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Carolina Panthers

Goodell fields questions from PSL owners


CHARLOTTE - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell couldn't tell Panthers season ticket holders how time away from football will impact the quality of play or the league's approach to free agency, and he couldn't say whether a new labor agreement would include an 18-game regular season or a rookie salary cap.

What Goodell could tell fans is that the answers to all those questions, and the answers to football fans' prayers, can only come from a labor agreement between the NFL and its players – the sooner, the better.

"We're going to hopefully get this resolved and not miss any of the 2011 season. That's our objective, and that's what we're working toward," Goodell said via conference call during Tuesday evening's PSL Owners Town Hall Fan Forum. "It is a stressful time and a frustrating time for fans as well as everybody in the NFL. That's difficult for everybody to deal with, but I just recognize the importance of what we're doing and how important it is to all our fans.

"I'm staying focused to try to find solutions. That's what NFL fans want – they want football."

Nearly 7,000 households flooded phone lines for the call, the largest turnout to date among the dozen or so calls that Goodell has taken part in with teams around the league. PSL owners peppered Goodell with questions for 30 minutes, the kind of back-and-forth that Goodell wants to return to with NFL players in hopes of reaching an agreement.

The sides will meet in a court of law on June 3 to hash out the legality of the current work stoppage, but in the meantime the 8th U.S. Circuit of Appeals has ordered mediation beginning May 16.

Goodell said during Tuesday's forum that Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, who is co-chair of the owners' labor committee, will take part in mediation.

"He is providing great leadership for the NFL on this issue," Goodell said. "There's all kinds of litigation going on. That's part of the process – the players felt that was an important step for them. I respect that decision, although I still feel like it has to get resolved through negotiations."

Goodell said he hoped the negotiations would lead to "a fair deal for the players and the clubs." In response to questions from Panthers' PSL owners, Goodell offered his ideas of what would make sense on several fronts:

-On whether a rookie salary cap is a good idea: "It's something I knew the clubs are intent on getting fixed. … We do think the system is out of whack. We think the money should be going to proven veterans who have proven it on the NFL field."

-On whether an 18-game schedule is viable: "We think it improves the quality of what we're doing as a league … But if we do that, it's critical that we do it the right way, that we do it with the right consideration for player health and safety."

-On whether offseason workouts should be shortened: "There's a balance in there. You want them physically ready for the season, but you also want to make sure that you're not doing anything that would increase the wear and tear on players."

One PSL owner asked why the NFL owners' concerns couldn't have been addressed within the parameters of the CBA that expired in March, without an interruption of football operations. Goodell said the financial gap between what needs to happen from the league's perspective and what was happening under the CBA was simply too great – a gap Goodell is working to bridge while trying to protect the NFL's unique competitive balance at the same time.

"The draft, the salary cap, free agency – all of those combine to make our game great and competitive and why every team comes into the season with hope," Goodell said. "We've had great success with teams going from last to first, and I know that's on a lot of the Carolina Panthers' minds and I know that's what the organization is working towards. That's our system and what we try to promote.

"We think the game of football is terrific. People love it, and we should continue to go on with some of the basic system issues that have made our game so successful."

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