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Friday, February 4, 2011
Five insights from Goodell's speech

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

DALLAS -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fielded more than 30 questions during his annual state of the league news conference on Friday, but he had no answers about resolutions to the NFL's pending labor problems.

The clock is ticking on an March 3, 11:59 p.m. ET deadline for the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between the team owners and players union. The commissioner emphasized how he and his staff and team owners are willing to work around the clock to get a new agreement completed in time. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has stressed that his group doesn't want an interruption to a game and business that has grown into a multi-billion dollar entity.

Here are the five things we learned from the Goodell speech:

1. March 3 is a true deadline: Goodell said the NFL is prepared for every type of outcome -- whether it's an agreement or no agreement -- in labor talks with the NFLPA, but he acknowledges the importance of getting a deal done with the players by March 3. Following the news conference, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said a deal could be done in a week if both sides work at it. Not getting a deal in time, Kraft said, would be "criminal." Goodell stressed extending the labor problems past March 3 could lead to a reduction in revenue that would affect both sides. A negotiating session is scheduled for Saturday. More sessions are on the docket for next week.

Roger Goodell
Goodell will meet with union officials three times in the next week.

2. Owners still prefer an 18-game regular season: Though he said this is no deal-breaker, Goodell and NFL owners prefer an 18-game schedule. It's a concept that isn't selling well with players who could be risking injuries with two additional regular-season games. Goodell stressed the league isn't changing from its 20-game model by swapping two preseason games for two regular season games. Fans, he said, don't believe the preseason is of NFL caliber and want less of it.

3. Don't order the NFL moving vans yet: Goodell sounded encouraged by the progress of two groups trying to put together stadium deals in Los Angeles. One group received a $700 million naming rights deal from Farmers Insurance. If a stadium deal in Los Angeles can be finalized after a collective bargaining agreement extension, it could lead to a current franchise moving. Goodell said the league's position is that it wants all of its current franchises to stay in their current cities. The San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings are entering the final years of their respective leases and could be on the move if stadium deals in their cities aren't completed. Asked specifically about San Diego, Goodell said the effort to get a new stadium there is in its eighth year and that the Chargers are "still trying to work to be in San Diego but they need to find a solution in San Diego."

4. Get ready for a franchise tag fight: Teams are prepared to start franchising top unsigned players next week, but the NFLPA says having no CBA beyond March 3 means a player can't be franchised because there is no system. Goodell anticipates a legal challenge from the union.

5. Ice Bowl XLV hasn't frosted Dallas' future host prospects: The Dallas Metroplex has been fighting either ice or snow since Monday. Goodell gave a round-about answer about Dallas' chances of getting another Super Bowl, but he hinted that it could happen. Atlanta hasn't landed a Super Bowl since the ice storm that affected that city the last time it played host (Jan. 31, 2000, SB XXXIV). Goodell stressed the new Cowboys Stadium is one of the best sports facilities in the world.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.