Michael McCaskey: 'The agreement will not be reached soon'

As Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post discusses here, influential owners Robert Kraft and Woody Johnson have recently expressed optimism that a resolution to the NFL’s labor situation can be reached before the end of the season.

As it stands, the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in March, when players believe a lockout will begin. Chicago Bears owner and chairman of the board Michael McCaskey doesn’t sound like he’s among the optimistic owners who believe a deal might not be too far off. In a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Tribune, McCaskey notes how much is at stake for both the owners and the players, and does believe an agreement is possible.

“I believe it's possible to get to an agreement,” McCaskey told the Tribune. “This enterprise my grandfather helped found and grow over the years has turned out to be the most watched and popular sport in America, and all of us — players, coaches, fans, sponsors, TV networks — get so much out of it and benefit so handsomely from it, and that stands to continue. Surely there is a way to divide the economic pie and decide on work rules in a way that continues the prosperity and appeal of the game.

“The agreement will not be reached soon. But it is entirely possible to do it, and if both sides will come to the table with a will to continue what has made the NFL so special, we can get an agreement.”

McCaskey also addressed Soldier Field, which was reopened in 2003 after a one-year renovation. The stadium’s seating capacity – 61,500 – is the smallest in the NFL and is roughly 5,000 seats less than it used to hold. New stadiums that have opened recently by the Cowboys, Giants/Jets, Cardinals and Colts dwarf the Bears’ building. There are several stadiums in the league that hold 15,000 more seats than Soldier Field.

“It's the best stadium in the NFL, but it's the smallest,” said McCaskey, who since Week 2 has visited new stadiums in Dallas and New York. “It is a challenge we have. We are in the second-largest market among football cities in the United States, and we have the smallest stadium, so that puts a challenge on the shoulders of the Bears to find ways to increase revenues even while staring in the face of that limited capacity. It can't be changed.”

The lease the Bears are currently in runs to 2033 and the belief is the small stadium bowl will be a significant issue well before then.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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