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Old 03-08-2006, 02:30 PM   #1
tony hipchest
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Default Dan Rooney: Tagliabue's speech 'One of the best'

By The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 8, 2006


GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) -- Dan Rooney said it was one of the best speeches he ever heard Paul Tagliabue give. So did Roger Goodell, the NFL's chief operating officer.
So while the NFL commissioner didn't openly urge the 32 team owners to approve the final offer by the NFL Players Association and extend the labor contract, the message of his history lesson was clear:

Let's not go back to the bad old days of strikes or the constant threat of them.

That's how two days of NFL meetings began Tuesday. Tagliabue explained the fine points of the union's latest offer in talks to extend the labor contract beyond its expiration after the 2007 season. They met again Wednesday morning, needing to get something done by 8 p.m. EST, the deadline for informing the union of their decision.

Free agency, twice delayed, is scheduled to begin Thursday if owners turn down the union's offer. If they approve it, free agency will start Friday.

"Excellent. Super," is how Rooney, owner of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, characterized Tagliabue's performance, which took up more than three hours at the start of the critical meeting. It included, according to the accounts of those in the meeting room, a history of continual labor strife through the 1970s and '80s that culminated in player strikes in 1982 and 1987.

But Wednesday will be even more critical. That's when the vote will finally be taken -- by 8 p.m. EST at the latest so the league can meet a midnight deadline for free agency. If the deal is approved, free agency will be put off another 24 hours until Friday at 12:01 a.m.

And as the meeting broke up, most of the participants acknowledged there was a long way to go.

"I love my country and I love my league," said Oakland's Al Davis, the NFL's most consistent maverick for decades but now, according to those in the meeting, a strong Tagliabue supporter. "People who have ben through this in the past want something good to come of it. What's good is another question."

That will be the major discussion when the owners begin real debate on the important issue of expanded revenue sharing, which has divided teams into "haves" and "have-nots." Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, has insisted throughout more than a year of negotiations that division must be resolved before agreement can be reached on a contract extension.

There are three plans on the table and each has different supporters and different opponents. To get it done, 24 of the 32 teams will have to support one of them.

It is anything but a sure thing that the owners will agree by the deadline to the union's proposal. There was doubt among many owners that any of the plans could get the three-quarters support to pass, according to those in the meetings.

If there is no agreement, it doesn't mean there will be a work stoppage -- at least not for the next two years.

But it would keep the salary cap at $94.5 million rather than as much as $10 million more. It would put a number of veterans on the street and it would also limit the amount available for other free agents. And it would lead to an uncapped year in 2007, which would allow some teams to spend almost at will and keep others from spending at all.

The revenue debate involves low-income teams such as Buffalo, Cincinnati and Indianapolis who say high-revenue teams -- Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia, for instance -- should contribute proportionately to the player pool because they can earn far more in non-football income such as advertising and local radio rights

Those high-revenue teams might contribute only 10 percent of their outside money compared with 50 percent or more for low-revenue teams.

It's difficult to anticipate how the vote may go, especially with the negotiations that have had daily twists and turns. But Jerry Jones, one of the leaders of the high-revenue teams, indicated even before the meeting began that his viewpoint might lose.

"We want to play football," Jones said. "We have an obligation to everyone, particularly our fans.

"My gut is we're going to come up with something, but it's still up in the air. It's going to be long and drawn out and tough."

Later, Jones said: "We've had a good dialogue. Very productive."

Beyond that, some of the higher-revenue teams that entered the meeting undecided have owners who have traditionally been "league" people who regularly sacrifice for the good of the league.

They include the Denver Broncos, owned by Pat Bowlen, and the New York Giants, run by John Mara, son of the late Wellington Mara, who more than 40 years ago was one of three major-market owners who agreed to share television money. The senior Mara was elected to the Hall of Fame in part because of that decision.

Another fence-sitter is the New York Jets. Traditionally, the Jets have followed the Giants' lead, although that happened more often when Leon Hess, a close friend of Wellington Mara's, owned the team. The current Jets owner is Woody Johnson.

In any event, Tuesday's meeting was reportedly amicable.

"We haven't punched anyone yet," Rooney said.
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well we know who the steelers side with. far cry from sourpuss jerry jones who cried that noone cares what he wants and made it sound like the new proposed deal would put him in a financial bind. screw him. maybe hes in the wrong business and should stick with oil.
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