Facing the possibility of an extended work stoppage in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers will take a series of cost-cutting measures that could include pay cuts to top-level employees such as president and CEO Mark Murphy, coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson.
By making those cuts, the team hopes to avoid laying off lower-salaried workers.
"We all hope for the best, we are all optimistic that this will get done," Packers vice president of administration/general counsel Jason Wied said in a conference call with reporters Saturday. "We know that all parties have every intention of getting this done. But we need to plan for the worst."
Even amid the tension between players and owners, Murphy said it's too early for fans to worry about a work stoppage affecting the 2011 season.
"We're still very far away from that," Murphy said. "I would encourage people, let's be reflective. We still have a lot of time and hopefully, at the end of the day, cooler heads will prevail and we'll be able to reach an agreement without any interference in terms of football games or training camp."
As mediated talks between the players and owner broke off Friday, the players union dissolved — a step that allows players to file antitrust lawsuits against the owners — and owners locked out the players.
As the entire pro football landscape now prepares for the possibility of an extended work stoppage and ugly legal fights that could threaten the 2011 season, the Super Bowl champion Packers hope to make it through the uncertainty without layoffs.
The team also plans to go forward with a new scoreboard project and expects to keep the Lambeau Field Atrium attractions open to fans.
"This is not a time for us to pull back in terms of reaching out to the fans," Wied said.
But the team is freezing salaries and new hiring. And they're preparing for the possibility of pay cuts to management and other top-level employees.
"Our coaches, our scouts, even Mark Murphy and Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, we're looking at relatively sizable salary reductions until this matter is resolved," Wied said.
Although he's disappointed in players' decision to dissolve their union rather than continue negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, Murphy — who was closely involved in the negotiations — said Saturday he still hopes players and owners will be able to resolve their differences at the bargaining table and not in court.
Murphy said owners made significant financial concessions in a proposal to players Friday. Despite seeing some recent progress in negotiations, Murphy contends the players always expected to end up fighting the owners in court.
"It's disappointing, but we still feel ultimately that we believe this is going to be negotiated at the bargaining table," Murphy said. "That's our best chance, everybody's best chance, to reach a fair agreement and hopefully that can occur sooner rather than later."
Murphy, a former safety for the Washington Redskins who worked for the union after his career was over, said the upcoming legal maneuvering complicates issues between the players and owners. But Murphy insists the two sides still can find a way to get back to the bargaining table.
"They can withdraw the lawsuit at any time, hopefully to bargain," Murphy said. "But it does add a bit of complexity because they have decertified now, they're no longer a union. So there are certain things that you can no longer do because you're no longer a union."
Wied said owners would rather be back at the bargaining table instead of in court.
"If both parties are inclined to sit down and negotiate this thing, then they can do that," Wied said. "If one party doesn't want to, there's a million reasons why they don't have to. So we can come up with the mechanics of getting back together, but it takes both parties being willing to do that — and the league is willing to do that."