Goodell vows to avoid work stoppage in 2011

By Steve Ginsburg

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (Reuters) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell vowed Friday to complete a labor agreement with the players union and avoid a work stoppage that could potentially wipe out the 2011 season.

Goodell denied claims made a day earlier by union chief DeMaurice Smith that the league was setting the stage to lock the players out when the current deal expires next year.

"We want an agreement," Goodell told a news conference. "Every owner will tell you the same thing. We want an agreement that's fair to the game, to the players, and allows us to continue to invest in the game.

"The idea that ownership would be anxious for a work stoppage is absolutely false. You don't make money by shutting down your business."

In wide-ranging remarks two days before the Super Bowl between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints in Miami, Goodell also said the league was "working hard" to return a franchise to Los Angeles.

He added that, despite sometimes harsh February weather, a Super Bowl in the New York area was a possibility.

But the specter of a lock-out in 2011 loomed large at the news conference following Smith's remarks that on a scale of one to 10 the chances of a lockout was 14.

Goodell said it was important for players to shoulder some of the burden for new projects because the owners were unfairly having to cover too much of the cost.

The league wants a franchise in Los Angeles for its lucrative television market but the price tag of an owner-financed new stadium was hurting the effort, the commissioner said.

"The challenges of financing a facility in this kind of environment with the labor agreement that we have -- the cost of building that stadium is almost entirely on the ownership.

"That is a big burden. But it's exactly the kind of investment that if we work together... we can develop a relationship that will allow us to invest in those kind of facilities, that will generate new revenue, that will allow the game to grow."

"That will be good for us and will be good for the players."

As part of the current collective bargaining agreement, if a new deal is not reached by next month, the salary cap will be removed for the 2010 season. The cap is seen as pivotal to maintain the 32-team league's competitive balance.

"There has been a lot of discussion in the public, including by DeMaurice, that the salary cap has been good for the players, good for the game," said Goodell.

"I would hope he doesn't take things off the table that are good for the game, that we all sit down and try to be reasonable.

"We will have an agreement. It's just a matter of when."

The Super Bowl has not been played in a cold-weather city unless it was under a dome but Goodell said that could change when owners vote for the 2014 site this spring.

A new open-air stadium in New Jersey has been built for the New York Giants and New York Jets and the team owners want to host the championship game.

"The idea of playing in the elements, that's the way the game of football is played," he said. "To be able to celebrate the game of football in our number one market would have tremendous benefits to the league going forward."

Although Goodell will not have a say on the matter, he conceded it would be "an interesting vote" by all of the club owners.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)