DENVER — There was no need for Roger Goodell to name his target.
The 5,100 Denver Broncos season ticket holders who participated in a 30-minute conference call Friday afternoon figured out quickly that the NFL commissioner was directing blame for the NFL labor strife at DeMaurice Smith and his gang of players' union attorneys.
The league believes Smith, an attorney who succeeded the late Gene Upshaw as the union's executive director, feels more comfortable in a courtroom than at the bargaining table, which is why the current labor dispute is tied up in courtrooms from St. Paul to St. Louis.
"Unfortunately, the attorneys for the players association have pushed a litigation strategy," Goodell said in the conference call. "The sooner we get back to discussing these issues at the table we can assure you're going to be sitting in Mile High on Monday night with your 11 year-old son," Goodell told Ken, a Denver caller.
Martha Coleman, daughter of the late Gerald Phipps, who owned the Broncos from 1961-81, was clearly sympathetic to the owners in the ongoing labor strife.
"The problem to me is if the players want to share in the profits I think they should also have to share in the expenses," Coleman said.
"What the players share in is a percentage of the revenue, not the costs," Goodell said. "One of the issues that we were addressing is that the costs besides player (compensation) costs are rising dramatically. The reality is we want recognition of those costs."
Other points Goodell made during his conference call:
— Wayne from Granby said he is turning in his tickets if any games are canceled.
"I understand your frustration and I think your frustration is not held by you alone," Goodell said. "I hear this from fans all the time. People will move away from the game. (Sponsors and media partners) will have to move away from the game if there is still this uncertainty, if there is not an agreement."
— Matt Johnson from Denver, asked why owners don't open their financial books to the players union.
"We offered to show them several of our financial indicators, provided financial information that we did not even show our 32 clubs," Goodell said. "All they had to do was sign a confidentiality agreement which they were not willing to do."
— Goodell said the league has tried to mandate that players wear thigh, hip and knee pads but the union has been reluctant until further studies.
"It does send a very good message to other levels of football," Goodell said. "We're going to continue to pursue that. I do believe it's something we should do as a league."
— Goodell reiterated that the league will fully refund ticket holders for any games missed because of the labor dispute.