Report: Goodell rips players’ strategy

Even though the NFL and the players may not meet for a month, commissioner Roger Goodell sent clear message to the locked-out athletes.

"Clearly the litigation strategy that the union is pursuing is delaying some serious negotiations that really are going to lead to a collective bargaining agreement," Goodell told USA Today in a story posted on its website Friday. "That part of it is frustrating. I think valuable time is escaping us, that’s putting financial risk and other risk in play."

The "union" Goodell is referring to is the NFL Players Association, which decertified as a union last month after more than two weeks of federal mediation did not produce an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners responded to the decertification by locking out the players.

Ten players have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league seeking that the lockout be lifted. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson has yet to make her ruling. At Nelson’s request, both sides had mediation sessions in Minnesota, but the four days of talks ended earlier this week with little progress made.

Goodell also used more cryptic language when describing the players’ lawyers.

"They’re challenging fundamental aspects that have made the league successful and popular with the fans. They’re going after the draft, as an example, pursuing the draft as illegal," he told USA Today. "They’re pursuing free agency restrictions as illegal. They’re pursuing aspects of the salary cap as illegal. That’s what they’re saying. We don’t believe that. It’s been negotiated. We think they’ve been good for the players, the clubs and most importantly, the fans.

"It’s what’s created a successful product. So the union attorneys are attacking everything that we think has made the league successful."

The main issues separating NFL owners and players are how to divide the $9 billion in revenue the league generates, the NFL’s push to expand the regular season to 18 games and benefits for retired players.

The work stoppage won’t prevent next week’s draft from happening, but some are concerned that the regular season may not start on time. The NFL released the regular-season schedule Tuesday and it begins Sept. 8 with the current Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers hosting the 2009 champion New Orleans Saints.