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Goodell expects Indy Super Bowl to go as planned

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ANDERSON, Ind. — Colts players liked what Roger Goodell told them about the 2012 Super Bowl.

The NFL commissioner expects it to be played as planned in Indianapolis.

As for other discussion topics, well, let's just say there's plenty of time to work things out.

Goodell wrapped up his training camp tour Saturday by visiting the Colts at their new site, Anderson University, and was promptly peppered with questions from players about the uncertain labor situation.

"There were lots of questions and I was really happy with what the players asked," Colts player rep Jeff Saturday said. "We (the NFLPA) tried to get as much information to them as possible, and these guys asked a lot of good tough questions."

Saturday, a four-time Pro Bowler, did not say how players responded to Goodell, but the commissioner stayed long enough that his scheduled news conference was delayed by about 40 minutes.

A possible work stoppage has become a hot topic around Indianapolis lately. With owners opting out of the collective bargaining agreement, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith fears owners intend to lock out players before the start of next season.

One reason for Smith's concern is that the television networks will continue to pay the owners next season regardless of whether games are played. Goodell explained that's not the whole story.

"I hear that, but nobody finishes the sentence," he said. "The money is obligated by the networks, but if the games are not played, they want the money back."

Still, concern over a potential lockout could force postponement or cancellation of the league's championship as has happened in Major League Baseball and the NHL.

And Indy officials, who are preparing for their first Super Bowl, are making contingency plans.

On Monday, team owner Jim Irsay told reporters the city has "some flexibility" to change dates if needed. Super Bowl host committee CEO and president Allison Melangton said NFL officials asked the city to block out all Super Bowl venues and hotel rooms for the weekend of Feb. 5, 2012, the scheduled date, and the following weekend.

Goodell explained earlier this week that the league wanted a second date in case it went to an 18-game schedule, and reiterated Saturday nothing more should be read into it.

"I do believe there will be a Super Bowl in Indianapolis in 2012," Goodell said as the Colts prepared for Saturday's mock game. "If not, we'll work on that. But right now, we're working toward the game with that idea (being played as scheduled)."

Saturday liked that part.

"I sure do, it's something obviously huge for the place that I live," he said. "So I want it to happen."

But players remain worried about a work stoppage.

Saturday, who has been on the NFLPA's executive committee since 2006, said owners needed to open their financial records so players can negotiate in good faith.

And some, such as defensive captain Gary Brackett, acknowledged they've already made plans for a lockout by saving extra money.

"We started talking about this about two years ago, and you want to make sure you take care of yourself," he said. "But when you look at the bankruptcy rate of NFL players, you should be taking care of yourself anyway. Financial awareness and having some type of plan is something you can carry on for a long time."

Will it be enough to force owners and players into a new deal before next season?

Nobody knows.

Among the issues Goodell said he would embrace were an 18-game schedule, which could lead to expanded rosters; blood tests for human growth hormone; and a rookie wage scale.

"I think there has to be changes with the system and the core of it is that you have money going to an individual that has not demonstrated what he can do on an NFL field," Goodell said. "I think that money should be going to guys who have demonstrated that on the field."

But one thing is clear: It won't be easy.

"I think there's a lot of work that has to be done," Saturday said. "Hopefully, the closer we get to it, I know the players are willing to get something accomplished. We just have to know what are we really compromising, what are we really negotiating. I don't think any player knows yet."