06/24/11 — Stevens: Time slowly ticking away for NFL

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Stevens: Time slowly ticking away for NFL

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 24, 2011 1:47 PM

It's been said that time is money. If time eventually runs out on the 2011 season, the hit financially could be significant for the National Football League.

The perceived optimism that resulted from Tuesday's owners' meetings in Rosemont, Ill., can be largely related to the nearing of the scheduled start of the preseason and the potential loss of billions of dollars.

Under the next proposed agreement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said players would receive a 48-percent share of all revenue without the more than $1 billion off the top that had been a sticking point.

The owners also would agree to a salary "floor," preventing less-successful franchises from protecting their bottom lines by trotting out rosters of low-rent players.

A full 16-game Thursday night television package that would begin in 2014 was also part of the proposal. Under the new deal, retirees would benefit from improved health care with pension benefits projected to double to $18 million by 2016.

A rookie wage scale is expected to be a part of the new deal, but is still being finalized. The proposed 18-game schedule is being designated as negotiable and not necessary for an agreement. The players are reportedly willing to commit to a 10-year labor agreement if the two sides can finalize the terms.

Should the labor negotiations somehow dissolve, it could result in the loss of preseason games and potentially threaten the start of regular-season play. Training camps normally begin in late July, and the first preseason game is scheduled for Aug. 7. The regular season is slated to start Sept. 8.

Each NFL team typically receives 10 home dates a year, including two preseason games and eight regular-season contests. The loss of home games due to a lockout would result in decreased revenue for owners, making it more difficult for franchises to pay coaches, players and employees.

The outlook won't start to get gloomy until games begin getting canceled, although owners are starting to realize the harsh realities they'll face if the lockout drags on into late July or early August. NFL employees have had their salaries cut by 12 percent since April, and seven teams have instituted pay cuts or furloughs.

When asked on Tuesday if there was a consensus for the proposals among the owners, Goodell didn't say 'yes'. He didn't say 'no', either. Given the amount of progress that has been made in the past three weeks, the question seems to have shifted from if a deal will get done to when.

Deadlines, like the start of an NFL season, have the unique ability to make egos disappear and pride to take a back seat to compromise.

After all, time waits for no man.

Not even billionaires.

Editor's note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.