2012, and if we don't, we'll have another one," Miles said during a news conference about 400 days from the scheduled game. "It's understood, that in the extremely unlikely case that we didn't have one, we would have a future one."
Miles declined to say what year that might be. The 2013 Super Bowl is scheduled for New Orleans, with the 2014 game slated for East Rutherford, N.J. So the next open date would be 2015.
A cancellation of the NFL's biggest game has never occurred, even in the strike years of 1982 and 1987. In '82, the season was shortened to nine games. In '87, the season was shortened to 15 games, and owners brought in replacement players for three games -- all of which counted in the standings.
Concern over a potential lockout because the collective bargaining agreement between the players' union and the league expires in March raised questions about the 2012 Super Bowl.
Indianapolis organizers don't expect the game to be the first cancellation. League officials asked the city to block out hotel rooms and space for two weekend dates, one for the originally scheduled game, the second as a contingency plan for the next weekend, during the bid process.
League officials haven't asked the host committee to block out any additional dates, Miles said, and Colts owner Jim Irsay doesn't expect any changes.
"I've talked to the commissioner about it, and honestly, I think that's putting the cart way before the horse," Irsay said. "To me, I really just think it's speculation because we're so far away from that scenario."
But if the game were canceled, Irsay said, it was a "given" that Indianapolis would host a future Super Bowl.
In August, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said it wasn't unusual for the league to seek a backup date. The contingency plan could be used for anything from an expanded 18-game schedule to bad weather, but most believe it would be necessary if there is labor strife.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has said he doesn't expect a new deal completed anytime soon and is predicting team owners will lock out players.
Players already are preparing for the worst. As early as the summer of 2009, player representatives instructed teammates to start saving additional money for health insurance and living expenses in case of a lockout.
Earlier this week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an e-mail to about 5,000 fans, writing that "if both sides give a little," the two sides "can and will reach an agreement."
In Indianapolis, where these words can resonate, committee members haven't changed a thing.
"If there were a lockout and even if it was quite prolonged, we still would probably have a Super Bowl, so nothing changes what we're doing," Miles said. "So we expect to have our Super Bowl in February 2012 and we expect to be ready for that date."
And instead of worrying about a labor stoppage they can't control, Miles and host committee president Allison Melangton are focused on the things they can determine, such as getting volunteers ready to shovel snow, dealing with parking issues and flying observers to Dallas for next month's Super Bowl.
For more NFL labor news, visit http://NFLLabor.com
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press