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{ Citing how they've taken on "a lot of risk," NFL owners want the system to change for their benefit. }
Author: Jeff Gardenour for NFLPLAYERS.COM Posted: 3/26/2010

ORLANDO—Recognizing that the average NFL fan is still struggling in today’s economy, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday said the league must spread its resources more to get fans back into the stadium.

Goodell’s comments on the final day of the 2010 NFL Owners Meeting at the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel all but guaranteed a showdown with the NFL Players Association over a potential lockout for the 2011 season. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement concerning revenue sharing by next March, the owners would lock out the players from competing and giving fans a product unmatched by other sports.

“A lot of people are still suffering,” Goodell said. “We have to be responsive to that. How do we create a greater value (in our sport)?”

With $9 billion in revenues, the NFL reigns supreme among professional sports in the U.S. However, a lack of a Collecting Bargaining Agreement could make the players—the ones that make the game go—the odd ones out.

Not a single NFL executive, including Goodell, seemed confident that the two sides will resolve things by March 2011. New York Giants co-owner John Mara, whose team ranks among the 10 wealthiest clubs by Forbes magazine, said owners and the union “still are talking,” but “that the system doesn’t work for all the clubs. We think it can be improved greatly.”

Jeff Fisher is co-chair of the Competition Committee.Mara, who declined to reveal the Giants’ operating profits in 2009, said the club has taken on a lot of debt, including the new Meadowlands Stadium that it will share with the New York Jets.

“We’ve taken on a lot of risk,” he said. “We believe that, for the system to work, it has to change.”

Many NFL executives have blamed the economy for the league’s current crisis, despite not completely disclosing their respective team’s financial information to its die-hard fans.

“We’ve given all financial information to the fans,” Mara said. “I think the fans have enough information.”

Even full financial disclosure to players—which the league has not provided—has its disadvantages, Mara said. “A few years ago, the NBA supplied its players union its financial information, and in some cases, their tax returns, but the players still questioned things. So, what good does it do to supply them with information?” he asked.

Full financial disclosure continues to be rejected by NFL management. Goodell himself became agitated when questioned about why players sued the NFL on behalf of small-market teams to maintain the Supplemental Revenue Sharing program. Small-market teams were owed $20 million.

“What are you talking about?” Goodell retorted.

We’ve given all financial information to the fans. I think the fans have enough information.
--John Mara, New York Giants co-owner

An NFL staffer accompanying Goodell said that the small-market legal case is a “Special Master Case” that is currently being handled. Goodell’s staff also refused to acknowledge why the NFL continues to claim expenses have grown faster than revenues, despite not providing audited financial statements. Other financial questions also were rebuffed.

Mara said that the more pressing issue is making the league equitable to all teams. The NFL’s decision to go into an uncapped year, instead of preserving a salary cap system to ensure an even playing field for all 32 organizations, contradicts Mara’s comment.

Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren didn’t seem bothered by operating in an uncapped year. “We’re going to do what’s best for the Browns,” he said. “But it’s only going to help the Browns if we make good player decisions.”

Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, who is co-chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee, said he was pleased that three safety-related rule proposals and five other rule proposals passed. Fisher said he was most pleased with the passage of rules concerning protecting the snapper on field goals and punts, hits on defenseless receivers and calling a dead ball when a player’s helmet comes off.

“It was a safety issue,” he said.

The new rule proposals that were adopted Wednesday include: 

  • Unnecessary roughness. Provides protection for defenseless players, as well as protects players who have made a catch, from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches at them.
  • Position of players at the snap. During a field goal attempt or kick try, a defensive player must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads.
  • Dead ball declared when runner’s helmet comes off. The ball will be marked at the point of progress where a runner’s helmet comes off. The game clock will continue to run, but the play clock will be reset to 40 seconds.
  • Dead ball declared when the ball strikes a video board, guide wire, sky cam or any other object above the field. The down will be replayed at the previous spot; however, a replay assistant can initiate a booth review if no on-field ruling is made.
  • Dead-ball personal fouls after the half or regulation has expired will be enforced on the succeeding kickoff.
  • Muff rule. After a fair catch signal, a player must have reasonable opportunity to catch the ball, even if it’s muffed, before it hits the ground without interference from the kicking team.
  • Ten-second runoff on instant replay. If a replay review inside of 1 minute of either half results in a reversal of an on-field ruling and the ruling would not have stopped the clock, the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before putting the ball back in play.
  • Numbered jerseys. All players must wear numerals on their jerseys in accordance with Rule 5, Section 4, Article 3(c), with numbers assigned by playing position. If a player changes position from that of an ineligible pass receiver to an eligible pass receiver, he must be issued an appropriate jersey number. A change in jersey number is not required if a player switches from an ineligible position to another ineligible position, or an eligible position to another eligible position, as long as the player has played at least one season at his position.
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