The NFL wrapped its spring owners meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday, and afterward, as is customary, Roger Goodell took the stage to talk about rule changes, the state of football and this lockout thing.
Though Goodell sidestepped a couple of issues -- the window needed for free agency, most notably -- he was refreshingly candid about the damage done by the lockout
"I think it's clearly had an impact on our fans," Goodell said. "You can see that in the various metrics that we have -- whether it's ratings or for traffic on NFL.com. We see that.
"And that is a reflection on the uncertainty and frustration of our fans. And we all understand that. There are also financial consequences because of that, but clearly -- if we're not successful, that's clearly to come."
Asked as a follow-up if the lockout had affected season-ticket sales, Goodell didn't hesitate to point out that the respective clubs were all suffering when it came to locking down ticket sales.
"It clearly has an impact [on season ticket sales]," Goodell said. "Fans want certainty. I don't think you can ever underestimate -- fans are still going through challenges, just in the general economy. And those challenges continue to impact on their decisions. And rightfully so.
|Owners Meetings/Labor News|
And that's something they have to balance when they want to put down money for a season ticket or a club seat or whatever else. And so we have to keep that in mind. The ownership has been reminded of that during the past couple of days, and they don't need reminding, because they're on the front line."
Most interesting was Goodell's response to a request for "specific data" about the impact of the lockout. He seemed absolutely amenable to providing the requested information, if only because it clearly showed the problems that the lockout is causing around the league, from the standpoint of keeping fans interested and generating revenue.
"It's a noticeable change," Goodell said. "I think you guys are aware of it -- our ratings were down in the draft for example. Roughly four million people -- that's a noticeable decrease ... about a 10 percent decrease as I recall."
While no fans want to hear about the revenue that the league, its teams and the players are currently losing, it is a significant point of interest, because money that gets thrown out the window during a labor impasse directly correlates to the difficulty in finding an agreement down the road.
"The longer it goes the more damage is done to the game and the more revenue's down and that means less money that can be divided between the parties," Goodell said.
Owners were presented the full range of plans for opening weekend, from the first game on Thursday night at Lambeau Field to commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks on the first full Sunday of games. Those dates are not in jeopardy yet, but the longer the impasse, the more in danger they would become, particularly with the league's marketing partners, sponsors and advertisers who must commit dollars to those events well in advance.
"We're not at an Armageddon date," Eric Grubman, executive vice president of business operations for the NFL, told the Associated Press. "We're not staring that in the face this week."
But like any event looming on the horizon, the theoretically non-existent drop-dead date isn't actually that far off. But, apparently, it won't impact the way Goodell and the NFL head into the next season.
"We're approaching 2011," Goodell added, "as we would any other season."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.