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NFL to discuss labor issues

Owners' meetings will focus on whether to opt out of collective bargaining agreement with players' union.

March 30, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

The NFL has gone 20 years without a player strike -- longer than any other major sports league -- and that has paved the way for unparalleled popularity and riches.

But nothing lasts forever.

With labor unrest looming, the league's 32 owners will gather today in Palm Beach, Fla., for the start of their annual meetings. Chief among the concerns is what will happen if, as expected, they decide to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement with the players' union when they get the chance in November.

That could set the stage for a strike or lockout, and the decertification of the NFL Players Assn. At issue, of course, is money -- specifically, how large a slice of the financial pie should go to the players.

"We're in the middle of a great deal of analysis and there will be discussion of the CBA," league spokesman Greg Aiello said.

But the meetings, which run through Wednesday, won't be entirely about how to maintain labor peace. The competition committee will discuss and vote on several proposals, among them whether a designated defensive player should be allowed to wear a speaker in his helmet similar to the coach-to-quarterback communicator; whether players with long hair should keep it tucked under their helmet; and what the league can do to better ensure there isn't a repeat of the so-called Spygate videotaping scandal, when the New England Patriots illegally taped the hand signals of opposing coaches to gain a competitive advantage.

The committee will also mull ways for possibly reseeding postseason games to encourage teams to play hard at the end of the regular season, even after they have secured a playoff berth.

"I think we do support the idea that . . . a potential reworking of playoff seeding can motivate coaches late in the year based on seed and potential home game, or not home game, to have more games that count late in the year," said Rich McKay, Atlanta Falcons president and co-chairman of the competition committee. "So for us, we think that's a better solution that ever getting in the business of trying to legislate who a coach will play."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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