Byline: Vito Stellino
DETROIT -- Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFL Players Association, painted a bleak picture of the status of the labor negotiations. The March 3 deadline for the start of free agency is just a month away.
Upshaw said if they don't have a deal by March 3, the players will go for an uncapped year in 2007 and the league will never get a cap back. The agreement would then expire in 2008, when the last legal draft would be held.
Upshaw said players could decertify as a union and then go to court on antitrust grounds if the NFL tried to impose a system that included the draft.
Upshaw said owners must agree to share more local revenue and that the union wants at least 60 percent of total football revenue. Upshaw said the high-revenue owners are taking advantage of the system and aren't paying the players a fair share. He said the owners are willing to spend money on 25 coaches and 40 to 50 people in the marketing department instead of paying the players.
Among their other demands is stopping teams from putting the franchise label on players more than once and stopping them from banishing players the way the Eagles shipped out Terrell Owens this past season.
Upshaw said the two sides remain "significantly apart" and said, "I'm not going to make a bad deal."
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will give his take on the talks at his annual Super Bowl news conference today.
The Joey Porter Show featured a second act on Thursday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker continued his oral bashing of Seattle tight end Jerramy Stevens, but Stevens refused to take the bait and fire back.
Porter insisted he was upset because Stevens said Tuesday it was sad that Steelers running back Jerome Bettis would leave Detroit without a Super Bowl ring, but Porter may have been looking for a convenient target as a way to fire himself up.
After all, Porter is no stranger to controversial comments.
He knocked the Colts before their playoff game three weeks ago for being a finesse team, then suggested after the game that the league was trying to get Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning into the Super Bowl with the overturn of an interception by Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu.
So it wasn't surprising that Porter stayed with the attack on Stevens on Thursday, continuing the bombardment he started Wednesday.
"I think he is soft. That is just me. This is his fourth year in the league and you have never heard anything about him until right now. He is just starting to play. He was a first-rounder. You aren't too good if you're a first-rounder and you can barely play [in your] fourth year, and that is just my opinion. If you're a first-rounder, you're supposed to come in and play immediately," Porter said.
Porter denied he was trying to spice up what has been regarded as a boring week of Super Bowl hype between two teams with no history of a rivalry.
"I was lying low, trying to stay out of the media. Wednesday, I was sitting at the table and now you give me a podium," he said.
Porter said if a star player had made the same comments, he might have ignored them. But he insisted Stevens hadn't earned the right to make them.
"I want to see how he is going to back up his words," he said.
Stevens said he had no regrets about his comments, although he declined to repeat them.
"I definitely meant no respect toward Jerome," he said.
He brushed off Porter's comments.
"I have no thoughts on that. I will be ready to play on Sunday," Stevens said. …