Giants' John Mara tries to be hopeful

John Mara believes deep down that there will be a 2011 season.

The New York Giants' president and CEO acknowledges he's trying to remain positive even though he isn't sure whether the impasse between the NFL and its players will ultimately interrupt the coming season.

"There is no guarantee that it [the season] is not going to be affected but I remain optimistic because I believe that we can make a deal that is fair for both sides," Mara told Ryan Ruocco and Robin Lundberg on ESPN 1050. "I don't think the players are interested in missing games and missing paychecks. Certainly the owners don't want to see that happen. I think as we get through the summer and closer to training camp, it would be hard for me to believe that we are not able to sit down and negotiate a fair deal because there is enough money out there for everyone. It is just a matter of how it is allocated."

The problem is that both sides are not talking. The NFL Players Association filed for decertification last Friday to allow players to go to court to sue the owners and seek an injunction to block a lockout. The first hearing is scheduled for April 6.

It is a legal course that could have been avoided if the players had been committed to negotiating, according to Mara.
Instead, there is plenty of talk through the media, as New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees said that the owners' proposal last Friday was "all a show."

"I'm not sure what he means by that," said Mara, who sat in on much of the negotiations the past couple of weeks. "Is splitting the difference financially all for show? Is walking away from the 18-game season, which a lot of owners were very much in favor of, is that all for show? Is improving their benefits all for show? There were a lot of parts of that proposal that would have provided some significant benefits and improvements for the players, and they chose to walk away from it.

"I thought that we made a very substantial offer on that last Friday and they chose not to offer so much as a counter, and they chose to walk away and say we are going to decertify."

Mara said he was frustrated because he believed there was "a deal there to be made" but insisted that the players were not interested in making a deal.

"It became pretty clear to me after the first few days there that they were not really interested in negotiating a deal unless it was strictly on their terms with regards to the core economic issues," Mara said. "I felt like we wasted a lot of time down there."

Mara also explained why the owners would feel it would be a waste of time to play under the agreement that oversaw the 2010 season.

"Nobody is saying that the NFL is not profitable or that teams are not making money," Mara said. "But there is no question about the fact that our margin has been squeezed considerably over the past couple of years and the cost of running an NFL franchise has grown considerably, particularly with our case with a new stadium that has just been constructed and all the expenditures that you have to go through to keep that building running."

"We just think there needs to be a recalculation and a renegotiation of the deal," Mara added. "That is why we voted 32-to-nothing to opt out of the current CBA. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that the owners have voted 32-to-nothing on anything."

Mara also believes it would be unfortunate if the former players union advises incoming rookies to boycott next month's NFL draft, as has been reported.

"These young men, it is a special time in their lives," Mara said. "They only get one opportunity to go up on that stage and be announced as a first-round pick in front of their friends and family. The only people that suffer are the young men who are going to be drafted."

Of course, the longer the labor limbo continues, the more everyone, mostly the fans, suffer. And Mara knows that.

"We have all made preparations to prepare for the worst case," Mara admits of teams bracing for no football. "I think we are all well-prepared for it. It's certainly not going to be easy and it is certainly not the preferred route."

"[But] I don't believe that's going to happen," Mara added. "I believe that there is going to be a 2011 season. I still am trying to retain an optimistic view about this. Because as I've said repeatedly, there is a fair deal out there to be negotiated. At some point in time, we are going to be sitting across the table from one another and we are going to have to negotiate a deal."

Ohm Youngmisuk covers the Giants for ESPNNewYork.com.