NFL lockout could lead to football Collapse?

The only thing certain about pro football for the rest of this year is that either the Colts or Saints will win Sunday’s Super Bowl.

After that, the NFL likely will enter its first season since 1993 without a salary cap. What effect an uncapped year will have on the 32 teams is uncertain.

What is certain is that by this time next year, a lockout could be imminent if there’s no contract between the league and its players.

“I don’t think anybody wants to see a work stoppage,” commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday at his annual Super Bowl-week news conference. “There are no benefits to that. If it comes to anything like that, we would all have failed.” 

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Failure is not a familiar word in the NFL, which has enjoyed soaring television ratings in a season filled with intriguing story lines. But a lack of progress on a new collective bargaining agreement casts a shadow over the nation’s most popular and prosperous sport.

“We have to sit at the table and we have to get an agreement that works for everybody,” Goodell said. “And that’s what people expect. They expect solutions, and I think it’s our responsibility to sit down at that table and work out the issues. I think there’s been a lot of dialogue, but we need productivity.”

Goodell bristled about a statement union chief DeMaurice Smith made Thursday. Smith estimated the chance of a lockout next year was “14” on a scale of 1 to 10.

“I couldn’t make that prediction, and I sure hope he’s wrong, and I sure hope it doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Goodell said.

“Right now we don’t need a lot of focus on that. We need to take advantage of the opportunity we have right now to structure an agreement and sit down and negotiate. That’s how this is going to get done, and we will have an agreement. It’s just a matter of when, but talking about options like work stoppages is not going to get us there.”

The owners opted out of the current agreement in 2008, claiming the players’ 60 percent share of revenues was too high. Goodell said Friday that since the 2006 agreement was struck, the NFL generated $3.6 billion in additional revenue, and $2.6 billion of that went to the players.

“The owners are actually $200 million worse off than they were in 2006,” Goodell said. “So the system is not working for at least one side of the equation. And that’s the point. You have to have a system that works for everybody here.”

On other issues, the commissioner said:

— There’s more work to do on the issue of concussions, but the league has made progress in player awareness and changing the culture.

“We want to make sure people understand that they are serious injuries, and make sure that we deal with them in a conservative and medical fashion,” Goodell said.

— Extending the season will be part of the discussion when talks with the union resume. Goodell favors adding one or two games to replace exhibition games.

“I consistently hear from players and fans that the quality of our preseason is not up to NFL standards and that we need to fix that,” he said. “This is one way of doing that, and what I believe is an effective way.”

— The NFL is still eyeing a return to Mexico; the Cardinals and 49ers held the league’s first regular-season game outside the United States in Mexico in 2005.

“We would like to expand the number of games we’re playing internationally,” Goodell said. “The restructured season, actually, is one of the ways to do that. By adding two more regular-season games, it gives us a little more flexibility to be able to reach our international audience.”

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth(notes) will be reinstated after the Super Bowl from his suspension for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk last March in the Miami area.

“I met with him when I was down here in South Florida approximately a month ago,” Goodell said. “I think he’s in a better place than he was. I think he recognizes what he did and the horrific nature and the unfortunate outcome, and I think he’s prepared himself to get back in and play.”

— The overtime system is unlikely to be changed.

“We saw overtime in two games this postseason, and they were two of the most exciting games we’ve had,” Goodell said. Arizona beat Green Bay 51-45, and New Orleans reached Sunday’s Super Bowl against Indianapolis by beating Minnesota 31-28.

— Attendance at Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games remains a concern, and with crowds of around 40,000, “you can’t continue to have an NFL franchise.” Goodell said the league wants to keep a team in St. Louis, where the Rams may be sold, and wants to return to Los Angeles.

— The cold-weather Super Bowl bid for the new Meadowlands stadium in 2014 remains under consideration.

“There are real benefits to the league considering this,” he said. “Playing in the elements is central to the way the game of football is played. I think being able to do that and celebrate the game of football in the No. 1 market could have tremendous benefits.”

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