Archive for September, 2010

18-4 season has been part of CBA for almost three decades

The current labor deal between the NFL and its players’ union contains a provision that allows the league to increase the regular season to 18 games, The Associated Press reported today. AP said that as the sides try to negotiate a new contract, they are talking again about the possibility of making such a switch.

“An 18-game regular season is not uncharted territory,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to AP on Wednesday, referring to the 2006 collective bargaining agreement and noting that the CFL and USFL have played schedules of that length.

(In fact, the provision giving the NFL the right to go to 18 games upon 90 days written notice to the union first appeared in the 1982 CBA.  That provision has been included in all subsequent CBAs.)

“The key,” Aiello continued, “is to approach it the right way and work closely with our players and clubs to come up with a year-round football calendar that will be better for everyone, including the fans.”

The AP story goes on to say:
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Commissioner Goodell on enhanced season: “Figuring it out in a sensible fashion will keep the game strong”

Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed a wide range of topics, including the proposed enhanced NFL season in an interview yesterday with John Madden, Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on Sirius NFL Radio.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of input from all of our club people – that includes the football people, our Competition Committee, on the ownership level and, of course, with our partners, and that includes our players – trying to figure out how to do this in a sensible fashion that will keep the game strong,” Commissioner Goodell said. “I don’t think it’s a done deal at all until we have found the right way to keep the game strong and to allow us to continue to grow the game.  I think there’s a lot of merit to the study, the analysis and the idea of it but until we can figure out exactly how to do it I don’t think anything’s a done deal.”

“Player safety always has to be at the forefront,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “We’ve worked hard in our rule changes – and Coach [Madden] knows this, he’s been involved with it – about how do we make sure we take certain techniques out of the game.  So you always want to do that.  But remember, we would be staying within the current 20-game format.  Some may not be aware, but in our current Collective Bargaining Agreement we can go to 22 games — 18 regular-season and four preseason games.  The union agreed to that in this current labor agreement.  We don’t want to do that.  I think that is too much.  What we’re looking to do is taking the existing 20-game format. We don’t believe that you need four preseason games anymore. That’s indicative of what you’re seeing in the quality of what we’re doing in the preseason, but also the fact that players don’t want to play in it, coaches don’t want them to play in it.  They don’t need it to get their teams prepared.

“I think there is a way to accomplish each of our objectives, but we have to start with the reality it’s changing already,” Commissioner Goodell added. “You’re seeing a change. The way the players and coaches and teams are addressing the preseason now has changed dramatically even in the last 10 years. I think that’s one of the things that struck me so much is the cultural change that’s happening in the NFL. When Coach [Madden] and I were going to training camps, we went into Pittsburgh and Hines Ward was saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got the day off today. Coach (Mike Tomlin) just gave me the day off.’ Coaches are approaching this differently in the amount of contact and the amount of playing for the veterans. For the young guys, it’s different. Those guys haven’t taken the physical toll that some of the veteran guys had taken the year before so that’s where they’re trying to give them the reps and the development opportunities so they can find those ‘Rich Gannons.’
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Bill Polian: Enhanced season “subject to lengthy discussion in detail with the Players Association”

Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian (right) discussed the enhanced season and clarified earlier remarks on the topic in an interview today on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show.

“I said that the 18-game season was a fait accompli, and as you guys know because you follow it closely, it isn’t,” Polian said. “It is subject to lengthy discussion in detail with the Players Association and then subject to a vote of ownership. Unfortunately, I was imprecise because as a general manager I have to think as though these things are fait accompli and my answer was in that context.  Unfortunately, because I wasn’t precise, the answer was obscured and I created a headline that was 180 degrees from what I intended to do.”

“There is a way to do this right,” Polian continued. “The Competition Committee is working on it. I’m one of the handful of people in the league who’s had experience with the 18-2 model – both in the CFL and the USFL.  I think there are ways we can find to do it right.  Part of that is looking at the 12-month football calendar, not just the regular season and the preseason.  The commissioner is committed to do that.  He is in discussions and will be with the Players Association in great detail. Out of that I hope will come a situation that works for everybody.”

Following is a complete transcript of the Mike and Mike interview.
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Senate bill would strengthen sports league drug programs

Senator Byron Dorgan

United States Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) today introduced the “Clean Sports Protection Act” that would remove the legal uncertainty created by any single court decision and permit the professional sports leagues, including the NFL, to consistently apply and enforce their collectively bargained drug testing programs. The bill is a federal legislative response to the “Star Caps” case in Minnesota and means that, if passed, drug testing programs would pre-empt state laws if these programs are more likely to detect performance enhancing drugs.

In a letter today to Senator Dorgan, NFL Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy Jeff Miller stated the league’s strong support for the bill:

“Congress has made clear, and we agree, that professional sports leagues’ drug testing policies must command the public’s respect.  A strong and consistently enforced testing program, featuring zero tolerance and strict liability for those testing positive, preserves public confidence in the integrity of professional sports, including competitive equality.  In addition, the NFL realizes that a strong testing regimen ensures that young people know that using steroids and other performance enhancing substances is dangerous and wrong.

“The Clean Sports Protection Act will help maintain a level playing field in the NFL, protect the health of our players, ensure public confidence in the game of football and set the right example for young athletes.”

Enhanced 18-2 season: What’s the status?

As discussion continues both publicly and at the bargaining table, it is a good opportunity for a reminder that the status of the proposed 18-2 enhanced season format has not changed. It is still a concept under review among NFL clubs, the NFL Players Association, and NFL business partners. Following are Commissioner Roger Goodell’s comments on the enhanced season from his August 25 press conference following a league meeting in Atlanta. These comments continue to be accurate.

Commissioner Goodell: The most significant discussion of the day was the enhanced season and restructuring our season from 16 and 4 to 18 and 2. There was overwhelming support for the concept and that we want to continue to address a variety of issues. We are putting together a specific proposal, which the negotiating team will provide to the union’s negotiating team. There is tremendous support for it.

Do you have the right to unilaterally impose the enhanced season and did you not because of sensitivities with the players?

As you know, in the Collective Bargaining Agreement we have the right to go to 22 games. The ownership does not think that’s the right step to take. We want to do this the right way and make it good for everyone, including the players, our fans, and the game in general. From our standpoint, we think we’ve moved this concept along. There’s a tremendous amount of momentum for it. We think it’s the right step to take. But we want to do that with our partners, including the players.

On expanding OTAs and other training to prepare for the season:

It’s got to be a comprehensive solution. That’s why we’re taking the necessary steps here and taking the time to address the concept and all of the aspects of this that will make it successful. That’s our focus. How do we make this successful for everybody? But we had a lot of discussion on the Competition Committee analysis about offseason training, what we would do with rosters, what we would do with injured reserved rules. All of those things would allow us the ability to do this correctly.

On comprehensive proposal to union, how will it be different than previous discussions?

What we’ve done to date is show all the analysis that we have shared with the ownership.  We have shared all of that with the players from the first negotiation session in June 2009 to the more recent discussion in June and obviously the negotiating session of just 10 days ago. Right now we have to get more specific about what exactly we are talking about, how we think it can be successful and work with the players to make sure it’s done the right way.

Do you think the players will buy into this idea?

I do because I think there are a lot of benefits to the players.  We understand the player health and safety issue. They’ve identified the issues in our discussions that they’re concerned with. We are aware of all of those. And we want to make sure we address them appropriately.
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Youth player safety and concussion awareness campaigns underway

With the fall youth sports season underway across the country, three organizations recently announced national campaigns to emphasize player safety and concussion awareness.

USA Football, the sport’s national governing body on youth and amateur levels, is conducting a national campaign through Nov. 29 titled “Put Pride Aside for Player Safety.”

Promoted in partnership with the 32 NFL clubs, the NFL and the Atlantic Coast Conference, “Put Pride Aside for Player Safety” challenges and instructs coaches, parents and youth players to make the right decision when a concussion is suspected.

Key components of USA Football’s campaign include player safety videos on equipment, tackling technique and concussion management, television and radio public service announcements, and internet banner advertising. USA Football’s web site (www.usafootball.com) contains extensive player health and safety information.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and National Academy of Neuropsychology Foundation (NAN) joined forces on a campaign to educate the public, athletes, health professionals, coaches, parents, administrators and others about concussions.

A 12-minute educational video titled “Concussions in Football: Signs, Symptoms and Playing Safeis the focal point of the NAN and NATA effort and is available nationally. The video, funded in part by the NFL, is narrated by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young and includes comments from Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark and retired quarterback Trent Green.

The video is available as a free online download on www.nanonline.org and www.nata.org/health-issues/concussion.

Last Sunday in September features eight interconference games

Week 3 of the 2010 NFL season kicks off today with 15 games, including eight interconference contests.

Following is today’s game schedule (all times ET):

Cleveland at Baltimore 1:00 PM
Cincinnati at Carolina 1:00 PM
Dallas at Houston 1:00 PM
San Francisco at Kansas City 1:00 PM
Detroit at Minnesota 1:00 PM
Buffalo at New England 1:00 PM
Atlanta at New Orleans 1:00 PM
Tennessee at NY Giants 1:00 PM
Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay 1:00 PM
Philadelphia at Jacksonville 4:05 PM
Washington at St. Louis 4:05 PM
Oakland at Arizona 4:15 PM
Indianapolis at Denver 4:15 PM
San Diego at Seattle 4:15 PM
NY Jets at Miami 8:20 PM

New York Giants honor former players and coaches in new Legacy Club

National NFL writer Judy Battista discusses in a recent New York Times article her visit to the New York Giants’ new Legacy Club, a 5,000-square-foot hall of fame in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

“It was important that we have a Legacy Club and a Ring of Honor to recognize the great players and coaches and others who have made our organization what it is,” said Giants chairman Steve Tisch. “Both are great reminders of the responsibility we all have in upholding the tradition of those who came before us.”

Team president John Mara noted that fan input played a big part in the creation of the Legacy Club. “People have asked us for years and it was always something I wanted to do,” Mara said. “We have so much history; we wanted to find a place to display it.”

Writes Battista, “The Legacy Club allows Giants fans to time-travel through eras: when Wellington Mara took photos of plays from high atop a stadium and put them in a weighted sock to be dropped to the sideline so they could be studied by players and coaches; when players fought in World War II after the season was over.”

The Legacy Club also includes duplicates of the team’s three Lombardi Trophies, and busts to honor significant Giants players and coaches crafted by the same artist who makes the Pro Football Hall of Fame busts.

For the complete story, click here.

Saints owner Tom Benson donates $8 million to Loyola University

Saints owner Tom Benson (left) yesterday announced an $8 million donation to Loyola University of New Orleans, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

“Mr. Benson’s investment in and unwavering support of this university will make certain that our fundamental Jesuit tradition remains central to the daily life of Loyola’s community,” said Reverend Kevin Wildes, the university president.

Benson’s donation, the Times-Picayune noted, will fund “the construction of a Jesuit Center, to include a major new campus chapel and headquarters for faith and service programs.”

Benson, who attended Loyola University, has been a long-time supporter of the university and was the recipient of its highest honor, the Integritas Vitae Award, earlier this year.

Benson made a $1 million contribution in 2008 to create the Jesuit Social Research Institute. In 1999, his gift of $500,000 funded the first phase of construction for the university’s chemistry facilities.

For the complete story, click here.

NFL proposes stricter DUI policies

National NFL columnist Bob Glauber today writes in Newsday on the need for the NFL Players Association to agree to tougher drunk-driving discipline that has been repeatedly proposed to the union by the NFL.

Commenting on the Tuesday morning arrest of New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards for driving while intoxicated (DWI), Glauber wrote: “There’s a good chance [the Jets] would have taken more severe measures, including deactivating Edwards for Sunday’s game. But they couldn’t do anything more than keep him out of the starting lineup because the league’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits the suspension or deactivation of a player charged with his first DWI or DUI. It’s time that rule is changed, so that teams have tougher disciplinary options for players who put themselves in the kind of situation Edwards did Tuesday.”

“What’s also disturbing,” Glauber continues, “is that the league has little power to send a strong message that such behavior is unacceptable. According to people familiar with the situation, the NFL repeatedly has pressed the NFLPA to increase the level of discipline for first-time DUIs [currently a maximum $50,000 fine] to a suspension of up to four games. Each time, the union rejected the idea.”

Said union spokesman George Atallah: “What we’ve said is that if there are any changes made to either the personal-conduct policy or the substance-abuse policy is that it has to be done through collective bargaining.”

But Glauber correctly notes that “the NFL and the union routinely have updated policies on substance abuse and personal conduct. It’s time to do so again.” For example, the maximum fine for a first-time DUI (absent mitigating circumstances) was increased several years ago from $20,000 to $50,000. The NFL the past few years has proposed increasing that level of discipline to a multi-game suspension, but the union has rejected it every time.