Tagliabue not expecting any breakthroughs with players' union

Friday, February 3rd 2006, 1:35 pm
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is not expecting any sudden breakthroughs with the players' union on a contract extension.

``We're not making the kind of progress we need to be making,'' he said Friday during his annual state of the league address. ``I don't think negotiations are going very well.''

The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2007 season. But under the current contract, there would be no salary cap in 2007, and NFL Players Association executive Gene Upshaw insists if the cap disappears then, it won't come back.

While avoiding the strong rhetoric uttered by Upshaw earlier this week, Tagliabue did not sound too optimistic about getting a deal done before the NFL meetings begin March 25 in Orlando, Fla.

``I do think there needs to be an outreach and more reality on both sides,'' Tagliabue said. ``There needs to be a positive dose of reality on both sides of the table. To some degree, positions are hardening on both sides when they shouldn't be.''

The league and the owners have been negotiating for more than a year on an extension to the contract first agreed upon in 1993. An added element to what usually have been relatively smooth talks: owners are split on how to divide revenues that will go to the players.

High-revenue teams who make more money from sources other than television and ticket sales are balking at contributing the same percentage of their income as low-revenue franchises.

Upshaw set March 9 to begin consulting players on legal action if no deal has been reached. Tagliabue doesn't have such an immediate sense of urgency, but he's not loafing on the issue, either.

``A lot of things get done at the 11th hour and 55th minute,'' Tagliabue said. ``I don't know if we'll get something done by the league meetings.''

Upshaw talked Thursday about potential legal action and even a decertification of the union. Tagliabue conceded those were possibilities, but ``I don't think we'll be in litigation or decertification.''

The commissioner also noted that while the ``Rooney rule'' that requires interviewing minority candidates for coaching and front office jobs is working, no minorities got any of the eight openings filled thus far. Oakland has yet to hire a new coach.

``I thought we were getting beyond the stereotypes and these men were accepted as coaches, not as minority coaches,'' Tagliabue said. ``I thought it would carry over to the hiring process and it didn't.

``We all understand the need to be aggressive to blitz this issue. We need to be measured by what we do and achieve, and not by what we say.''

Tagliabue also:

_ reiterated league support for keeping the Saints in New Orleans, saying the commitment is multiyear. He hopes all eight of their regular-season games next season will be played at the Superdome.

``The team coming back and the Superdome coming back can be a magnet to attract other businesses,'' he said.

_ virtually ruled out another international regular-season game in 2006. Although the 49ers-Cardinals game in Mexico City last October was a huge success, ``right now it would be difficult to play a regular-season game outside the United States in this upcoming season.''

_ expressed his support for instant replay as an officiating tool, even as he acknowledged the botched reversal in the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis playoff game.

``It's perfectly clear that in an overwhelming number of cases, it eliminates mistaken calls and gives officiating crews the chance to see things they do not see in real time.''

_ saw only expansion to Los Angeles anytime soon, even though it would give the NFL an odd number of franchises.

``To me, the only possibility in the foreseeable future for an expansion team would be Los Angeles,'' he said. ``I could not see a decision with two expansion teams.''