By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — One day after the NFL’s regular season ended, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an e-mail to about five million fans to reassure them that if both sides give a little, the league and players’ union would reach an agreement on a new labor deal.
Goodell cited the U.S. economy: “A 10 percent unemployment rate hurts us all. Yes, NFL players deserve to be paid well. Unfortunately, economic realities are forcing everyone to make tough choices, and the NFL is no different.”
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement expires March 4, and a lockout appeared to be more probable than possible earlier this season. Now, some players believe playing next season is more possible but with concessions. Steelers veteran James Farrior said he knows how things are going to go, and was unfazed by Goodell’s somewhat back-door methods.
“That’s what they do,” Farrior said. “They try to make it look like they’re not the bad guy, but we know what’s going on. We’re not fooled. They want 18 games, and I know it’s going to happen one way or another. There’s nothing we can really do about that. We can fight it all we want to, but it’s going to happen.
“I just know that 18…
games is coming. That has to be in the game plan, in the new CBA, but … I think they have to change the rosters. They have to add more guys and make our benefits a lot better than they are. … We know that it’s a sticky situation, and it might get rough. Hopefully, we’ll have a season next year, but if not we’ve got to stay strong.”
Goodell noted that expanding from a 16- to 18-game regular season, which he called “a significant change” would “resolve fan complaints about preseason” by dropping two exhibition games.
Also, the NFL would institute “a new system that properly compensates proven veterans and retired players by shifting some of the outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies.” Nothing really was said about taking care of players after they retire.
“They really don’t want to pay for our benefits after we’re done, but if you look at any job that your go on and get injured on your job they have to take care of that,” Farrior said.
“But it doesn’t seem like the NFL wants to do that for us. The 18 games, we’re never going to be happy with it, but we’ll have to go with it. I know that’s going to happen no matter what we want.”