Roger Goodell said there is no deadline for a deal to be finalized that would save the 2011 regular season as it is currently scheduled. “But obviously that time is coming,” the commissioner said at the conclusion of the Spring Owners Meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday.
The league has already cancelled its rookie symposium set for late June. The next big date on the schedule would be the first preseason game – the Hall of Fame Game – between the Bears and the Rams on Aug. 7. Teams generally report to training camp in the last week of July.
So far those dates have not been altered. So far.
“We’re getting close enough now where those will have to be considerations,” Goodell said. “We obviously would prefer to get a negotiated agreement so we don’t have to make those decisions.”
Goodell also said that the uncertainty is bad, but made a point that it can be a force to bring the sides together. “There may be an opportunity to get a resolution because there’s risk to everybody,” he said.
The lockout was obviously a big topic during the meetings, and teams were briefed on the status of the litigation and negotiations.
Goodell said the owners are already seeing fans drift away from the sport due to the lockout.
"Clearly it has had an impact on our fans already," he said. “You see it in various metrics. There's been a noticeable change, TV ratings were down on the draft roughly 4 million people. NFL.com traffic (is down), we see that."
Most importantly, ticket sales are down.
"Fans want certainty," Goodell added. "I don’t think you can ever underestimate that the fans are going through challenges just in the general economy here."
You can watch the video of Goodell's press conference here.
Colts owner Jim Irsay told reporters this week that he thinks a deal needs to be in place by July 4 to save the season as it is currently scheduled and avoid the cancellation of preseason games as well as delays in training camps, all of which would continue toe economic decline. Even if that date is true, it’s over a month away.
"We're not at an Armageddon date," Eric Grubman, executive vice president of business operations for the NFL, told The Associated Press. "We're not staring that in the face this week."