Goodell, of course, is referring to the employees still working for the league, not the ones who have been laid off or took buyouts. And we're sure that whomever in the league office is in charge of site selection for future owners meetings right now is booking a whole bunch of rooms at the Scranton Ramada Inn for late March 2012.
The league, which generated more than $8 billion in revenues last year, hasn't asked Congress for a bailout yet, but Goodell continues to claim that the nation's economic problems are the NFL's economic problems. That these are "challenging times" for the league. That it is "not immune" to what's happening to other businesses around the country.
"I said to our clubs this morning that we're living in a more challenging environment," Goodell said. "It's clear we're going to have to work harder and we're going to have to be more creative and we're going to have to respond to our fans' needs.
"We're just starting the 2009 season-ticket renewal process. I think there will be challenges in certain markets. But if we continue to be aggressive and creative, I think we'll do well."
While the jury still is out on the impact of the bad economy on NFL ticket sales, Goodell said it already is starting to be felt in other areas, such as sponsorships and licensing. Although, last month, Under Armour paid $4 million to sponsor the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which was nearly double what Reebok had paid to sponsor the same event in 2008.
"It's definitely hitting us on the revenue side," Goodell said. "Meanwhile, the costs are going up. Five hundred million dollars has gone into increased player costs in 2008 and 2009. In addition to that, new stadiums are being constructed. That's costly. And we're having to operate those stadiums. And those costs aren't going down.
"In this environment, people are very cautious about how they spend their money, whether they're individuals or corporations. We're conscious of that. I do think it's going to impact for the foreseeable future on [stadium] naming rights and other revenue opportunities in the sponsorship area. That's one of the risks we have going forward, and maybe how our business model is changing."
Eagles president Joe Banner, whose boss, Jeff Lurie, recently made Forbes magazine's list of the nation's billionaires, described the effect of the economy on his team to this point as "moderate."
"There certainly are businesses out there who are being much more affected than us," Banner said. "But we're certainly affected. In an ordinary year, you have some club-seat holders that move or somebody passes away or their economic condition changes. But it's usually a pretty modest number. This year, it's more than that. It's not an overwhelming number, but it's more than that.
"Our car dealership sponsorship is virtually gone. And that's a very big category. Some of the bank categories are very challenging. To the extent that people that support us are impacted, whether it be a fan or [sponsor], we're impacted. Though we're lucky in that a lot of our big [sponsorship] categories are the Pepsis and the beer companies and the drug companies that are pretty unaffected. At least so far. Instead of getting clobbered, we're kind of just getting impacted."
No extra picks for Eagles
The league awarded 32 compensatory picks in next month's draft yesterday. None went to the Eagles. The picks were determined by the number and production of free agents lost and acquired prior to the 2008 season.
The highest round compensatory picks can be awarded is the third. Just four of this year's 32 extra picks are third-round picks. They were given to the Patriots, Bengals, Bears and Giants. Compensatory picks can't be traded. The Bengals and Titans received the most compensatory picks this year - four. The Patriots, Seahawks and Bears each were awarded three.
The NFL announced its 2009 Kickoff Week prime-time games yesterday. The Super Bowl-champion Steelers will host Tennessee in the league's season-opener on Thursday, Sept. 10. The Bears will play the Packers in the season's first Sunday night game on Sept. 13. There will be two Week 1 Monday night games: Buffalo at New England and San Diego at Oakland.
The league also released its Thanksgiving Day schedule. The Packers and Lions will be the Turkey Day game on Fox. The Cowboys will host the Raiders on CBS. The Giants and Broncos will play on Thanksgiving night on the NFL Network.
The rest of the league schedule will be announced next month. *