Jim Irsay knows there is heavy lifting to do in talks with players, with the key being to negotiate and mediate. The organization will go about business as usual.


Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay said Monday he has high hopes the 2011 NFL season will not be affected by a league work stoppage and that Super Bowl XLVI will go on as scheduled in Indianapolis.

"Moving forward, it's March 14 and it's not August 14," Irsay said during a news conference at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "I have great optimism that we can have a great season, that we'll have the Super Bowl here.

"But you just can't say, 'I'm optimistic,' and magically things get done. There is a lot of heavy lifting to do, there is a lot of negotiations that need to be done to get this deal done. We're hoping to get back to that point where we can get a deal done."

Labor talks between the league and the NFL Players Association broke off last Friday. The owners announced Saturday the players would be locked out. The NFLPA decertified and also filed for a preliminary injunction that would keep a lockout from happening. Despite those events, Irsay said the Colts will maintain a normal business approach around the team's headquarters.

"In meeting with our organization, my focus on every single employee is about getting ready for a great year, not going to furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts or any of those sorts of things," Irsay said. "My focus, and the organization's focus, is on the draft, the season, and the Colts being as good as they can possibly be.

"Spirits are high in this building. This is a special year for us having the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is about the city and the state, it's not about the Colts. It's much bigger than that. We're all excited about showing the world what Indianapolis and Indiana are about."

Irsay said last Friday's end of talks left him disappointed. He said he believed the owners made an offer that would move negotiations with the NFLPA in a positive direction.

"I think we have our differences but really feel there's a framework for a deal," Irsay said. "It's always tough when you try to get everything done from the large perspective and then tie up details with it. There's work to be done and it can be done. But it's not going to get done through the courts."

Chris Polian, the Colts' vice president and general manager, explained that all contact with players has ceased during the work stoppage. Also, there can be no player transactions.

"It's a fluid situation and we'll just try to be as prepared and as flexible as possible as we move forward," Polian said.

Irsay was asked if such things as the "franchise tag" will remain valid during the lockout period. The Colts issued the "tag" to quarterback Peyton Manning when his contract expired after the 2010 season. The Colts owner said he didn't want to make a sweeping proclamation on how the tag would be handled, but he spoke specifically about Manning.

"I know this, the number one dynamic is, we want to get a long-term deal done for Peyton, offering him the highest contract that's ever been out there in the National Football League," Irsay said. "We're together in this legacy and on this journey in Indianapolis. (Manning) has a great love for here. We have great respect for each other.

"Again, I see things getting done. Certainly we're prepared for any scenario. But again, my feeling is we're going to have a great Super Bowl. There's too much of a dynamic there for that not to happen – for league players, owners, fans, everyone. That being said, it doesn't get done by itself. These things are done in arduous negotiations."


(on commenting on the suit filed by the players, including QB-Peyton Manning)
"I don't take those sorts of things personally. Obviously, Peyton (Manning), Jeff Saturday, they're very close friends of mine. This is not about, 'Us against them.' However, I do believe when the lawyers get involved and you get away from mediation, you get away from negotiation, it's not productive. With that being said, last Friday we were left with no one to negotiate with. That's not something that's going to get this thing done. We need to return to that (mediation and negotiation) and move away from litigation."

(on how far apart the two sides)
"We have our differences, but really feel there is a framework for a deal. It's always tough when you try to get everything done from a large perspective and then tie up the details with it. I was disappointed on Friday because I really felt when we came with another proposal, and that sort of thing, that we really had a chance to continue to mediate, negotiate and do the things that get a deal done. There's work to be done. It can get done, but it's not going to done through the courts."

(on with the prospect of a shortened season, is he concerned about the impact on the state of Indiana)
"I think optimism alone doesn't cut it, but I think that prospect is too premature to really start saying we are going to have a shortened season. It's March 14. I know to project and to try and guess what is going to happen is a natural thing where people go to, but I'm much more in the moment. We want to have a full season, and we want to get something done. I'm not, at this point, looking at that as something that is going to happen. But like I said, optimism alone doesn't get it done. You have to get back and continue to reexamine your positions and negotiate. I think the mediation process was very helpful. It's something that we look forward to getting back to soon."

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