Collective bargaining remains big issue for NFL teams


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Jan 22, 2006
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Collective bargaining remains big issue for NFL teams
By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
February 25, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay believes a new collective bargaining agreement could be the first step toward owners reaching accord on revenue sharing.

McKay, chairman of the league's competition committee, said Saturday at the NFL's annual scouting combine he hoped a deal would be completed by Wednesday -- two days before the free-agency period opens.

Coaches, team officials, even NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw, want a deal although none appears imminent.

"We want to get a collective bargaining agreement done with Gene (Upshaw) and I don't see why we're having such a holdup at this time," Tennessee owner Bud Adams said in a message posted on the team's Web site. "He has his reasons and we have our reasons, but it's not a healthy situation to have."

The dispute among the owners has been a big obstacle in negotiating a new deal between the NFL players association and league officials. While Upshaw has expressed pessimism this week, McKay said some issues have already been resolved.

Revenue-sharing is not one of them.

"I think some concepts in the CBA have already been agreed upon," McKay said. "I'm guessing that if one deal gets done before the other that the CBA will get done first. It's going to be a very interesting two weeks."

The intrigue has already begun. At the scouting combine, team officials have routinely been asked about the labor talks -- a rarity at an event where teams generally spend more time scouting draft prospects than discussing legalities.

On Friday, Upshaw told agents to begin negotiating contracts as if a new deal was not imminent.

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said Saturday he remained optimistic the start of free agency could still be delayed a couple of weeks -- a point McKay disagreed with. And the cumulative effect has created uncertainty about how to handle offseason moves.

"The challenge will be the day after free agency opens," McKay said. "The phone might ring, but I don't know if we'll be able to answer it. We might have to let it ring."


There's little time for more than a quick hello in the brief player interviews at the scouting combine. Still, coach Bill Cowher of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers said Saturday, it's an important part of evaluations before each year's draft.

"There's a lot of good football players out there," Cowher said. "There's no direct science to this. You try to base it on an interaction of maybe 15 minutes, so you never know."

More than 300 of the nation's top college players were invited to the combine for workouts, physical exams and interviews.

"You can only talk to so many guys," Cowher said. "Athletic ability is certainly a part of it, but it's not everything. These kids are still maturing as people. You can never lose sight of that."

Pittsburgh has 11 players who could become unrestricted free agents, the most notable being receiver Antwaan Randle El, and Cowher would to have all of them back next season.

"We had a special group, but it's hard to bring everybody back. That happens every year," Cowher said. "You hope to keep a good nucleus, draft well and maybe pick up some free agents. It's going to be a challenge, but I like where we're starting and the players we're starting with."

AP Sports Writer Steve Herman contributed to this report.
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