Jeff Pash, the NFL's executive vice president of labor and general counsel, expressed optimism about reaching a new labor agreement with the NFL Players Association on Thursday.
Despite differences over critical issues including HGH testing for players, a rookie wage scale and the potential transition to an 18-game season, Pash emphasized the league's commitment to reaching an agreement with the union and avoiding a potential work stoppage.
"Our commitment to everyone -- to our fans, to all of the clubs and the players -- is to work as hard as we can to reach a new agreement," Pash said in an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in The Morning."
"There will be an agreement," Pash said. "I am very confident of that."
Pash emphasized that the next collective bargaining agreement must address the league's current issues head-on.
"When someone tells you that they're happy with the deal and we should just extend it without changing a thing, that's a code for saying it's a pretty one-sided deal," he said. "Let's come up with a system that builds the game, that grows the game and that delivers better value for fans, and that's going to take some changes."
On Wednesday, also on "Mike and Mike in The Morning," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith suggested that the players were satisfied with the current deal.
"The players haven't asked for anything," Smith said. "The owners opted out of this deal. We've told them that we're happy with the deal the way it is right now before the uncapped year. We were willing to extend the current deal for another six years."
One sticking point in negotiations is the subject of HGH testing for players. When asked if the NFLPA and players were resistant to testing, Pash responded, "Absolutely."
Pash was asked if there was an HGH test that the league could trust.
"I can't speak for everyone, but what I can say is our understanding of the science is that there have been substantial advances and that the Olympic anti-doping authorities have validated the test," Pash said. "We think it is at the point where it is appropriate to introduce it into the NFL."
Pash also addressed the potential of an 18-game regular season.
"We could say that we're going to go to 18 games without reducing the preseason," he said. "(What) we should do is deliver a season that is of greater value to our fans by having them get 18 games that they want as opposed to 16."
On the topic of a rookie wage scale, Pash discussed the desire to shift money from untested rookies to proven veterans.
"There is no reason why a player should come into the NFL and, before he has his first practice, is one of the highest-paid players not only in the league but in all of professional sports," Pash said.
Pash stated that both sides have been working hard to reach a deal, but while it won't be easy, he remains hopeful about the outcome.
"This is a very complicated set of agreements that we have to work on, and we're going to keep at it," he said. "I'm optimistic."
Pash cited uncertainty over the economy as an obstacle in the negotiations.
"It is really no different from what you see in the broader economy, where businesses all over America are sitting on cash, they're not hiring and they're not expanding because they don't know what the economy is going to be like," Pash said. "... You're seeing the same thing here. People don't know. What's the cap going to be in 2011? What will the rules be concerning player signings? What will the rookie system be going forward? That tends to cause people on both sides to sit back and wait to try to get some clarity."
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