Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is confident that offseason labor talks will result in an agreement that will enable the NFL to avoid a work stoppage in March.
"I just have to have hope that a bunch of smart people on both sides of this argument are going to get it done," Bisciotti said Thursday. "I still believe that we're going to have a full season next year."
Bisciottisaid the key issue is "the revenue split is not working for the owners," adding that he and his peers are forced to spend more money than they're taking in.
"Everybody keeps talking about the health of the league because they keep seeing revenues go up. They don't know that expenses are rising at a higher rate than those revenues," Bisciotti said. "If you were a public company, your stock would be going backward. That's what we're trying to protect against."
He remains certain that both sides can hammer out an agreement.
"We've got some work to do, there's no doubt about it," he said. "But it doesn't do me any good not to be optimistic. I know how intelligent and committed our group is to getting a deal done."
Team president Dick Cass said the Ravens have devised a plan to refund money if any games are canceled in 2010. He said the refund would come with interest and that if there is a season, the team would not increase ticket prices.
Asked why prices would remain the same, Cass replied, "One factor was the uncertainty over labor, for sure."
Bisciotti rarely speaks to the media, but he made himself available Thursday at a news conference in which the team hierarchy analyzed the 2010 season and looked ahead to next year.
Bisciotti said coach John Harbaugh will soon be getting a contract extension on a four-year deal he signed upon his arrival in 2008.
"He'll get his extension," Bisciotti said with a grin. "We're pretty happy with him."
The owner also endorsed the play of quarterback Joe Flacco, and said offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should not be blamed for the team's inconsistent attack this season.
The Ravens have reached the playoffs in each of Flacco's three seasons, but the former No. 1 pick has yet to prove he belongs with game's elite. His quarterback rating and touchdown passes increased from last season and he threw fewer interceptions, but he was unable to move the offense sufficiently in last weekend's 31-24 loss to Pittsburgh.
"Clearly he improved, and I'm still very happy to have Joe Flacco as our quarterback," Bisciotti said. "I think he's where we want him to be."
Cameron came under fire after the offense finished ranked No. 22 in theNFL despite adding wide receivers Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth. In addition, the Ravens could muster only 28 yards in the second half in Saturday's loss to the Steelers.
"The fans, their frustration can't lead us to offer somebody up for sacrifice for the things that went wrong," Bisciotti said. "Because I have a litany of examples of our defense letting us down, too. ... Every position group had a failure, every coach had a failure and it all added up to 13 wins and five losses."
Harbaugh blamed the team's sputtering offense primarily on the lack of a running game.
"We need to run the ball better," he said. "That's the No. 1 thing we're going to focus on going forward."
For the third straight year, the Ravens won a playoff game. For a third straight year, they failed to go as far in the postseason as they would have desired.
"I'm proud of the success; I'm frustrated with the loss," Bisciotti said. "Last year, I said our goal was to be one of the elite teams. Realistically, our goal is to try and be in the top 12 that gets you into the playoffs. ... We got to the final eight three years in a row. That is the cream of the NFL that gets to the final eight, and only one of those eight teams is going to go on a three-game winning streak at that point. That's the one that's going to be crowned Super Bowl champ."
Someone asked Bisciotti what the Ravens need to do to compete with the Steelers, who won the AFC North and ousted Baltimore from the postseason for the second time in three years.
"We're close. We're trying to be there," he said. "They don't take us lightly. We've got their attention. We're not there yet. They are."
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