FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he has “no idea” whether a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached before the Super Bowl, but he plans to work hard to make it happen.
Goodell spoke four days after saying at the NFL owners meeting in Dallas that an agreement by that time was “realistic.” The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 6 and the current labor agreement between players and owners expires March 4.
“There clearly is a deal to be made,” Goodell said Sunday. “I believe that we will get there.”
Goodell made his comments during a 45-minute question-and-answer session with season-ticket holders and later to reporters before the game between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.
He said the longer the dispute continues the more damaging it is to the game.
“You need to have a system that works for everybody,” Goodell told reporters when asked about avoiding a work stoppage in 2011, “but we all know that fans want football and I think that (stoppage) would be something that we should all work very hard to avoid.”
Goodell said he would work “night and day” to accomplish that. He emphasized that the object of negotiations is not for either side to come away with a win.
“If both sides give a little, everyone will get a lot,” he said, “especially the fans.”
He also addressed two issues involving the New York Jets.
Goodell said any decision on whether to punish Brett Favre for allegedly sending inappropriate photos and phone messages to former New York Jets game hostess Jenn Sterger in 2008 would not be affected if the Minnesota Vikings put the sidelined quarterback on injured reserve.
“I’m going to do whatever I’m going to do when I’ve reached that conclusion,” Goodell said. “I haven’t finished my discussions with all the parties.”
He said he expects to make a decision before the end of the season.
Goodell also said he expects to get a report “in the next day or so” on the NFL’s investigation into remarks by Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff before deciding whether to issue any punishment. Westhoff has said other teams, including the Patriots, have players stand shoulder-to-shoulder along the sideline during punt returns.
Westhoff made the remarks after New York strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi stuck out his knee and tripped a Miami player who was running to cover a punt on Dec. 12 in the Jets’ 10-6 loss to the Dolphins.
Asked if Westhoff would be disciplined for his remarks about the Patriots, Goodell said, “if there’s a violation of a policy.”
During the session with season-ticket holders, Goodell said the NFL would like “a good portion” of the money that currently goes to rookies to go instead to “proven veterans” and retirees as part of a labor agreement.
He said about $2.5 billion, half of it guaranteed, went to 500 rookies the last two years.
Fans at the session expressed opposition to the current schedule of four exhibition and 16 regular-season games, but one suggested that an 18-game regular season might make more late-season games meaningless because teams already will have clinched playoff berths.
Goodell said the NFL moved a lot of intra-divisional games to late in the current season to make them more meaningful and also has looked into reseeding teams according to their final records to provide incentive to win as many games as possible.
“The reseeding is something that will get more consideration,” he said.
Two more regular-season games would mean more serious hitting than in exhibition games.
“Player safety has to be our priority and it will be,” Goodell said on NBC before the game. “It’s clear from both our players and our fans that preseason is not something they’re interested in. … We also have to make sure we take our game forward and figure out how to do it responsibly.”
Goodell also said he talks frequently with Michael Vick and is convinced the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback knows his role in a dogfighting ring that led to an 18-month prison sentence was wrong.
“He earned the opportunity for a second chance and he’s demonstrating, and not just on the field, what he’s doing to live his life,” Goodell said on NBC. “I’m proud of what he’s doing off the field. Obviously, he’s having an extraordinary season on the field and I’m glad for that.”
Regarding concussions, Goodell said the league has been doing research on them since 1995 and has developed “return-to-play guidelines” that help determine when a player is ready to resume playing.
On a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan two years ago, Goodell said, he was told by the joint chief of staff that the military had difficulty understanding how to deal with concussions. Now, Goodell said, the military has return-to-the-battlefield guidelines “modeled after our return-to-play guidelines.”