NFL looks into illegal player contact; Goodell gives CBA update

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the Miami Dolphins and four other teams have been fined or told the league is investigating them for violating offseason rules prohibiting contact with players.

Goodell was asked specifically about the Dolphins at the NFL Annual Meeting in New Orleans, and he didn't reveal the other teams involved. He responded to a reporter who asked if the league pursued a potential violation revealed by Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, who told the *Miami Herald* in late February that he had been meeting with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll in the period before the official offseason began.

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the violations aren't related to the league's lockout of players, which began March 12, hours after negotiations broke off and the union dissolved. Even during normal offseasons, from the end of one season until around March 15, NFL rules bar teams from holding organized workouts, practice or meetings, and don't allow position coaches to supervise players.

"It's a 'go home and relax' period," Pash said.

Since the lockout began, no contact between the league's 32 teams and players has been allowed. Players aren't paid and can't negotiate new contracts. They also aren't allowed to use team facilities.

Goodell said he hasn't spoken to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith since March 11, when talks ended after 16 days of federal mediation.

That day, owners made a proposal that included an increase in their 2011 salary-cap offer from $131 million to $141 million; the players had been seeking a $151 million cap for that year, plus a chance to earn a percentage of any higher-than-projected revenues above a certain threshold.

"Every day that goes by," Goodell said, "makes it harder and harder to keep the elements in that proposal."

Six days after that proposal was made, Goodell outlined some of the specifics in an e-mail sent to all active players.

Some players complained about Goodell's letter, saying it was meant to divide them. They also objected to the letter's suggestion that players push their "union to return to the bargaining table" -- the NFLPA renounced its status as a union and says it is now a trade association. That, in turn, permitted players to sue the league in federal court under antitrust laws. A hearing is scheduled for April 6.

Asked Tuesday why he sent that letter, Goodell replied: "What the ownership wanted to make sure is that the players knew what their leadership had walked away from in the mediation process. So we sent that directly to the players. As you know, they're claiming not to be a union, but we think it was important to send that so the players understood what the owners had offered."

Goodell repeated his hope that negotiations will resume -- perhaps before the draft begins April 28 -- and said owners want to have a complete 2011 season.

The "primary focus" of the two days of meetings in New Orleans, Goodell said, was "our labor dispute and our planning and preparation on that."

"We are certainly planning on having a full season," he said. "That's our objective, and we're going to work as hard as we can to make that become a reality."

When asked if the NFL had considered using replacement players if the first work stoppage since 1987 stretches on, Goodell said owners haven't talked about it, and the league might not keep its last contract offer on the table if bargaining doesn't resume soon.

"We have not had any discussions or consideration of replacement players," Goodell said. "It hasn't been discussed, it hasn't been considered, and it's not in our plans."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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