DALLAS — Roger Goodell recognized the questioner, even kidded him. But Chad Ochocinco was not in a joking mood.
The Bengals receiver, reporting for his OCNN network, stood up at the commissioner's annual Super Bowl news conference Friday and asked how close the league and union were to a new contract that would avoid a potential lockout.
"I can tell you the commitment on behalf of the ownership is on getting an agreement," Goodell said.
Goodell and union officials are to meet today in the first formal bargaining session since November. Two more sessions are scheduled for next week. Goodell said it was imperative to have a deal before the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4.
"A lot of different strategies will take place if we're not successful in getting an agreement by that time," he said. "We need to have intensive, round-the-clock negotiations to address the issues and find solutions. I can assure you that I have that sense of urgency, and I believe both sides do." Asked if the owners will lock out the players if no deal is reached, Goodell said, "We have not made any determination with what will happen on March 4."
The union has said it expects a lockout if no deal is in place. The major issues are how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenue, an 18-game regular season, the rookie wage scale and benefits for retired players. Said Goodell: "There are no deal-breakers."
That includes the league's desire to expand the regular season by two games. Goodell said fans repeatedly tell him the quality of preseason games doesn't meet NFL standards. "I feel an obligation to do the best we can to present the highest quality," he said. "If we can't do it right, we won't do it."
Combine boycott? The union has discussed a boycott of February's scouting combine with agents if no deal is reached, the Associated Press and NFL Network reported. The union hopes it would disrupt scouting of college players, who are not in the union.
Bradford, Suh named league's top rookies
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Bradford completed 60 percent of his passes, with 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in helping St. Louis improve from 1-15 to 7-9. He received 44 of 50 votes from a nationwide media panel. Bucs receiver Mike Williams earned four votes and Steelers center and former Gator Maurkice Pouncey two. Suh, the only rookie on the All-Pro team, had 10 sacks, most among tackles. He got 48 votes and Patriots corner Devin McCourty two.
Titans: Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell were interviewed for the coaching vacancy. Titans offensive line coach Mike Munchak and offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger also interviewed this week.