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NFL commissioner takes 20 percent pay cut

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is taking a paycut and the league staff has been trimmed by 15 percent because ofthe reeling economy, the NFL confirmed Wednesday.

The league said that its staff cut, announced more than twomonths ago, has resulted in a reduction of 169 jobs throughbuyouts, layoffs and other staff reductions. That amounts to justover 15 percent of the league's work force of 1,100.

"All of us understand that it will continue to take collectivesacrifice to get through this challenging economic environment, butthese and other steps by our office and clubs will enable us to bemore efficient and better positioned for future growth," leaguespokesman Greg Aiello said.

Goodell, meanwhile, voluntarily took a cut of 20-25 percent fromthe $11 million salary and bonuses he was to receive in the 2008fiscal year, which ends March 31. He and other league executivesare freezing their salaries for 2009.

The NFL announced Dec. 9 it would reduce its staff by 10 to 15percent. Seventy-six people took buyouts while 45 jobs wereeliminated and 48 openings went unfilled. The moves affect NFLheadquarters in New York, NFL Films in Mount Laurel, N.J., and theNFL Network in Los Angeles.

Teams also are reducing expenses.

The league estimates that 10 to 12 teams have laid off about 200people total in the last few months. On the other hand, Denver,which laid of employees almost a year ago, owes former coach MikeShanahan an estimated $20 million for the next three years afterfiring him after the 2008 season.

Still, the league is worried about the effect the downturn willhave in many areas, notably on sponsors, with the auto industry hitespecially hard. While television ratings were high last season andtelevision contracts are in effect for another three seasons, carcompanies are among the biggest television advertisers.

NFL officials, including Goodell, have said that they won't knowthe effect of the economic downturn on the league until later thisyear, and perhaps not even then. One factor is how well seasontickets sell when they go on the market this spring --three-quarters of teams are freezing ticket prices for this comingseason at their 2008 levels.

Some of the league's layoffs are clearly intended to impacttalks on the collective bargaining agreement, which could start upthis spring, after the NFL Players Association selects a newexecutive director to replace the late Gene Upshaw. The ownersopted out of the contract last season, arguing it was too favorableto players, who receive nearly 60 percent of total revenues -- anestimated $4.5 billion next season with a salary cap increasingfrom $116 million to $123 million.

Several team presidents and general managers said during theNFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis during the past weekthat they expect to be more frugal during the free agency period,which begins on Friday. They include Bill Polian of Indianapolis,Mike Reinfeldt of Tennessee and Jerry Reese of the New York Giants.

Even with the salary cap going up, they predicted that secondlevel free agents would have hard time finding big money afterteams pay for the first level of stars, such as Albert Haynesworth,T. J. Houshmandzadeh and Ray Lewis.

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