NASHVILLE, Tenn. — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell defended the lockout to some unhappy Tennessee Titans fans and said that the league does not have a "drop dead date" to end the impasse.
"We're going to work to try to get this done and try to avoid having lost anything more of the NFL than we've already lost," the commissioner said.
Goodell held his latest conference call with season ticket holders Thursday, this time spending about 36 minutes on the telephone with Titans fans. They asked Goodell about whether the 2011 will be wiped out, an 18-game schedule, expansion to Los Angeles and how ticket prices are set.
Most of the fans the commissioner heard from were not happy about the situation.
Lee from Joelton wanted to know why NFL owners won't open their books up to the players, John from Lafayette asked how far apart owners and players really are, and Phillip from Nashville had no question but warned the commissioner upset fans will take their anger out on the NFL.
"Get everybody to sit down and stay until they work out some agreement and get this thing behind them before the NFL loses all credibility," said Phillip, who shares eight season tickets with his son.
William from San Ramon, Calif., flies to Nashville for three games a season, and he reminded Goodell of Major League Baseball's struggles to regain fans after a strike wiped out the 1994 World Series.
"It's like Rome's a great empire, so's the NFL. But if it's not supported by the fans, it won't be a great empire," William said.
Goodell calmly answered each question, defending the lockout as a tool to force negotiations. He said he understands fans' frustration and anger directed at the NFL.
"I think all of us will bear the responsibility for it if we're not able to come up with solutions," Goodell said.
The commissioner also defended owners not opening the books, saying that won't not solve the issue. Goodell said players have the league's revenue "down to a penny" and know costs are rising faster than revenues. He said NFL economics have changed dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years.
"These are serious issues that need to be addressed, and this is the time to do it and not kick the can down the street here," Goodell said.
"The owners have been responsive to putting a fair proposal on the table. We now need the players to engage rather than litigate and to get back to trying to solve the problems, which as you point out are at the core economic issues."
Goodell also said the NFL intends to play the full season. But he noted the league had to cancel its annual rookie symposium for June earlier this week with the start of training camps dangerously close.
"We don't have a drop dead date," Goodell said.
When a man asked where he could find an objective breakdown of the differences between owners and players, Goodell pointed him toward the websites for the league and the NFL Players Association's website.
The commissioner said negotiations, not lawsuits, will settle this labor dispute.
"There are obviously issues that we disagree on, but there are certainly solutions to those disagreements. I think it's going to come down to everyone realizing we're better off working together to find solutions than fighting," Goodell said. "That's in the best interest of growing the game and will be in the best interest of all parties going forward."