Archive for October, 2010

Retired receiver Joe Horn to Saints owner Tom Benson: “If you ever need me for anything, I’ll be there”

Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame yesterday, James Varney reported in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Horn, the franchise’s all-time leader with 50 touchdown catches, was inducted in front of 500 people including team owner Tom Benson and fellow Saints Hall of Famers Morten Andersen, Stan Brock and Tom Dempsey at the Landmark Hotel in Metairie. Also honored were the team’s long-time equipment managers Dan Simmons and Silky Powell.

Horn singled out Benson in his induction speech. “Turning to face Benson directly on the dais,” Varney wrote, “Horn thanked him for his support and for giving him and his family an opportunity to thrive in New Orleans.”

Said Horn, “Mr. Benson, if you ever need Joe Horn for anything, you can call me, and I’ll be here. I love the Saints.”

Benson (above left, with Horn) called Horn “one of my favorite players” and “the heart and soul of the New Orleans Saints for a long time.”

A portrait of Horn that will hang in the Saints Hall of Fame in the Superdome (above center in background) was unveiled. Horn will also be honored on the field at the Superdome during tomorrow’s game against Cleveland.

For the complete story, click here.

Commissioner Goodell on illegal hits: “Even if we have to protect players from themselves, we have to enforce our rules”

Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed in a Thursday morning interview on Boston’s WEEI-Radio the NFL’s plans for stricter enforcement of the existing rules prohibiting hits to the head of defenseless players, as defined by the rules.

Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s comments:

 (Regarding the NFL’s actions taken after the illegal hits from last weekend)

I don’t think it’s a perfect storm. I think it’s an unfortunate weekend, but I think the work the league has been doing over the last couple of years to bring greater awareness of these types of injuries and these types of hits have made sure everyone is conscious of playing the game within the rules and taking out certain techniques. That’s something we continue to emphasize, these requirements of the rules. We’re going to have to increase the discipline with possible suspensions.

(Regarding the NFL response to the hits)

There is no change of the rules. These rules are changed in the offseason after months of study with competition committee members that include coaches and front office executives and the players and medical personnel. We’ve identified certain techniques that we want to take out of the game. What we’re looking to take out are those hits to the head. We’ve extended protection to defenseless receivers in the offseason. And these were clear violations of those rules, that’s why they were disciplined. What we’re saying to the players very clearly — and information was sent yesterday, including to the media – [is that if] there is a violation of rules we will increase the discipline going forward.

(Will there be ejections going forward?)

I doubt it. It’s likely you’ll see the yellow flag first because we told our officials to air on the side of safety. If they think it’s a violation than they should throw the flag. If they don’t see it, or they miss it, than it won’t matter if there is no flag, we’ll continue the evaluation from a discipline standpoint once the tape gets back to the office on Monday.

(Could textbook, but violent, hits result in discipline under the league’s guidelines?)

It’s not a violation of the rules so why would there be discipline?

(Comparing the hits that drew disciplinary action from last weekend)

They were each violations of the rule. You could certainly distinguish any one of the three, but they are exactly the kind of techniques we have worked on eliminating from the game. Each of them are violations of the rules, they were penalized and disciplined beyond that.

(On the guidelines that are in place)

The defenseless receiver has protections while catching the ball, even while he’s caught the ball. This past offseason we extended it a little bit beyond once they gain possession to give him the chance to become essentially a runner, someone who can defend by moving. As you can see by that play he had no opportunity to defend himself. But we also understand what defenders are trying to do, which is separate the ball. But there are techniques that can be used to separate the ball without the helmet going to the head or neck area.
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NY Times: “NBA eyes drastic cut in payouts to players”

Labor negotiations are also a hot topic in the NBA. Howard Beck writes about it in today’s New York Times under the header “NBA eyes drastic cut in payouts to players.”

“NBA owners have been seeking big changes in the collective bargaining agreement, including a hard salary cap and numerous restrictions on player contracts,” Beck wrote. “But the specific cost-savings target was made public for the first time Thursday, when Commissioner David Stern disclosed it to reporters after an owners meeting in Manhattan.”

“We would like to get profitable, have a return on investment,” said Commissioner Stern. “There’s a swing of somewhere in the neighborhood of $750-to-800 million that we would like to change.”

Beck noted that “a reduction of $800 million would represent a 38 percent across-the-board pay cut for the players, who currently earn about $2.1 billion in salaries and benefits, according to the league.”

NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver also addressed the issue. “Before you know it, we’re going to be at the beginning of 2011, and it’s going to begin having an impact then and uncertainty is bad news for any business,” Silver said.

For the complete story, click here.

Commissioner Goodell to Time magazine readers: “I’ll play any role I can to make sure we reach an agreement”

Commissioner Goodell answered reader inquiries in the popular “10 Questions” feature of the latest issue (Nov. 1) of Time magazine.

On his role in the current negotiations for a new CBA, the commissioner said, “I’ll play any role I can to make sure we reach an agreement so we continue to play football. I’ve said repeatedly, the sooner we do that, the better. There could be revenue loss starting right now. That hurts everyone. We’ll work night and day.”

On continuing to attract capacity crowds to NFL stadiums, he said, “We have to make sure we’re providing great value for what we’re offering fans. It’s a constant [effort] to try to improve on that value. There’s nothing like being in a stadium with 80,000 people cheering. We would love to see more people do that.”

Asked about when testing for HGH will begin, Commissioner Goodell said, “We hope very soon. We have frequently made changes to our drug program, and we think we have the best in sports. We want to continue to make sure that is true. We’ve put it square to our union that we think this should be implemented now.”

For the complete story, click here.

To watch Commissioner Goodell answer reader questions, click here for video.

The NFL health care debate

The NFL Players Association and the NFL have exchanged letters on the issue of health insurance coverage of NFL players in the event that the current CBA expires next March 3 without a new agreement.

NFLPA General Counsel Richard Berthelsen inquired as to “whether it is in fact true that the owners intend to cease paying the players’ health insurance premiums if there is no new CBA after March 30, 2011, and if so, whether the owners’ actions in that regard will be a ‘COBRA qualifying event’ which will enable the players to thereafter keep their coverage in place by paying the premiums themselves.”

In response, NFL Senior Vice President of Labor Litigation & Policy Dennis Curran pointed out that it is well known that an employer is not obligated to provide wages or salary, or to pay for continuation of wage-related benefits, for employees during a work stoppage. He noted that employers uniformly refrain from doing so in those circumstances.

Curran also said that for at least a decade it has been well established that participation in a strike or lockout is a COBRA-qualifying event. Under the federal law known as COBRA, affected employees are entitled to continue their employer-provided health insurance coverage but at their own or their union’s expense. For example, during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, the NHL’s players union secured substitute coverage for its members as its expense.

“Given how well settled these issues are, why has the union elected not to inform its members of their COBRA rights?,” Curran asked. “Through its public rhetoric about this issue, the union has created and exploited concern among its members and their families; it has done so knowing full well that no player or family member need suffer any loss of coverage.”

Curran called on the union “to clarify this issue with the players and correct the misimpression that its public rhetoric has created.”

San Jose Mercury News: 49ers Stadium construction delayed due to lack of CBA and economic climate

In today’s San Jose Mercury News, Howard Mintz wrote on the likely delay in construction of the proposed San Francisco 49ers stadium in Santa Clara. Mintz cited stadium financing difficulties due to the economy and the NFL’s lack of a labor agreement with the players’ union beyond March 2011.

“A large chunk of the nearly $1 billion cost has always been linked to obtaining financing, which some sports economists have said could be difficult in today’s economic climate,” Mintz explained. “The NFL’s uncertain economic picture has clouded the stadium financing prospects further.”

Said 49ers president Jed York: “The clock is running on that [2014 target date to open the stadium]. Right now, we don’t have the economics that allow us to move forward at this point.”

Mintz reported that the 49ers have hired investment firm Goldman Sachs to secure financing for the stadium. “In order for the project to become reality, we need the participation of the league in the funding,” said Greg Carey, a Goldman Sachs executive working on the deal.

In a statement, the NFL said, “We are working hard to reach an agreement with the players’ union that will provide the resources once again for significant capital investments by the league in projects such as a new Bay Area stadium.”

For the complete story, click here.

St. Paul Pioneer Press: NFL players union chief tells St. Paul fans, laborers that a lockout would hurt them, too

Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported further on NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith’s visit to Minnesota on Tuesday (see below post).

According to Murphy, Smith also “attacked the NFL for threatening to discontinue” player health care in the event of a work stoppage.

“With all due respect, hits over this weekend have gotten more press coverage than the fact that 5,000 to 6,000 family members in the NFL stand to lose their health care in March,” Smith said. “We’ve got several kids on kidney dialysis. We’ve got at least one who’s in need of a heart transplant.

“While I would love to live in the world where I just react to something that happens on Sunday, I’ve got 1,900 players and another 5,000 family members with more at stake.”

Murphy also noted the NFL’s response to Smith’s.

“This is yet one more reason to get back to the bargaining table and get an agreement,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “But there is no question that a strike or lockout triggers rights under a federal law known as COBRA that allows employees to continue their existing health insurance coverage without interruption or change in terms — either at their expense or their union’s expense.

“This means that no player or family member would experience any change in coverage for so much as a single day because of a work stoppage. The union surely knows this, and there is no excuse for suggesting otherwise.”

Aiello also noted the NHL Players Association paid for substitute health coverage for its members during the 2004-05 lockout.

For the complete story, click here.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: NFLPA head, ‘A lockout of this game is a lockout of America’

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith addressed media today (Tuesday) in St. Paul, the latest stop in a nationwide tour by the union leader. The Minneapolis Star Tribune posted excerpts from the media session.

Smith addressed a variety of topics, including why the union is positioning itself to decertify in the absence of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Click here to view the transcript.

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Minnesota Vikings join list of NFL teams to decertify players union

St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Brian Murphy reported today that NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith announced Vikings players voted unanimously to decertify the union and fight the NFL in court if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is not reached before the current deal expires on March 3.

When asked why decertification in preparation for a court fight should not be perceived as aggressive, Smith said NFLPA is simply protecting its interests.

“The main difference between something that is aggressive or reactive is if someone brings a fight to you and you are scrambling to do everything to defend yourself, there isn’t a sane person in America who’s going to consider that to be aggressive,” said Smith.

For the complete story, click here.

NFL Honored Again for Concussion Advocacy Programs

The NFL will be saluted tonight by the Sports Legacy Institute in  Boston for its advocacy work to raise concussion awareness, prevention and treatment in youth sports.

Commissioner Goodell will accept on behalf of the NFL the 2010 Impact Award. The Impact Award, part of SLI’s third annual event in Boston, “recognizes the NFL’s new advocacy and educational programs on youth sports concussions.”

SLI was founded in 2007 by Christopher Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu to advance the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain injuries to athletes and other at-risk groups.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the institute’s sports concussion and brain trauma educational programs and research which is conducted at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine.

Earlier this month, Goodell served as honorary chair when the NFL was similarly honored at the fourth annual Brain Injury Association of Washington’s Auction & Dinner in Seattle.