Chicago meetings pivotal for Goodell

Jason Cole
Yahoo Sports

Will there be a Chicago 9 to emerge next Tuesday and Wednesday from among the NFL owners?

If there are nine – the total number of owners out of 32 needed to block the approval of a deal with the players and keep the lockout going – what will it mean to the short-term future of the 2011 NFL season? Just as important, what could such a snag mean to the long-term prospects of Roger Goodell as the league's commissioner and several others in the league office?

"There's a lot on the line [next] week," one owner said Friday. "I don't envy Roger's position because he has to make a lot of people happy. I think there's enough common sense out there that we'll get something done, but there are also some [owners] who still want to fight."

That desire to fight may exist even though two sources familiar with the circumstances – one on the players' side – indicated earlier in the week that the players are willing to give owners upwards of nearly 60 percent of the "true up" money over the next three to four years. In other words, if the owners were to grow the business by $1 billion above projections in a given a year (a huge but not impossible gain), the owners could get nearly $600 million of that additional money.

The deal is expected to be vastly more complicated than that, featuring a reset of the percentages after a three- or four-year period. But the basic idea is that players have come a long way from the simple 50-50 split they offered in March.

The problem is that ever since the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2008, there has been a strong subset of them who have pushed to fight the now decertified NFL Players Association for significant rollbacks in the portion of money going to players. Initially, this was not just a slight adjustment this group was seeking. It was an attempt to turn back the clock to pre-2006, when players shared in only a part of total football revenue, not all of it. They didn't want just a chunk of money back; they wanted a $1 billion boulder right off the top to go with the other $1 billion they were already getting.

That was $2 billion going straight into the owners' pockets out of a little more than $9 billion the league currently makes. When that idea crumbled, the owners countered with a system that didn't account for potentially huge increases in revenue that are expected to occur when the television contracts, which expire following the 2013 season, are renegotiated. That's when the players, frustrated with the perceived shell game and lack of respect that went with it, walked away from the negotiations in March, decertified as a union and filed a lawsuit.

Some in the ownership group saw that as a positive in the big picture because it meant that the hardliners – generally believed to include the likes of Jerry Richardson (Carolina Panthers), Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys), Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals), Dan Snyder (Washington Redskins) and Ralph Wilson (Buffalo Bills) – would have to back off because their power play failed.

Now, perceived moderates such as John Mara (New York Giants), Clark Hunt (Kansas City Chiefs), Bob Kraft (New England Patriots) and Dean Spanos (San Diego Chargers) have become the lead negotiators for the owners. Richardson has also been part of the process and some believe he has mellowed somewhat the past two months, particularly after his embarrassing treatment of players such as Peyton Manning(notes) became public. Likewise, Kraft was once seen as a hardliner early in the process, but has become much more of a peacemaker since late last season, repeatedly saying that a deal could be made, particularly if the lawyers were left out of the process.

Or as Mara said during the meeting of owners in Indianapolis last month, the best way to a long-term labor peace was a fair deal.

"If it's not fair, all that means is that you're back at the table faster," Mara said.

View photo

.
John Mara.
(AP Photo)

The question is whether enough other owners agree with Mara's sentiment. When the league gathers in Chicago next week, Goodell and other members of the negotiating team will update the other owners on the state of the negotiations. Goodell is expected to explain what the split of the money will be under a new deal and will recommend that the owners do the deal, although there is not expected to be a formal vote.

Another tricky element to all of this is that the vast majority of owners have little knowledge of what the deal is right now. Because Judge Arthur Boylan, who has been mediating the sessions, has requested that both sides keep the talks as confidential as possible, very few owners outside the negotiating team are believed to know the specifics.

That has been good because it has allowed for more progress. It's bad because not knowing leads to anxiety and frustration.

"Your first reaction to most deals is to poke holes in it. It's human nature," a second unnamed owner said. "You always want the perfect deal, everything to go your way, and you have to think it through to figure out what's acceptable. In this case, you have to multiply that process by 32 … when we sit down and look over this deal, I'm curious how the room is going to react. We're at a critical stage."

It's critical on multiple levels.

First, and most immediate, there's a time crunch to get the season started. Many executives in the league office and with different teams believe that free agency must begin by July 15 at the latest in order to start training camp on time and have a full preseason. Otherwise, the league starts to lose some of the reported $700 million-$1 billion that's tied up in training camp and the preseason.

Second, if a deal isn't reached now and the owners reject the work that has been done with the players, this could turn into a long fight that goes until at least September and could cause significant backlash to the league. In January, Sports Illustrated's Peter King stated that a group of owners were willing to lose an entire season in order to get a better deal with the players. While that sounds brave, it may be tactical suicide depending on how the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on the league's appeal to maintain a lockout.

While it's widely believed that the three-judge panel will rule in favor of the league's ability to lock out the players for the time being, it's also believed that the league will lose that power at some point. Specifically, the judges sounded as if they would allow the players to return to court in September, when the previous collective bargaining agreement allowed them the freedom to decertify and, therefore, file an antitrust lawsuit.

At that point, the league could be brought to its knees because it could lose the ability to lock out the players. In other words, the league is doing OK in court right now, but eventually there aren't enough fingers to put in the dam. At that point, the players could end up with the kind of power akin to what their brethren in the NBA and major league baseball have gotten over the years.

Third, all of this could reflect poorly on Goodell, who has already taken his fair share of shots through this process. Over the first four years of his tenure as commissioner, Goodell was seen as a powerful force, coming up with new ways to make money for owners and being tough on players with his discipline.

However, the negotiations with the trade association have exposed Goodell as weak in the eyes of many people, particularly players. From Derrick Mason(notes) to Chester Pitts(notes) to getting booed by fans at the NFL draft in April, Goodell has been openly criticized on numerous fronts. For instance, there was a curious reaction on the morning of March 11, the day that talks broke down with players. King wrote that Goodell had been given approval by the owners the previous night to cut the best deal he could get.

Rather than seeing that as proof of Goodell's power, many people around the league, in the media and, most importantly, among the players wondered why Goodell didn't have that power before.

Or as the aforementioned source on the player's side said, rhetorically: "If he couldn't cut a deal before, why were we talking to him?"

That is a fascinating question that gets to the heart of how little the owners trust the man they elected to follow Paul Tagliabue, the guy who has taken much of the blame for the 2006 deal that owners quickly came to hate. From there, there is a trickle-down effect to people such as NFL vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash.

Could Goodell be in trouble if he can't keep the hardliners in line and this negotiation blows up?

"I hope not, but it's a really good question," the first unnamed owner said.

Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
Marlins need to pick a manager they can live with
Rory McIlroy is no Tiger Woods, but maybe that's a good thing
NBC apologizes for omitting 'under God' from pledge
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not happy with his teammate Mark Martin

  • Everest climbing season in disarray after deaths

    Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season fell flat Thursday as major expedition companies canceled their climbs and many Sherpas quit the mountain after an avalanche killed 16 of their fellow guides last week. While the season … More »

    AP - Sports - 7 minutes ago
  • Radwanska eases into Stuttgart quarterfinals

    STUTTGART, Germany (AP) -- Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska defeated Italy's Roberta Vinci 6-3, 6-2 to book her quarterfinal place at the Porsche Grand Prix on Thursday. … More »

    AP - Sports - 17 minutes ago
  • Comcast's Fandango ticket service buys MovieClips

    (Reuters) - Fandango, a movie ticketing service owned by cable company Comcast Corp, is buying MovieClips from Zefr Inc to boost its film-related content. MovieClips, launched in 2009, licenses movie scenes from various studios, puts them up on … More »

    Reuters - 29 minutes ago
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges, says he was blackmailed as trial opens

    F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges, says he was blackmailed as trial opens

    MUNICH - Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial Thursday in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed … More »

    The Canadian Press - 50 minutes ago
  • No rest for weary Atletico as Valencia trip looms

    No rest for weary Atletico as Valencia trip looms

    By Tim Hanlon BARCELONA, April 24 (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid must put their Champions League ambitions to one side when they look to maintain their surprise La Liga title surge in a tough trip to Valencia on Sunday. They are on the verge of … More »

    Reuters - 53 minutes ago
  • Dyson enjoys happy return to China, shares lead with Quiros

    (Reuters) - Englishman Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, fired a five-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead at the European Tour's China Open on Thursday. The Englishman fired six birdies … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 2 minutes ago
  • Formula One boss denies bribery at German trial

    Formula One boss denies bribery at German trial

    By Keith Weir MUNICH Germany (Reuters) - Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone denied bribery allegations on Thursday when he went on trial in Germany in a case that threatens to break the Briton's decades-long dominance of the motor sport. … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 3 minutes ago
  • Ajax extend ban on fans travelling to Feyenoord games

    REUTERS - Ajax Amsterdam have extended the ban on their fans attending away league games against arch-rivals Feyenoord in Rotterdam following the riotous behaviour of supporters in Sunday's Dutch Cup final. It ends hopes that a five-year suspension … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 4 minutes ago
  • Teen Chinese golfer getting used to attention

    One year after his stunning debut at the Masters, Chinese 15-year-old golfer Guan Tianlang is growing accustomed to being in the spotlight. The teenager's star has risen quickly in China since his breakthrough at Augusta National, where at the age … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 6 minutes ago
  • Bolton Wanderers to rename the Reebok stadium

    (Reuters) - Bolton Wanderers will change the name of their Reebok stadium to the Macron from July as part of a new deal between the Championship club and an Italian sportswear manufacturer. It will be the first change of name for the second tier … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 13 minutes ago
  • Protesters rally against FIFA president Blatter

    A handful of protesters holding banners and placards demonstrated peacefully Thursday at an event with FIFA president Sepp Blatter to highlight the plight of migrant workers building stadiums in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup. Blatter was a guest at … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 14 minutes ago
  • Quiros, Dyson share lead at China Open

    Quiros, Dyson share lead at China Open

    Alvaro Quiros and Simon Dyson each shot a 5-under 67 to share the lead after the first round of the China Open on Thursday. The pair were a stroke ahead of a group of six golfers that included defending champion Brett Rumford of Australia and … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 19 minutes ago
  • Golf-Dyson enjoys happy return to China, shares lead with Quiros

    Englishman Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, fired a five-under-par 67 to grab a share of the first round lead at the European Tour's China Open on Thursday. The Englishman fired six birdies and a lone … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 27 minutes ago
  • Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

    Postgame: Dirk Nowitzki

    Dirk Nowitzki addresses the media following the Game 2 win over the Spurs. … More »

    NBA.com - 1 hour 32 minutes ago
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges

    F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges

    Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected accusations of bribery as he went on trial Thursday in a case that could threaten his grip on the sport, telling a Munich court that he was blackmailed by a German banker who received a disputed $44 … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 41 minutes ago
  • Hanyu determined to build on success of Sochi

    Hanyu determined to build on success of Sochi

    Yuzuru Hanyu has barely had time to dwell on the Olympic and world titles he won in the first quarter of 2014, yet he's already thinking about how to improve for next season. Hanyu became the first Japanese man to claim Olympic gold in figure … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 50 minutes ago
  • More teams withdraw, Nepal's Everest season in jeopardy

    By Gopal Sharma KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Several foreign climbing expeditions have called off attempts to scale Everest following an avalanche that killed at least 13 local guides, meaning Nepal faces an entire season without a single ascent of the … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 53 minutes ago
  • No clubs facing FFP European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs facing FFP European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs can expect to be expelled from European competition next season for breaking financial fair play rules, UEFA president Michel Platini said in an interview on Thursday. UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) policy, designed to stop clubs … More »

    Reuters - 1 hour 57 minutes ago
  • No clubs facing European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs facing European expulsion - Platini

    No clubs will be kicked out of European competition next season for breaking financial fair play rules, UEFA president Michel Platini said in an interview on Thursday. UEFA's financial fair play (FFP) policy, designed to stop clubs spending more … More »

    Reuters - 2 hours 46 minutes ago
  • Fast-breaking Real home in on elusive 10th European crown

    Fast-breaking Real home in on elusive 10th European crown

    By Tim Hanlon BARCELONA (Reuters) - Real Madrid took a step closer to an elusive 10th European Cup with a 1-0 home win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday and the Spanish side will hope to finish off the job in Germany having shown how effective they … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Schalke aiming to seal Champions League spot

    By Karolos Grohmann REUTERS - Schalke 04's season could have a happy ending at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday when they hope to claim a Champions League spot after a rollercoaster campaign punctuated by injury problems. Schalke, who … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Sturridge hopeful of returning against Chelsea

    Sturridge hopeful of returning against Chelsea

    REUTERS - Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is optimistic of returning from injury for the key clash against former team mates and title rivals Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday in a boost for the Premier League leaders. "Hopefully this weekend I'll be … More »

    Reuters - 3 hours ago
  • Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real

    Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real

    Holders Bayern Munich promised a sharp improvement when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after failing to convert the lion's share of possession into goals in a 1-0 defeat in Spain on Wednesday. Bayern … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Be optimistic about Brazil, says Blatter

    Be optimistic about Brazil, says Blatter

    By Stefanie McIntyre HONG KONG (Reuters) - FIFA president Sepp Blatter has encouraged fans to be optimistic that the World Cup in Brazil will be a success, amid growing concerns over security and public unrest as workers scramble to finish stadiums … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Announcer relishes role as voice of Kentucky Derby

    Announcer relishes role as voice of Kentucky Derby

    From his perch with a panoramic view of the world's most famous racetrack, the new voice of Churchill Downs will sit out one of the most anticipated moments of the tradition-soaked Kentucky Derby. Larry Collmus will try to tune out ''My Old … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 hours ago
  • Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real Madrid

    Confident Bayern promise home improvements against Real Madrid

    By Karolos Grohmann REUTERS - Holders Bayern Munich promised a sharp improvement when they host Real Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after failing to convert the lion's share of possession into goals in a 1-0 defeat in … More »

    Reuters - 4 hours ago
  • Wednesday's Sports In Brief

    BOSTON (AP) -- Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected for using pine tar less than two weeks after appearing to get away with using a foreign substance in another game against Boston, and the Red Sox beat New York 5-1 on Wednesday night. … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Pineda says he'll learn from ejection for pine tar

    Pineda says he'll learn from ejection for pine tar

    The pine tar glistened on Michael Pineda's neck, improving his grip and inviting trouble. The Yankees' right-hander spoke quietly after being ejected in the second inning of the Red Sox' 5-1 win over New York on Wednesday night. And less than two … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Flyers lack punch at home on power play

    Flyers lack punch at home on power play

    Back on their home ice, the Philadelphia Flyers fizzled on the power play. The Flyers ranked 25th in the NHL in power-play efficiency at home during the regular season, scoring on 15.1 percent of their chances. In Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the New … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Detroit Lions welcome new faces

    Detroit Lions welcome new faces

    Their new coach has been to Super Bowls and the Detroit Lions how have two new players who have championship rings. Free-agent acquisitions Golden Tate and James Ihedigbo - who played on the winning side of the last two Super Bowls - finished their … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Iowa's offense looking to match strong defense

    Iowa's offense looking to match strong defense

    Iowa's defense was back among the nation's elite last season. The Hawkeyes' offense failed to follow suit. Getting both units to play at an equally high level will likely be crucial to Iowa's hopes of competing for a Big Ten West title. The … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

    Mike Trout robs Bryce Harper with impressive diving catch

    One phenom robs another. … More »

    Big League Stew - 5 hours ago
  • Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

    Stars even with Ducks after 4-2 win in Game 4

    The young Dallas Stars keep overcoming early 2-0 deficits. With their latest comeback in Game 4, they are now even with the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks. Down in the series after losing the first two games in Anaheim, the Stars trailed by two goals in … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Jets returning to SUNY Cortland for training camp

    The New York Jets are holding training camp at SUNY Cortland again this summer, returning to central New York for the fifth time in the last six years. The team trains on the school's campus, located about three hours from the Jets' facility in … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Road teams off to flying start in NBA playoffs

    Road teams off to flying start in NBA playoffs

    Here's the list of teams that had home-court advantage entering the opening round of these NBA playoffs: Indiana, Miami, Toronto, Chicago, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers. Here's the list of teams that still held … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Michael Phelps launches comeback in 100 butterfly

    Michael Phelps launches comeback in 100 butterfly

    Returning to swimming after a 20-month retirement, Michael Phelps is easing back into the sport he once dominated by racing one of his best events. The 18-time Olympic gold medalist will swim the 100-meter butterfly at the Arena Grand Prix on … More »

    AP - Sports - 5 hours ago
  • Your Top Plays for Today

    Your Top Plays for Today

    Your Top Plays for Today: AP's Sports Guide … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 hours ago
  • The Grand Slam: Mariners snap eight-game losing skid on Kyle Seager’s walk-off homer

    The Grand Slam: Mariners snap eight-game losing skid on Kyle Seager’s walk-off homer

    Kyle Seager and the Mariners bust their slumps in Seattle. … More »

    Big League Stew - 6 hours ago
  • As pitching injuries pile up, Cole Hamels' return gives Phillies shot in the arm

    As pitching injuries pile up, Cole Hamels' return gives Phillies shot in the arm

    With pitchers succumbing one by one to major arm injuries, Philadelphia is thankful Cole Hamels appears healed. … More »

    Yahoo Sports - 6 hours ago
  • Historic canonization of two popes brings joy and controversy

    Historic canonization of two popes brings joy and controversy

    By Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Two giants of Roman Catholicism in the 20th century will become saints on Sunday at an unprecedented twin canonization that has aroused both joy and controversy in the 1.2 billion member Church. Pope … More »

    Reuters - 6 hours ago