TAMPA, Fla. -- Though confident of reaching a new labor agreement before the 2010 season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell criticized a union report that said the league was highly profitable and therefore the current revenue-sharing system still works.
"There's a lot of fiction in that report," Goodell said at his annual state of the NFL news conference Friday.
On Thursday, a union-commissioned study showed the average value of franchises has grown from $288 million to $1.04 billion during the past decade, and that teams averaged a $24.7 million profit in the last year -- even as the economy took a turn for the worse.
Goodell disputed those figures and defended the owners' decision to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement, which assures players about 60 percent of the applicable revenues.
If a new deal is not reached after the 2009 season, the following year would be played without a cap. The union says if the salary cap disappears, it won't accept one later.
In 2011, the league could face its first labor stoppage since 1987.
"The $24 million in profits is completely inaccurate," Goodell said. "We understand our numbers. Ownership has spent a lot of time evaluating the current CBA and determined it is better to terminate that agreement and come up with a new one that will be beneficial to the clubs and players.
"I'm optimistic we will be able to sit down and reach an agreement with our players to allow the league to grow."
The union is in the midst of appointing a successor to Gene Upshaw, the longtime executive director who died in August. Once that happens, negotiations can begin.
Goodell pointed to the layoffs by teams and the league itself as further evidence that the weakened economy has hit pro football.
"The economy turning sour has accentuated the importance of the CBA," he added. "I believe the NFL can become an extremely valuable escape at a time like this."
He also disputed the NFLPA's claim that player salaries automatically would go down under the current CBA should league profits also plummet.
"That is fiction," Goodell said. "There is a rule in the CBA that the cap can't go down. It's a longstanding rule. The cap continues to grow; it will be up to $123 million this year.
"The union has very in-depth knowledge of our economics and they also know our largest cost is player costs. What's happened is the system has changed and the environment has changed. ... The model has shifted over the years and we will address that in negotiations."
On other topics, Goodell:
" Indicated the competition committee will look at tweaking overtime, perhaps moving up the kickoff to serve as something of an equalizer when a team wins the coin toss. He said 47 percent of teams winning the OT toss won the game on the first possession this season.
" Said the game got safer in the second half of the season after a series of fines for illegal hits caught players' attention. Tapes he viewed showed the tackling techniques that endangered players were reduced significantly late in the season.
" Noted the league has shared research data and knowledge on treating concussions with the Department of Defense.
" Said he's hopeful of staging a regular-season game in Mexico in 2010 as part of the league's initiative to play games that count outside the United States.