ATLANTA (AP) - NFL owners voted unanimously Tuesday to end their
labor agreement with the players' union in 2011. The league and
union, however, insisted the next three seasons won't be
interrupted by a contract dispute and both sides are working toward
a new deal.
"We have guaranteed three more years of NFL football,"
commissioner Roger Goodell said after the owners used the opt-out
clause built into the agreement signed more than two years ago.
"We are not in dire straits. We've never said that. But the
agreement isn't working, and we're looking to get a more fair an
The decision by the owners was anticipated, although not this
early. The 2006 agreement allowed either side to negate the
contract by Nov. 8. Godell said the owners acted early "to get
"I don't think it was a shock to anyone," said Gene Upshaw,
executive director of the NFL Players Association.
Upshaw said he learned of the move by e-mail from Goodell. The
union head said his response was: "Thanks, what a surprise."
"All this means is that we will have football now until 2010
and not until 2012," Upshaw added during a conference call. "We
will move ahead. This just starts the clock ticking. If we can't
reach agreement by 2010, then we go to no man's land, which is
The agreement signed two years ago was to last until 2013 with
the option to terminate in 2011, which is what the owners did
Tuesday. League officials and owners, including several who helped
push through the last deal, have been saying for almost a year that
while the previous contract may have been too beneficial to the
owners, the current one had swung too far toward the players.
The owners noted that they are paying $4.5 billion to players
this year, just under 60 percent of their total revenues as
specified in the 2006 agreement. League revenues are estimated at
about $8.5 billion, although none of the teams except the publicly
owned Green Bay Packers discloses figures.
The owners also want a change in the system to distribute the
money more to veterans than to unproven rookies. Their argument is
based on a disparity in salaries that leaves them spending far more
on unproven rookies than on dependable veterans.
For example, offensive tackle Jake Long, taken first in the NFL
draft last month, got a $30 million guaranteed before playing an
NFL game. David Diehl, a fifth-round pick in 2003 who has started
every game of his career and played left tackle for the New York
Giants in their Super Bowl victory, signed a six-year $31 million
extension with less than half of that guaranteed.
Upshaw made his argument in a half-hour conference call that
ended a few minutes before Goodell made his in a news conference.
The debate will continue in negotiations and through the media
over a course of months and years. Both conceded there might be no
agreement until the deadline, which Upshaw suggested might not
happen until the winter of 2010. That would be a year without a
salary cap under terms of the deal.
"We'd like to get things done," Goodell said. "But often it's
not until you have a deadline that people realize the consequences
of not reaching a deal."
Upshaw added: "March of 2010 - that's what we see as the
realistic deadline. I'm not going to sell the players on a cap
again. Once we go through the cap, why should we agree to it
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)