NEW YORK — The head of the NFL's negotiating team says it will be much easier to reach a new labor agreement with the players' union if the accord includes an 18-game regular season.
"It's something that both sides recognize the value of, and so both sides will work hard to incorporate it into the new agreement," NFL executive vice president of labor and chief counsel Jeff Pash said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Pash also said the league is "focused on a full 2011 season" and the owners want to have a deal in place "well before" the summer.
The current collective bargaining agreement expires in March, and the union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, has said he believes owners are preparing for a lockout. In a letter sent to players last week, Smith advised members to save their last three game checks in case next season is canceled. The NFL has not missed games because of labor problems since 1987, when the players went on strike.
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Pash declined to provide details on where the negotiations stand right now. He listed the most prominent issues as economics, the 18-game season, the rookie salary system and free-agency rules.
Pash believes the back-and-forth the sides already have had about increasing the regular season from 16 to 18 games demonstrates they are aware of that subject's importance to the talks.
He said the NFL and union "exchanged detailed proposals" and had "detailed discussions" on that topic and added he thinks they'll "continue to do so."
"It's a season that would deliver more value to the fans. It would allow a lot of growth opportunities that don't exist with the current structure, and those growth opportunities would be beneficial for the players as well as for the clubs," Pash said. "There is a recognition that it is realistically an easier agreement to reach in the context of an 18-game regular season."
Sterger might not sue if league disciplines Favre
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A spokesman for the former New York Jets game hostess who allegedly received inappropriate photos and phone messages from Brett Favre says she won't sue the Vikings quarterback if he's punished by the NFL.
Jenn Sterger's manager, Phil Reese, said Thursday that his client would like the league to "implement a program" to prevent unwanted advances — similar to those she's alleging Favre made in 2008.
Reese said Sterger wants the league to discipline Favre before his career ends. "It's not a money story," Reese said, adding his client's goal is some acknowledgment that Favre was in the wrong.
Hall expansion planned
CANTON, Ohio — The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio will embark on a $23.6 million expansion and renovation, the largest in its history.
The project will be detailed at a news conference Friday at the hall in Canton.
The renovation and expansion is scheduled for completion in 2013, the hall's 50th anniversary. It draws nearly 200,000 visitors yearly.
The 2011 Hall of Fame class will be selected Feb. 5 and will be formally inducted on Aug. 6.