Goodell: Both sides now committed to reaching deal

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will spend the weekend preparing

for the next set of negotiations, energized by this week’s secret

talks that he believes show both sides are committed to ending the

labor dispute.

While the owners and players spent Friday in a St. Louis

courtroom arguing over the legality of the lockout, Goodell visited

with troops at a U.S. Army base in North Carolina with Carolina

Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

At the end of a long day at Fort Bragg that included trying on –

but not using – a parachute, Goodell took questions from soldiers

before telling reporters there’s some reason for optimism following

the talks in Chicago.

”The importance is to have the principles talk,” Goodell said.

”That’s what we were interested in doing, have the owners and

players talk to one another. That was accomplished this week. …

That’s a positive sign for us.”

Goodell was far from specific – he wouldn’t say when the next

round of talks would be held or if the owners will be preparing

another offer – but acknowledged both sides showed a willingness to

work toward a deal.

He wouldn’t say how the two sides would compromise on the

stumbling blocks in the negotiations, mostly notably how to divvy

up $9 billion in annual revenue.

”I would just tell you that both sides are committed to

continuing the dialogue,” Goodell said. ”In negotiations, you’re

making different suggestions, recommendations and proposals from

time to time. I think both sides will do that in a responsible

fashion.”

Goodell agreed that having the lawyers absent and the players

and owners meeting directly – Rivera acknowledged Panthers owner

Jerry Richardson was there – helped get the talks rolling.

”I still believe principle to principle is the best way to

really get the kind of dialogue you need so people understand the

different perspectives,” Goodell said.

But time is running out. Already free agency has been delayed,

minicamps canceled and optional workouts put on hold. Training

camps are scheduled to open next month.

Goodell wasn’t spared from the fans’ frustrations at Fort Bragg.

One soldier accused the owners of being the players’ ”No. 1

distraction” and asked Goodell, ”Where’s the passion, the love of

game?”

”I understand the frustration and criticism because people want

football,” Goodell said. ”You hear that everywhere you go. I

heard that all day today. That’s what we’re in the business of

doing. You have to make sure you’re taking the right steps, though,

to protect the game for a long-term basis.”