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NFLPA head: Big-market teams should share more

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Gene Upshaw told NFL owners Wednesday that he
believes eight powerful teams have obtained an unfair advantage
over the other 24.

"When we started this process, there were 14 teams above the
average and 14 below it, and everyone was close enough to keep
things fair," the executive director of the NFL Players
Association said. "Now we have eight haves and 24 have-nots and
the haves are getting a discount on everything."

Upshaw, who met with a selected group of owners on the first day
of the fall league meetings, is hoping the system will change in a
new labor deal. The current contract expires after the 2008 draft,
but negotiations have begun on an extension through the 2011
season.

Under the current agreement, there will be no salary cap for the
2007 season.

"We don't have that much time, because if we actually get to
that uncapped year, it's over," Upshaw said. "We'll never get the
cap back once it goes away."

Since the first contract with free agency and the salary cap
took effect in 1994, it always has been extended before it expired
to avoid the uncapped year. It was last extended in 2001.

Upshaw noted that the high-revenue teams such as Washington and
Dallas get more local money, which is not part of the league's
revenue sharing. The union is asking that high-revenue teams
contribute more money to the shared pool, a move that would also
increase the salary cap and provide more money for players.

"The money that isn't shared has gone from 30 percent [of total
revenues] in 1994 to 37 percent today, and with revenues at almost
$6 billion, that's a significant amount of money," he said.
"We've had a good deal for 10 years now, and we want that to go
forward, but the model has to change."

Upshaw's presentation impressed Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, one of
the small-market owners who is a proponent of sharing more revenue.

"I thought he handled it very well," said Rooney, who in past
labor disputes often has been the moderating voice among owners.
"He heard the objections, and he answered them. I think he's got
the makings of something we can work with."

High-revenue owners don't agree.

"The union is using published information on gross revenues,
and we are looking at net income," Houston's Bob McNair said.
"The high-revenue teams are also the ones that have invested
heavily in their franchises, so when you look at what money we have
at the end of the day, the disparity isn't of the significance that
some people would have you believe."

In addition to the Redskins, Cowboys and Texans, Forbes Magazine
lists the other teams in the top eight as New England,
Philadelphia, Denver, Cleveland and Chicago -- as well as the Redskins, Cowboys and Texans. The NFL does not
release its figures, which vary from year to year.

Harold Henderson, the league's executive vice president for
labor relations, viewed the meeting as another step in the
negotiating process.

"In my view, this is a matter of Gene wanting more money for
the players, and coming with this idea as a way to do that," he
said. "I think their expectations are excessive and probably are
going to be difficult to reach, but that's what a negotiation is
all about."

The meetings will continue through Thursday, with topics
including the TV contract, which expires after 2005; a possible NFL
return to Los Angeles; and an update on progress toward Super Bowl
XL, which will be played in Detroit in February 2006.