Roger Goodell recognized the questioner, even kidded him.
Chad Ochocinco was in no joking mood.
The Bengals receiver, reporting for his own OCNN network, stood up at Goodell’s annual Super Bowl news conference Friday and asked the NFL commissioner how close the league and players union were to a new contract that would avoid a potential lockout.
”I can tell you the commitment on behalf of the ownership is on getting an agreement,” Goodell said. ”This is the window of opportunity to get this done right. Otherwise, uncertainty is going to seep into all of our operations. … I say, let’s get to work, let’s get an agreement that works for everybody.”
Goodell and union officials were to meet Saturday in Dallas, the first formal bargaining session since November. Two more sessions have been scheduled for next week, at an undisclosed location.
Goodell said it was imperative to have a deal before the collective bargaining agreement expires in a month.
”I frequently have said that I think March 4 is a very critical date,” Goodell said. ”A lot of different strategies will take place if we’re not successful in getting an agreement by that time.
”We need to have intensive, round-the clock negotiations to address the issues and find solutions. I can assure you that I have that sense of urgency and I believe both sides do.”
Asked whether the owners will lock out the players, Goodell replied: ”We have not made any determination with what will happen on March 4.”
The union has said it expects to be locked out if there is no agreement.
”Status quo is not acceptable,” Goodell said. ”We have to address these issues going forward. … The pendulum has shifted too far in one direction.”
In the owners’ view, the shift is toward the players. So they opted out of the agreement in 2008, two years after it was reached.
The major issues are how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues; the owners’ push to expand the regular season to 18 games and reduce the preseason by two games; a rookie wage scale; and benefits for retired players.
Goodell added: ”There are no deal-breakers.”
That includes the league’s desire to expand the regular season to 18 games. Goodell said fans repeatedly tell him the quality of preseason games doesn’t meet NFL standards.
”That was one of the basis at which we started to look at the 18-2 concept,” he said. ”I feel an obligation to do the best we can to present the highest quality. If we can’t do it right, we won’t do it.”
Goodell knows his reputation – and his paycheck – would take a hit without a deal. Goodell has vowed to drop his salary from nearly $10 million, including bonuses, to $1 if there is a work stoppage.
”I don’t want my salary to go to a dollar. My wife doesn’t want my salary to go to a dollar,” he said, drawing laughs. ”But it’s a collective sacrifice if we’re not able to get an agreement. It should affect everyone in the league. … We should avoid it to get something done as soon as possible.”
Goodell also commented on the following subjects:
-He said he had spoken to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick three times in the last two weeks. Vick was reinstated during the 2009 season after spending 18 months in prison on federal charges of running a dogfighting ring.
Vick’s name has been attached to several events that don’t fit the rehabilitated image he’s trying to cultivate. Goodell said Vick told him others were using his name without permission.
”I don’t want him to put himself in a position where bad things can happen around him,” Goodell said. ”He takes that seriously.
”We’re looking for success stories; we’re not looking for players to fail. He’s paid a very significant price and he’s doing the right thing.”
-He praised the Dallas-Fort Worth area for handling the difficult weather, saying the ice and snowstorms would not jeopardize the region’s chances of hosting the game again. This is the first Super Bowl to be staged here and Friday’s was the second snowstorm this week.
”Frankly, that’s our stage,” Goodell said of 100,000-seat Cowboys Stadium. ”You’re going to be seeing the Super Bowl from one of the greatest stadiums in the world. … The fact it can handle weather by closing the roof is a benefit.”
– He said the union’s request for teams to open their financial records was a negotiating ploy;
– He called the $700 million, 30-year agreement by Farmers Insurance Exchange for naming rights to a potential stadium in the Los Angeles area ”a positive development because it’s an important revenue stream.
”But even with that positive development, the financing of the stadium in Los Angeles is still a very difficulty proposition.”
Afterward, Ochocinco said he wasn’t satisfied with the answer Goodell gave him.
”I was hoping he would give me that father-son answer, but he didn’t,” Ochocinco said. ”He gave what I typically expected.”