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Part 1: McNair one-on-one


Texans owner Bob McNair spoke with Texans TV's Brooke Bentley about a variety of offseason issues, including the proposed expansion to the NFL schedule, the collective bargaining negotiations with the player's union and the Texans' prospects in the NFL Draft. Below is a transcript from part one of the interview.

Brooke Bentley (Texans TV): Mr. McNair, you recently returned from the NFL owners meetings. How productive do you think the meetings were this year?

Texans owner Bob McNair: I thought they were very productive. They are very long and we cover a lot of topics. We start early and finish late, so you are exhausted by the time you get through. But I think they were very productive, and I'm looking forward to the draft and this upcoming season. I think the things that we are doing constructive and will help improve the game.

Brooke Bentley: Four player safety rules were passed. Considering several Texans have been knocked out of games because of illegal hits, how much important was it for you to pass those player safety rules?

{QUOTE}Bob McNair: I think they are very important. Someone asked if we are making the game too soft. So I asked and said, "If you want to make it tougher, do you want us to go out there and play without a uniform – without pads, without a helmet?" We have helmets and pads for a reason; it's to protect the players. The object of the game is to score more points than the other team; it's not to have more injuries. That's not our sport. What they are doing basically is trying to avoid hits from the blindside, especially. The hits would occur from below the head and above the knee, so that you are avoiding those injuries that can occur when you get blindsided and unprotected.

Brooke Bentley: It was proposed that the league expand the season to 17 or 18 regular-season games. What are your thoughts on that proposal?

Bob McNair: I think that it has merit and that we will end up expanding the regular season. We play a 20-game season now and four of those are preseason games. We use those games for preparation, which is very important because you get to see the young players. But the players are in such good condition now when they report to training camp that it's not like it was 20 or 30 years ago when players would come into training camp and use that as an opportunity to get into shape. They already are in shape and they are ready to play, so the question is: How many of these (preseason) games do we need?

We're trying to look at ways to increase the value for our fans. By increasing the number of regular-season games and reducing the number or preseason games, we think that would add some value. There is one misconception. Some people think that the players don't get paid for the preseason games. That's not true. They get paid the same for the preseason as the regular season, so they are paid for 20 games. They don't start getting their checks until the regular season starts. You are cutting up their total compensation into 17 checks instead of 20; that's the way it works, but they are getting paid the full amount.

Others think that the reason we have four preseason games is that the local franchise gets to keep all the revenue from preseason games, so the owners don't want to cut that back. That's not true; we share in the revenue. The only difference is with national television versus local television. Local television which airs preseason games, that revenue goes to the local club and it's not shared nationally with the other clubs. Now, it goes into the salary cap, so the players get their share. And with the regular season, of course, all those are on national television. So there are a few misconceptions, but I think the owners are in favor of expanding the regular-season games and I think we'll see that happen.

What it would do for us: Number one, we want to do more international play, and that would give us another game to be used for that purpose. Or you could use it for a game at a neutral site without taking any of the home games away. We would still have 10 home games for our fans and we would still have the eight regular-season games for our fans. So we wouldn't be taking anything away from our home fans if we did expand it.

We'll have to look at roster sizes, because probably there would be more injuries if we had more regular-season games because our starters would be playing more. We might have to have two bye weeks instead of one. And the game will extend over into February, so it would go a little bit longer in the year. Those are all considerations and we'll have to figure out the best way to do that. I think probably you will see an expansion of the regular season.

Brooke Bentley: The NFL has toyed with the idea of going back to Mexico City, so there are a lot of interesting things on the horizon.

Bob McNair: The thing about it is, for us to play a regular-season game there, then our sponsors and season ticket holders are losing out on a game or they have to go to Mexico City or wherever it is. But if we had an extra regular-season game, we could accommodate that without taking anything away from our sponsors or our fans.

Brooke Bentley: Another big issue is the Collective Bargaining Agreement. How do you think negotiations with that are going?

Bob McNair: Well, the commissioner (Roger Goodell) is the one speaking to the collective bargaining agreement, so I won't go into that other than to say that I think he is doing a fine job in getting everyone prepared. I think he has met with the new leader of the player's union. He thinks he is a very intelligent person, so hopefully before too long some negotiations will start.

Brooke Bentley: Have you spoken to the new head of the NFL player's union DeMaurice Smith? What do you think are going to be the roadblocks in the negotiations?

Bob McNair: Well, I haven't had a chance to meet with him. I think there are a number of issues that will have to be addressed. The bottom line for clubs, to simply state it, is what the commissioner said in our meeting: Our expenses have been growing at seven percent a year for the league and our revenue has been growing at six percent. Well, that's eating into your margin and after a while you are out of business if you don't do something about that. So we have to look at all our expenses, and we are doing that. We're cutting back at a number of positions. We haven't had any layoffs at the Texans, but when we have open positions, we aren't going to fill those this year. We are looking at the size of the coaching staff and our scouts. We are going to have to cut back on some of those things. We're just like all of our fans; we just have to tighten our belts a little bit and yet at the same time not do anything to diminish the quality of the game.

Brooke Bentley: How do you think the league is handling the economic downturn?

Bob McNair: At the league office, they've cut back the number of positions by 10 percent. The commissioner suggested that his bonus that he earned be reduced by 20 percent. I thought that was tremendous; not many people would do that, but he felt like he needed to set an example for everyone else and so he has done that. We are trying to prepare because some of our sponsors are having difficulty now and some of them might go into bankruptcy, so that will hurt us. But most of our sponsors are taking steps to see that their business is healthy moving forward. They are happy with the value that the Texans bring to them, and so we spend time trying to determine how we can add more value to our sponsors.

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