By Don Banks, SI.com
TAMPA -- I know three words guaranteed to make you stop reading this blog, and they would be: collective bargaining agreement. See. Told you. (Hey, where'd you go?)
At his annual state of the league news conference on Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was peppered with no fewer than 10 questions centering on the upcoming labor showdown with the league's players union. The current CBA expires in 2011, and if no new agreement is in place by March of 2010, that season would be played without a salary cap.
But here's the only thing that matters about all that: All that stuff would happen in either 2010 or 2011, and we're still early in 2009. In other words, it's all a bunch of blah, blah, blah until a legitimate deadline looms, so feel free to ignore everything about the NFL's labor situation until then. And I can't stress that enough.
Absolutely nothing happens in the NFL in terms of negotiations until it absolutely has to. So all the time and energy that was spent this week discussing the players union-commissioned study regarding the average team's profits and the NFL's refuting of those figures was just wasted effort.
As I put it to Steelers owner Dan Rooney just after the commissioner's news conference, we've got miles to go before we sleep, so why are we even talking about this now?
"Yeah, that's correct," said Rooney, who's been around the NFL longer than face masks. "Nothing happens anywhere, in any negotiation, until the last minute. It's always that way. In all negotiations. Whether it's players contracts, the economy, banks, everything. It doesn't happen until the end.
"And we're not there yet. You have to get to the table, and they (the NFLPA) don't even have a leader yet. We have to see who it is [that replaces the deceased Gene Upshaw], and then we'll work with that person and get people to sit down and be reasonable and work things out."
NFL fans don't care or want to hear about how the money gets divided between the owners and the players. For the sake of us all, the players and the league should lock themselves behind closed doors and make the next time they talk publicly about the CBA be at the news conference announcing a new deal.
Both sides took time this week at the Super Bowl to ramp up the rhetoric and the posturing, even though they know it's more than a year before anything is really going to get done. What was the point? With the economy still tanking, you better believe nobody's feeling anyone's pain in the high-moneyed world of NFL owners and players. Don't forget, we've got a long way to go on this story, and none of the prologue really matters.
Check SI.com's Super Blog regularly for more dispatches from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.