PALM BEACH, Fla. - The NFL is almost as busy during this early spring week as it is staging a Super Bowl.
The league's agenda for the owners meetings includes discussing concerns about the collective bargaining agreement in light of the slumping economy. And a series of rules changes, including allowing helmet communications on defense. And reseeding of playoff qualifiers so that a wild-card team with a better record than a division winner could host a first-round game.
Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear yesterday the bargaining agreement has become a key point of discussion. Amid speculation team owners could opt out of the current deal in November - freeing the way for a 2010 season without a salary cap - Goodell emphasized the potential need to restructure the contract.
"We are doing a tremendous amount of analysis around the league agreement to understand the true impact of the deal," Goodell said. "One thing we are starting to realize is that it has swung considerably toward the players. We're doing our analysis to understand the ramifications of that."
Because the 32 teams have so much debt through loans - they've already agreed to collectively reduce the debt by $30 million - Goodell fears their ability to pay spiraling salaries could be compromised.
The NFL's competition committee is investigating ways of strengthening the lead-up to the playoffs and Super Bowl with a reseeding proposal.
The plan would give wild-card teams a chance for a home game in the opening round of the playoffs if their record is better than a division winner.
Several clubs, including the Buccaneers, sat out regulars at the end of the schedule, rendering some games as little more than exhibitions.
Falcons president and competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay believes it's critical to discuss reseeding even if it doesn't pass this year; 24 yes votes are required for passage.
McKay and Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the other co-chairman of the competition committee, are eager to get the defensive communications device passed. Last year, it was defeated in part because the committee didn't have a backup plan in case the defensive player with the communications helmet got hurt.
The current proposal calls for a second player to be designated to get the device if the first player gets hurt or leaves the game.
The committee also is presenting these proposals:
•Using instant replay on field goals and extra points to see if a kick has gone through the uprights.
•Not allowing a player's hair to cover the nameplate or number on the back of the uniform, an idea brought up by Kansas City.
•Eliminating the forceout on receptions at the sideline or back of the end zone, meaning a receiver must get two feet inbounds.
•Deferring a choice for winning the opening coin toss to the second half.