Report: Dolphins broke contact rule

Updated: March 23, 2011, 8:15 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW ORLEANS -- Owners haven't talked about using replacement players if the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 stretches on, commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday, and the league might not keep its last contract offer on the table if bargaining doesn't resume soon.

"We have not had any discussions or consideration of replacement players," Goodell said at a news conference closing the annual owners meetings. "It hasn't been discussed, it hasn't been considered, and it's not in our plans."

He also said five teams have been fined or been told the league is investigating them for violating offseason rules prohibiting contact with players.

Goodell We have not had any discussions or consideration of replacement players. It hasn't been discussed, it hasn't been considered, and it's not in our plans.

-- Roger Goodell

Goodell did not reveal the other teams involved, but NFL general counsel Jeff Pash confirmed to the Palm Beach Post that the Miami Dolphins were one of the five.

Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne told reporters last month he had been meeting with new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and new quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell to go over the playbook and strategies.

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said the violations aren't related to the league's lockout of players, which began March 12, hours after negotiations with the players broke off, and the union dissolved. Even during normal offseasons, from the end of one season until around March 15, NFL rules bar teams from holding organized workouts, practice or meetings, and don't allow position coaches to supervise players.

"It's a 'go home and relax' period," Pash said.

Since the lockout began, no contact between the league's 32 clubs and players has been allowed. Players don't get paid and can't negotiate new contracts; they aren't allowed to use team facilities.

Goodell said he hasn't spoken to NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith since March 11, when talks ended after 16 days of federal mediation.

Owners made a proposal that day that included an increase in their 2011 salary cap offer from $131 million to $141 million; the players had been seeking a $151 million cap for that year, plus a chance to earn a percentage of any higher-than-projected revenues above a certain threshold.

"Every day that goes by," Goodell said, "makes it harder and harder to keep the elements in that proposal."

Six days after that proposal was made, Goodell outlined some of the specifics in an e-mail sent to all active players.

Some players complained about Goodell's letter, saying it was meant to divide them. They also objected to the letter's suggestion that players push their "union to return to the bargaining table" -- the NFLPA renounced its status as a union and says it is now a trade association. That, in turn, permitted players to sue the league in federal court under antitrust laws. A hearing is scheduled for April 6.

Asked Tuesday why he sent that letter, Goodell replied: "What the ownership wanted to make sure is that the players knew what their leadership had walked away from in the mediation process. So we sent that directly to the players. As you know, they're claiming not to be a union, but we think it was important to send that so the players understood what the owners had offered."

The NFL hasn't lost games to a work stoppage since 1987, when a strike shortened the season and some games included nonunion replacement players.

Goodell said owners want to have a complete 2011 season, and repeated his hope that negotiations will resume - perhaps before the draft begins April 28.

The "primary focus" of the two days of meetings in New Orleans, Goodell said, was "our labor dispute and our planning and preparation on that."

"We are certainly planning on having a full season," he said. "That's our objective, and we're going to work as hard as we can to make that become a reality."

With that in mind, NFL travel directors are still working as if the 2011 season will go off as expected with a new deal reached to end the current NFL lockout.

"We're going ahead as the 2011 season will happen, and the only difference is we are not talking to free agents right now," Giants owner John Mara said during the owners' meeting in New Orleans. "Yes, that goes for all preparations for the offseason, training camps, preseason, everything."

Information from ESPN.com's Tim Graham and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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