NFL owners in the driver's seat

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:07 PM ET

TORONTO - If it comes to an NFL lockout, chances are the owners will win.

Theyre richer than the players and can hold out longer.

Talks will continue Thursday in what is described as a war between billionaires and millionaires.

But while million dollar contracts are announced every week, agents estimate close to 20% of players live cheque to cheque. The average salary this season was $1.8 million but that number is skewed because of mega-deals owned relatively few elite players. For instance, ProFootballTalk.com noted this week less than half the San Diego Chargers actually earned $1 million, or more.

Also, the median salary in the NFL in 2009 was $770,000, still far above the average $65,000 median income of a four-person household in the U.S. but compared to most NFL owners mere pocket change.

If there is a lockout, it will leave about 500 free agents without an income. As well, many players wont get roster, performance or workout bonuses.

They (owners) know they have leverage and theyre trying to use it, said Jay Feely, the Cardinals union rep. They can afford to wait. Their feeling is If we hold out long enough, even if we lose $1 billion, if we can get them to the deal where we make $2 billion (a year) over the long term, were up $10 billion.


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