ATLANTA (AP) -The NFL's labor situation could get more complicated this week.
The league's owners meet Tuesday and could vote to opt out of the labor contract. Such a move could signal a protracted period of labor tension and lead to a 2010 season without a salary cap and a potential work stoppage the following year.
The owners have until Nov. 8 to terminate the contract. Some would prefer to do so now and hasten the way for talks toward a new agreement to replace the 2-year old contract that most owners feel has tilted too far toward the players, who get 60 percent of total revenues.
That the owners will opt out is basically a foregone conclusion.
Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, has been predicting a lockout. League and union officials note that is standard rhetoric in labor disputes.
``I expect them to opt out Tuesday or, if not, in the near future,'' Upshaw said last week.
The NFL often takes its time on such matters, and league officials believe a decision to opt out could be tabled.
The official business of the meeting is to award the 2012 Super Bowl, with Indianapolis, Houston and Arizona vying for the game. The next three have been awarded - Tampa in 2009, South Florida in 2010 and Dallas in 2011 in the new stadium to be opened by the Cowboys next season.
That Dallas Super Bowl, as well as the others, is one reason why those involved in the game believe a new deal will be in place before the league reaches an uncapped year. Jerry Jones, one of the league's most influential owners, has too much tied up in that game to have it lost in a work stoppage.
At issue is the contract extension agreed to in March 2006, just before the start of that year's free agency. It was pushed through by commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who retired soon afterward. The agreement was to extend to 2013 with the opt-out option this year that would end it in 2011.
That would include the uncapped year, which has led to speculation that free-spending owners like Jones and Washington's Daniel Snyder would pay huge sums to stars that poorer teams could not afford.
However, when the 1993 contract that finally resolved the issues from the 1987 strike was ratified it also included a clause that has been widely overlooked.
It extends the time required for free agency from four years to six in the event of an uncapped year, meaning hundreds of players who normally would be on the market in 2010 would still belong to their teams. The provision was added as an incentive to both sides: the rich owners who want to corner the market, and the players who want a quicker free agency.
Upshaw noted last week the players are happy with the current contract and has previously said they actually got more than they had asked in the 2006 deal.
The owners now contend that rising bond rates for new stadiums, specifically in Dallas and New York-New Jersey, have brought higher construction costs and most teams are making less money in the national economic downturn.
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