Jeff Pash, the NFL?s executive vice president and general counsel, updates… (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)
Reporting from Dallas — The NFL's top lawyer said Wednesday that the league and the players need to make a commitment to "intensive, serious and on-going" negotiations before the collective bargaining agreement expires in March.
"Our focus is 100% on reaching an agreement with our union," said Jeff Pash, the NFL's executive vice president and general counsel. "We can reach an agreement. We will reach an agreement. We are committed to doing so, and committed to having uninterrupted football. That's our goal."
This week, the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. issued a joint statement — rare, in light of the contentious negotiations — saying they had agreed to hold a series of meetings, both formal bargaining and smaller group sessions, over the next few weeks in an effort to reach a new labor agreement by early March.
NFL owners unanimously opted out of an agreement struck in the 11th hour in 2006, and they say they want a deal that better recognizes their substantial costs. It's the league's contention that if the players give up a portion of the revenue they currently get, owners can better cover their costs and "grow the pie" to enrich everyone involved.
The players are arguing, in essence, that the current structure does not need to be altered, and that the NFL's proposal would unfairly tilt the system against them.
Pash detailed what "growing the pie" might entail. He said that could mean more games in London — and a possible franchise there — as well as bigger rosters and better benefits and health-and-safety research.
"We would be able to have stadiums in Los Angeles," he said. "We could have a new stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area. We could have a new stadium in Atlanta, a new stadium in Minnesota. There is a lot out there."
The 30-year, $700-million deal that AEG and Farmers Insurance struck this week for naming rights for a proposed football stadium/event center has gotten the league's attention, an NFL executive said.
Eric Grubman, the league's executive vice president for business ventures, said the deal is an example of the type of opportunity that could be available under a new CBA.
"It is on the table in that it's been noticed by players," Grubman said, referencing both competing sites, AEG's downtown proposal and that of Ed Roski in City of Industry. "I firmly believe that they are well aware that there's two great developers and great sites, either one of which could be actionable in the very near future in the Los Angeles market. That's very tantalizing."
Asked if the naming-rights deal elevates the AEG proposal over Roski's, Grubman said: "I don't know. For all I know, [Roski] could have one he's going to announce tomorrow. That's more in the eyes of a club, because for either of those to go forward we're going to get a labor deal, and they're going to need to find a club."
Although it's only natural to compare Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the player who preceded him, Brett Favre, his teammates resist the urge (at least publicly).
Asked if Rodgers now belongs in the same conversation as Favre, receiver Greg Jennings said: "I try to keep that out of the same air and breath and mention. I think he's putting up Aaron Rodgers-type numbers. He's trying to be his own player.
"Obviously, [Rodgers] had the opportunity to play behind a legend, a guy who's going to be a future Hall of Famer. But at the same time, he's trying to form his own identity, set his own legacy."