GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Pacman, Matt and economic problems Print
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Monday, 31 March 2008 12:21
NFL Headline News

 PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -Some observations after two days of hobnobbing with owners, coaches and other team and NFL officials at the league's annual conclave:
-Adam ``Pacman'' Jones will be reinstated some time before training camp begins, probably after he is traded from Tennessee to Dallas. Nobody is giving odds on how long he will remain reinstated.
-Matt Walsh, Bill Belichick's designated videotaper, may eventually come forward and show the world what he taped. Most people, including Patriots and league officials, suspect the tapes will show what Belichick has already confessed to. But not the St. Louis Rams' final walkthrough practice before the 2002 Super Bowl.
-More important, the NFL owners and/or the NFL Players Association will opt out of the current labor agreement next November, sending scores of bloggers and broadcasters into ``the world is ending'' predictions.
-Most important: There is unlikely to be a work stoppage or even a significant change in the system once Roger Goodell, Gene Upshaw and their negotiators hammer out a new agreement. It might take until the last minute, but both the owners and players know better than to kill their cash cow.
Are these really labor problems, anyhow?
Two years ago, the league and the union hammered out a labor extension on the eve of free agency that allowed business to continue as usual.
It was the last major action orchestrated by Paul Tagliabue as commissioner - he announced his retirement shortly thereafter - and it corrected what some owners and league officials concede today was an imbalance in favor of the owners. Before the deal, the players were getting approximately 54 percent of the owners' revenues; this year, they are getting a little more than 60 percent depending on how it's calculated. Indeed, the formula is too complicated to get into all the arcane details.
In the simplest terms, the difference is that in 2005, the salary cap was $85 million. Today it's $116 million and is likely to be $123 million next year, a transfer of approximately $1 billion from owners to players.
Combine that with a declining economy and interest rates on bonds that have almost doubled the original estimated stadium construction costs in Dallas and New York, and the owners are actually worried about getting poor. Or at least not as rich as they have been.
Denver recently laid off eight front-office employees, although the move was more symbolic than anything else - their combined annual salaries were less than what a backup long snapper makes in half a season.
Still, the NFL thinks it has cause for concern.
``When you shrink the margins, at some point in time the agreement becomes untenable,'' commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday. ``We have to be very cautious here and the players need to recognize those risks and the tremendous costs.''
Nonetheless, Goodell talks regularly to union chief Upshaw. And no one in the NFL office seems worried about Upshaw's public predictions, three years ahead of the fact, of lockouts, decertification and the other dire ramifications of labor unrest.
But that's the kind of rhetoric that goes with negotiations.
One top NFL official said privately last weekend that he wouldn't expect Upshaw to say anything else. And everyone in the NFL hierarchy will tell you on background that both the union and the league are very much aware the NFL, whose last work stoppage was in 1987, is the only major sports league that's had labor peace that long.
Upshaw, even as he was making alarming predictions at his pre-Super Bowl news conference, finished the session with kind of a wink to a few reporters he knows well - a signal that ``you know that what I'm saying is what I have to say.''
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The other issues confronting Goodell involve Jones, the suspended Tennessee cornerback who seems on the verge of being traded to Dallas, and Walsh, the one-time New England employee whose lawyer continues to negotiate with the league and the Patriots over revealing information or tapes he presumably has.
``I want to see them and I want to see them as soon as possible so we can get this thing over with,'' New England owner Robert Kraft said Monday. He repeated the same thoughts four hours later in the hallway to a gaggle of reporters, again emphasizing that Walsh signed no confidentiality agreement.
The implication, of course, is that there are no tapes of the St. Louis Rams' final walkthrough before the 2002 Super Bowl.
``I'm looking forward to him speaking, and hopefully cleaning this up and completely exonerating us,'' Kraft said. ``I know we and the NFL have done everything we can do to help his lawyers have him speak.''
League officials conceded they made one mistake in the ``Spygate'' matter - and it wasn't destroying the tapes that the Patriots turned in of spying on other teams' signals.
It was not saying publicly that the taping went back, as Goodell put it Monday, throughout Belichick's head coaching career, which began in Cleveland in 1991. If nothing else, it would probably have kept away Sen. Arlen Specter, who has been putting pressure on the league to interview Walsh.
Finally there is Jones, who remains in limbo following his yearlong suspension after a variety of transgressions.
Right now, Dallas is trying to work out a trade for him with the Titans, offering a low draft choice and a second-tier player. Tennessee wants more. But Jones will eventually be traded because the Titans don't want any more of him.
Still, he has to be reinstated. All Goodell would say Monday is that he'll evaluate the situation before training camp. But he also noted that even after putting all his legal troubles behind him, Jones was frequenting an Atlanta strip club. That caused Goodell to put off considering reinstatement.
There are more strip clubs in the Dallas area than anywhere.
Draw your own conclusions.
 

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