Panthers' Richardson delivers pep talk

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A little more than a year after receiving a heart transplant, Carolina's Jerry Richardson showed he still is one of the most powerful owners in the NFL.

At the opening session of the NFL owners meeting Monday morning, Richardson stood up and gave what several people in the room described as a passionate speech to the other owners as they continue their ongoing battle with the NFL Players Association over a collective bargaining agreement.

Some in the room said Richardson, who missed last year's owners meeting while recovering, took the microphone and stood and talked strongly for about 10 minutes.

Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Richardson addressed the other owners.

"[Richardson] has been terrific," Goodell said. "Jerry is back. He's very engaged and he's very focused."

Richardson was one of the leaders in pushing through the previous collective bargaining agreement, which teams later opted out of.

Richardson urged other owners to stay united, the sources said. Richardson is the only majority owner who played in the league.

He played for the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts in the late 1950s and brought an expansion franchise to Carolina in 1995.

Since the Panthers began play, Richardson has been one of the league's most influential owners, frequently bridging the gap between old-school owners and new-school owners.

Richardson already has made several personnel moves this offseason that may indicate his concern about the labor situation.

He released numerous high-priced veterans and let All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers walk into free agency.

The labor negotiations have been a touchy subject around the league, and the lack of the agreement will force teams to operate without a salary cap next season.

If no agreement is reached in the meantime, there is the possibility of a lockout.
Several other owners talked briefly about the matter, but the sources said Richardson clearly was taking the lead on the matter.

Pat Yasinkas covers the NFC South for ESPN.com.