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 PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -The NFL is almost as busy during this early spring week as it is staging a Super Bowl.
The league's agenda for the owners meetings includes discussing concerns about the collective bargaining agreement in light of the slumping economy. And a series of rules changes, including allowing helmet communications on defense. And reseeding of playoff qualifiers so that a wild-card team with a better record than a division winner could host a first-round game.
Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear Monday the CBA has become a key point of discussion. Amid speculation team owners could opt out of the current deal in November - freeing the way for a 2010 season without a salary cap - Goodell emphasized the potential need to restructure the contract.
``We are doing a tremendous amount of analysis around the league agreement to understand the true impact of the deal,'' Goodell said. ``One thing we are starting to realize is that it has swung considerably toward the players. We're doing our analysis to understand the ramifications of that.
``In the economy we have now, that can really put a significant impact on clubs.''
Goodell said he will ``absolutely'' contact NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw before November, ``and I anticipate something will happen just before the season or in the fall.''
Because the 32 teams have so much debt through loans - they've already agreed to collectively reduce the debt by $30 million - Goodell fears their ability to pay spiraling salaries could be compromised.
Then again, who is negotiating those salaries with the players? The 32 owners, of course.
``It is clearly between the owners and the union at this point,'' Goodell added. ``I think the owners have analyzed this and have a very strong collective view toward this.
``When you shrink the margins, at some point in time the agreement becomes untenable. We have to be very cautious here, and the players need to recognize those risks and the tremendous costs.
``We knew when we entered this CBA that the pendulum would swing the way of the players.''
While expressing his concerns about the league's economic situation, Goodell also mentioned what some owners told him was ``the best postseason in the history of football.'' The NFL's competition committee is investigating ways of strengthening the lead-up to the playoffs and Super Bowl with a reseeding proposal.
The plan would give wild-card teams a chance for a home game in the opening round of the playoffs if their record is better than a division winner. Last year, the Giants would have hosted Tampa Bay instead of visiting Florida in the NFC, and the Jaguars would have been home against the Steelers instead of going to Pittsburgh.
Both visitors won anyway and, of course, the Giants wound up winning the Super Bowl.
``We started discussing this issue in '02 or '03,'' said Falcons president and competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay. ``We're still concerned about what it means late in a season, keeping as many games competitive as we can.''
Several clubs, including the Buccaneers, sat out regulars at the end of the schedule, rendering some games as little more than exhibitions.
McKay believes it's critical to discuss reseeding even if it doesn't pass this year; 24 yes votes are required for passage.
``We'll never get in the business of telling people who to play or not play,'' McKay said. ``We felt like we don't have many other options late in the season except to incentivize.''
McKay and Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the other co-chairman of the competition committee, are eager to get the defensive communications device passed. Last year, it was defeated in part because the committee didn't have a backup plan in case the defensive player with the communications helmet got hurt; it doesn't want two players on the field with the helmet considering only the quarterback has one on offense.
The current proposal calls for a second player to be designated to get the device if the first player gets hurt or leaves the game. No specific position must be designated for the device.
``We feel it's a sound backup system,'' Fisher said.
The committee also is presenting these proposals:
-Using instant replay on field goals and extra points to see if a kick has gone through the uprights.
-Not allowing a player's hair to cover the nameplate or number on the back of the uniform, an idea brought up by Kansas City.
-Eliminating the forceout on receptions at the sideline or back of the end zone, meaning a receiver must get two feet inbounds.
-Deferring a choice for winning the opening coin toss to the second half.
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