CHICAGO — The NFL's owners met to discuss several pressing issues Tuesday, including retired players' benefits and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires in March.
Many owners left without speaking in great detail about CBA discussions, but Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he thought a new deal with the union could be completed by the end of the current season. "That's the way I feel," Kraft said.
When asked if he shared Kraft's optimism, Goodell said: "I think it's realistic, but I think we've got a lot of work to do. I'm not one for rhetoric or projections. Let's get it done."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said there was no central message from the owners on the CBA other than their own solidarity.
"No message other than (that) we as owners are going to continue to work and strive to have a deal," he said. "And we got the message that certainly the player representatives are doing the same thing."
Goodell wouldn't comment extensively on reports that the players' union could file a collusion case against the NFL's owners for restricting players' salaries in the form of reduced free-agent activity, a move that could worsen, not improve, negotiations.
"That's not my decision," he said. "Their litigation strategy is their litigation strategy. We're focused on trying to get a Collective Bargaining Agreement and negotiating. If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times — this will be resolved at the collective bargaining table. Our issue is to get there sooner rather than later, get an agreement and bargain in good faith so we can continue to play football. That's our issue."
On the subject of an 18-game schedule, owners said it was not one of the primary topics of discussion at the meetings. Colts owner Jim Irsay, whose team president Bill Polian called the switch to 18 games a "fait accompli," was not about to touch the matter.
"I don’t think there's much to say on that," Irsay said. "My president said some things. And then the commissioner said some things to him. And then I said some things."
Goodell later said that the goal was not for the league or clubs to force an 18-game regular season upon the players without their input and feedback.
"That's not what we are seeking to do," Goodell said. "What we are trying to do is in a direct way. We're trying to do it in a comprehensive fashion and understand all perspectives of it to make sure that we keep the game strong, continue to grow the game, continue to provide opportunities for our players, recognize the player health and safety issues in a responsible way, including what we do to prepare our players in the offseason.
"All of these things are being considered and have been over the last few years. I think we have been thoughtful, intelligent … we made a proposal to the players association on this issue, and we'll continue the dialogue on it with them."
The timetable for an 18-game season also is unclear, Goodell said.
"Every day that you go without implementing it, it's another day that it is probably further into the future. We're not as focused on when as much as doing it properly," he said. "It's important for us to do this so we consider all the important issues and that we do it right."
Goodell: No timetable on Favre investigation
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that he had no timetable to make any ruling on whether Vikings QB Brett Favre broke any personal conduct rules in an alleged incident that occurred when Favre was a member of the Jets in 2008.
A Deadspin.com report alleges that Favre sent racy text and voice messages and lewd photos of himself to Jenn Sterger, who was a sideline reporter for the team at the time. Favre also might have been involved with two team masseuses, according to various reports.
Goodell said the league is investigating the matter and that he has no idea when a ruling might take place.
"Our staff has been working aggressively on this, trying to gather data," Goodell said. "Then we'll make some determinations. I'd be hesitant to say any timing until I had a chance to understand it and make sure we can get all the information. As you know, we are seeking cooperation to make sure we can get all the facts."
Goodell said he had no plans to meet with Favre but would do so if it helped the investigation. Sterger reportedly has not spoken with NFL officials yet and is said to be planning her next course of action.
"Some of the facts that we want to understand: what happened, what's transpired and (to) make sure we are dealing with it in a responsible fashion," Goodell said.
Although Favre never has been guilty of violating the personal conduct policy, he still could be subject to suspension. Goodell said he didn't want to jump to any conclusions on the case but added that personal conduct — especially with the high-profile cases of Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick taking center stage the past few seasons — remains a chief concern of his.
"It's one of the reasons we implemented the personal conduct policy," he said. "It's to make sure that everyone involved in the NFL — commissioners, players, coaches, executives — understand the responsibility to conduct themselves in a responsible fashion. We all have to understand that."
Favre currently has played in 313 consecutive games (including playoffs), an NFL record, and any suspension would end that run.
Irsay close-mouthed about potential Manning deal
Colts owner Jim Irsay would not get into details about a potential contract extension for QB Peyton Manning but did say that the two sides have had discussions on the matter.
"You get things done when it's quiet, and it's quiet," Irsay said. "That's the way we want to move forward."
Manning is set to hit free agency after this season. Irsay said back in February at the Super Bowl that he would make Manning the highest-paid player in the NFL, and he reiterated those statements on the first day of training camp.
Since that time, the Patriots signed QB Tom Brady to a four-year, $72 million contract with $49 million guaranteed. When asked if the Brady deal has any bearing on what Manning might earn, Irsay hinted that the Colts are well-aware of what the terms of the deal are.
"All deals that are signed, (they) create frameworks," Irsay said. "But like I said, it's something that we're working on it, and (I) can't really comment on anything else except, you know, markets get established by those sorts of things.
"(Manning and Brady) have been tied together, no doubt, 1A-1B as the greatest players in the game. You know they'll probably be compared for a long time even after their careers."
McKay: Helmets coming off at faster rate
Falcons president and NFL competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay didn't want to say whether the NFL gave guidelines to all 32 team owners on how to prepare for a lockout during their meeting Tuesday, but he did take a swipe at Colts president Bill Polian, who had to backtrack recently after saying an 18-game regular season was a done deal.
"I will leave that to the league to discuss," McKay said, when asked about the specifics of Tuesday morning's presentation. "I will leave that to Bill Polian or the league to discuss. And that's a cheap shot at Bill. I'm sorry.
"It is a fair question, just not for me."
McKay did have plenty to say, however, when the topic of player safety was broached in his discussion with reporters. McKay seemed bothered by the numbers of helmets he's seen coming off players' heads in the first five weeks of the season.
"We just want to pay attention to the fact that there's no question, at least in our mind, that helmets coming off is happening at a faster rate than it used to," he said. "We put the one rule in this year, which was protecting the ballcarrier and just making the play dead when (his helmet comes off), but we want to go back and figure out the answer to why (it's happening so frequently)."
McKay also said he expects the rule that's now associated with Lions WR Calvin Johnson to be reviewed again by the competition committee. What appeared to be a game-winning touchdown catch by Johnson in Week One — he landed with both feet inbounds in the endzone and appeared to establish possession — was ruled an incompletion because the ball came out of Johnson's hand when he hit the ground.
"A rule like that, which is the going-to-the-ground rule, I would say will definitely be discussed," McKay said. "It's been discussed for the last couple years. It's a most difficult rule because you write rules for on-field officials and not so much for people like us watching it in replay or watching at home on TV.
"There's a definite conflict. I think we need to go back and look at that rule and make sure that we haven't extended it too far, but it is not easy to do because most plays don't happen at the pace that Calvin Johnson's play happened. That makes it difficult. ... Will it be reviewed? Yeah, I would be surprised if it wouldn't be discussed."
Nike to replace Reebok as NFL's uniform supplier in 2012
The NFL will be dressed in a new set of partners' gear starting in 2012, the league announced at the annual fall meeting Tuesday. The biggest change came with the teams' jerseys. Reebok, which had owned the rights since 2001, will continue to outfit the league's official uniforms through 2011 and then will be replaced by Nike starting in 2012.
"We have spent considerable time the past few years vigorously evaluating our apparel business," executive vice president of NFL ventures and business operations Eric Grubman said. "The new framework will provide fans with a wider breadth of merchandise from global category leaders in the sports licensed apparel industry."
New Era will be the official on-field headgear providers. Under Armour will continue to sponsor the NFL Scouting Combine. G-III, VF, Outerstuff and ’47 Brand will continue to produce fan apparel.