Goodell: Slow labor negotiations likely mean no salary cap in 2010

NEW YORK -- No NFL salary cap next season seems like a foregone conclusion to commissioner Roger Goodell.

Without any substantive negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement, Goodell said Thursday that team owners are preparing for an uncapped 2010 season, the final year of the current deal that they 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 that 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 over lunch Tuesday, but no negotiations took place.

"I told De, 'Let's start negotiating,'" Goodell said, "and that's our intent."

However, 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."

But Goodell insisted that 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."

Early in a news conference at league headquarters, Goodell announced that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vickwill be eligible to play in Week 3 of the regular season. Goodell originally ruled that Vick, who completed a 23-month federal sentence for dogfighting earlier this summer, couldn't return before the sixth week of the season.

Goodell also noted that several early season games aren't sold out and could be blacked out locally, although he said "our worst-case projection is at least 80 percent of our games will be shown in local markets and are sold out."

While Goodell wasn't bullish on a quick resolution to the labor situation, he 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 franchise there in the future.

Goodell reiterated his support for an expansion of the regular season to 17 or 18 games, eliminating two preseason contests. That issue has been discussed with the union.

Goodell also insisted that 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

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