Speaking at the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he expects NFL owners to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement in November. If that happens — and it would only take nine owners — Upshaw said the union could retaliate with a strike.
"If they want to get out of the deal, there's nothing we can do about it," Upshaw said. "But we'll be prepared."
The CBA, agreed to in March 2006 and running through 2011, gave the owners and union the opportunity to opt out on Nov. 8. If that happens, 2010 would be played without a salary cap. Upshaw issues a dire warning to small-market teams, like the Packers, should that happen.
"We'll never have another one again," Upshaw said. "I know I'm not going to be the one pushing for another one."
That, of course, would be hazardous to the long-term future of the Packers, who play in the NFL's smallest market and, therefore, have limited revenue opportunities. Thanks to the "new" Lambeau Field, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in revenue since 2003, including a high of seventh in 2006. Given two home playoffs this season, the revenue numbers should remain high when they are announced sometime in June.
Former team chairman Bob Harlan, however, has said the Packers would likely sink down those rankings over the long term, with new stadiums opening in Indianapolis (2008), Dallas (2009) and the New York Jets and Giants (2010).
Owners, such as Buffalo's Ralph Wilson, Denver's Pat Bowlen and New England's Robert Kraft, have said the current CBA is hurting the bottom line of some teams while giving the players too much, making it likely the owners will opt out.
If that's the case, Upshaw warned: "At our meeting in March, our priorities for discussion are four options: strike, lockout, decertification or extension."
Upshaw, while saying he's willing to work with commissioner Roger Goodell, has said players will not reduce their take of revenue, which was increased to 60 percent in the 2006 CBA.
"The owners' attitude has been the players have too good of a deal ... (but) I can't convince the players that they should take less so the owners can have more," Upshaw said. "I can't sell that. This isn't hockey, where the players agreed to a 25 percent pay cut. We're not going to do anything like that. The economics of this league are good and are getting better. We're getting 60 percent of the revenues. When it's all said and done, we're not giving any of it back."
The 2006 CBA raised the salary cap to $107 million for the 2007 season. Upshaw said the 2008 cap would be about $116 million. The Packers are expected to be about $25 million under that cap entering this offseason.
Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org