Nearly 10 months after receiving a heart transplant, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is actively involved in the NFL's negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, league Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday.
"He's played a very valuable role for us and continues to talk to all 32 teams on a regular basis," Goodell said of Richardson.
The league is in CBA extension talks with the NFL Players Association amid the looming possibility that next season could be played without a salary cap. Owners are considering a lockout of players for 2011.
Goodell declined to characterize his "degree of hopefulness" about reaching an agreement with the players' union and said it would do no good to set an arbitrary deadline.
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"I think this is something that is an opportunity for all of us to create a system that is good for the players and the owners long-term," he said. "I think we all need to address it professionally ... so that everyone understands the various positions and hopefully we can get a resolution."
Richardson, 73, has been a leader in league matters as a top confidante for Goodell and former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, but his health problems necessitated a pull-back - until recently.
Goodell said he continues to be impressed with Richardson's recovery.
"He looks so good. He's motivating me to go back and lose some weight," said Goodell, who's known for staying fit.
Goodell was in Charlotte for meetings with Richardson and other team officials before an evening speaking engagement at Davidson. During a midday interview with local reporters, Goodell expressed frustration that the league still has not been able to reach an agreement with Time Warner Cable, which serves Columbia, to carry the NFL Network.
As a result, many Panthers fans in South Carolina and other areas will not be able to watch the network's live coverage of the Carolina-Miami game Thursday from Bank of America Stadium unless they subscribe to satellite providers Direct TV or Dish Network.
Viewers in a 22-county area in and around Charlotte will be able to watch the game on WAXN-TV, Channel 64.
Goodell said Time Warner Cable is "denying their customers the opportunity to see the network."
Time Warner spokesperson Melissa Buscher said the cable company is interested in negotiating with the NFL, but the league's price so far hasn't been viable.
"We don't dislike the product and we certainly don't dislike the NFL, we just think it is an excessive amount of money for eight out-of-market games (per year)," said Buscher, who added the company doesn't get many customer complaints.
Goodell also discussed recent changes in the Panthers' organizational structure, saying he supports any moves Richardson feels are necessary, which 2 1/2 months ago included the ouster of his two sons from top management positions.
"These are family, business-related matters," said Goodell. "I have complete faith in Jerry and how he conducts himself and what he does."
Goodell spoke highly of new Panthers President Danny Morrison, the former Texas Christian athletics director who was hired after the departures of Mark and Jon Richardson.
"He's a very impressive guy who had a tremendous background, who can bring a lot to the Carolina Panthers and the NFL," said Goodell.