One day after the NFL regular season ended, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an e-mail to about 5 million fans, telling them that "if both sides give a little," the league and its players' union "can and will reach an agreement" on a new labor deal.
Citing the U.S. economy, and saying, "a 10 percent unemployment rate hurts us all," Goodell wrote Monday: "Yes, NFL players deserve to be paid well. Unfortunately, economic realities are forcing everyone to make tough choices and the NFL is no different."
Goodell outlined two key elements in negotiations among owners and players to replace the collective bargaining agreement, which expires March 4:
» Expanding from a 16- to 18-game regular season, which Goodell called "a significant change" that would "resolve fan complaints about preseason" by dropping two exhibition games.
» Instituting "a new system that properly compensates proven veterans and retired players by shifting some of the outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies."
In 2009, according to the e-mail, NFL teams agreed to contracts worth $1.2 billion -- including $585 million in guaranteed pay -- for 256 drafted rookies.
"Don't get me wrong: top draft choices will continue to be highly paid," Goodell wrote. "All we're asking for is a return to common sense in paying our rookies. Other leagues have done this and we can too."