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Goodell wants a do-over; fans want some answers

Righteous Roger is at it again.

That would be NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- ownership mouthpiece, Pacman Jones probation officer, destroyer of Sypgate evidence. The more Goodell talks, the less I think there will be an NFL season in 2011.

Did you see The Associated Press story on Goodell's recent appearance at a sports symposium? The highlights:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it's "ridiculous" to reward untested rookies with lucrative contracts, and wants the issue addressed in contract talks.

Let me get this straight: Goodell's owners are the ones handing out those Publishers Clearinghouse checks to NFL newbies, but they want the players' union to keep them from spending more?

"There's something wrong about the system," Goodell said. "The money should go to people who perform."

Of course there's something wrong with the system. And it's the owners' fault. You don't get a negotiating mulligan just because you got out-maneuvered by the union.

Goodell referred to Michigan tackle Jake Long's five-year, $57.75 million contract -- with $30 million guaranteed. Long was the first overall draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in April.

"He doesn't have to play a down in the NFL and he already has his money," Goodell said.
"Now, with the economics where they are, the consequences if you don't evaluate that player, you can lose a significant amount of money. ... And that money is not going to players that are performing. It's going to a player that never makes it in the NFL. And I think that's ridiculous."

So, Roger, you think Long is going to be a bust? The Dolphins don't, which is why they signed him before draft day. And during Long's introductory news conference, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland actually praised and thanked Long's agent for his help during the negotiations.

"This is about picking the best football player, in my opinion," Ireland said. "I think that's what we've done here. The economics do come into it, but that's not part of the discussion for today."

Buyer remorse? Doesn't sound like it.

Goodell said he favors lowering salaries offered to rookies, but allowing a provision for those players to renegotiate their deals after proving themselves on the field.

His statement was greeted by a long round of applause from the estimated crowd of 2,000 inside the amphitheater.

None of those applauding were drafted out of college, had their job rights owned by a team/employer not necessarily of their choice, could be traded to another employer without their consent, could be severely injured on the job, and could be cut at almost anytime.

Goodell said the key need is to have the NFL Players Association appreciate the financial challenges owners face with rising stadium construction costs and a faltering economy. Those issues were not anticipated in the previous collective bargaining agreement, which provided players a 60 percent share of the league's gross revenue.

"As our costs increase outside of player costs, that other 40 percent ... squeezes the margins and just makes it financially unworkable," Goodell said. "There has to be some more recognition of the costs."

Does that mean Goodell will be taking a pay cut on that estimated $11 million-plus salary? Didn't think so.

And how about some recognition of the fans' costs? A single ticket to a Chicago Bears game can run anywhere from $68 to $350. Plus parking. Plus whatever obscene amount a concession stand beer goes for these days.

And I don't hear Goodell mention how financially unworkable PSLs (personal seat licenses) can be for a working stiff. If you're a New York Giants season-ticket holder, it will cost you anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000 in just-imposed PSL fees to keep your seat when the new stadium opens in 2010. And according to a New York Times story, those PSL average figures are below market value.

What a scam: pay a four- or five-figure fee so you can pay for tickets that were already yours.

League owners, last month, voted unanimously to opt out of the CBA that was signed in spring 2006. The decision to opt out maintains labor peace through [2010], but will result in changes regarding the NFL's salary cap and contract signings if a new deal is not signed by March 2009.

According to a 2007 analysis done by Forbes Magazine, the collective value of the 32 NFL franchises is a staggering $30.6 billion. The NFL itself generates about $8 billion per year. So you'd think the owners and the union could solve this mess before the '09 soft deadline.

Then again, it is the NFL and the union.

Goodell acknowledged the NFL and its owners failed to foresee the economic issues that would face the league when the last CBA was approved.

Failed to foresee? Or arrogantly disregarded?

There have been some things that none of us could've envisioned," Goodell said. "You have an economy that's weakening. You have aspects of the deal that we didn't realize that we were going to be building billion-dollar stadiums. ... Things happen. I don't look back at it as a mistake. I look back at it as what do we need to do going forward?"

How convenient. So because NFL leadership and owners spectacularly miscalculated, the union and the fans have to bail out the supposedly financially strapped league? Or else we get a possible lockout in 2011?

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is spending about $1.2 billion on his new stadium. The Giants and New York Jets (who will unveil their PSL plan soon enough) are spending $1.9 billion on their new digs, making it the world's most expensive stadium. That's the union's problem, why exactly?

As usual, the NFL will rely on our addiction to the league. That's usually a smart play.
Except that this latest mess is the owners' own doing. They signed off on the original CBA. They signed off on the recent opt out.

So in this case, the NFL shouldn't take its fans for granted. Why?

Things happen.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.