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Talk of warming trend in relations gets cool reception

Any hope that the NFL and the NFL Players Association might have a warmer era ahead — Sports Illustrated reported recently that Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith got along well during an Aug. 13 negotiating session — was privately scoffed at during last week’s owners meeting.

Said one insider on whether the two leaders had warmed to each other: “Well, they were in the same room.”

It’s been no secret within league circles that the NFL is not pleased with the outwardly public style of Smith, who assumed his position last year, so the SI report stoked hopes that a corner might have been turned. Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy, who is a key figure on the owners’ labor negotiating team, when asked to describe the state of relations between the union and league, searched for his words for a few moments before answering, “It is cordial.”

With the collective-bargaining agreement set to expire in March, the league did make somewhat of an overture toward the union by not trying to ram through an expansion of the season to 18 games from 16 without the NFLPA’s consent.

Goodell said the CBA allows for 22
games, but the league didn’t
act unilaterally.

“As you know, in the collective-bargaining agreement, we have the right to go to 22 games,” said Goodell in answering reporters’ questions on why the league did not vote at the meeting on expanding the season. “The ownership does not think that’s the right step to take.” When asked later if there was a timeline for approving the expanded season, Goodell responded, “We’d like to do it in the context of the collective-bargaining agreement. At some point, we’ll need to move forward.”

The league plans to send the union a proposal on an 18-game season soon, though no formal talks on the subject have been set.

Murphy is optimistic, describing the 18-game season as being if not the critical bargaining chip then one of the most important ones in getting a new labor deal done. Presumably, the extra revenue from the two added games, the league believes, would help ease the players’ concerns about changes to the labor deal owners wish to make.

KROENKE WELCOMED: New St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who was formally approved as owner at the meeting, spoke with the news media — briefly. He said that in the future he’ll be too busy to speak with reporters but that it’s nothing personal; he even once considered going to journalism school.

Kroenke

Instead, at the introductory news conference, it was a league official who was the one answering many of the questions directed at how Kroenke would handle his ownership of the NBA and NHL teams in Denver.

To comply with the league’s policy of prohibiting ownership of other sports teams in NFL markets, Kroenke must cede all equity control of the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche by 2014 and relinquish operating control by the end of this year. His son, Josh, will assume control.

There does not, however, appear to be a deadline for him to buy the 31 percent of the team he is leaving in the hands of the outgoing control owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. Because Kroenke already owned 40 percent of the team, that means he is acquiring 29 percent. At a valuation of the team of $750 million, he would be paying $217.5 million to take control.

NEW’ VENUE, SAME NAME IN K.C.: Arrowhead Stadium has undergone $375 million in renovations, but Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said the team refers to it as a new stadium, not a renovated one. But Hunt said the Chiefs have given up for the time being on finding a naming-rights partner. The Chiefs had hoped to have a company that would incorporate the name Arrowhead into a new venue moniker, but Hunt said until the economy is more favorable, that search is on hiatus.

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