Archive for October, 2010

Commissioner Goodell to focus on female fans in chat tomorrow on NFL.com

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will host another in his series of online chats with fans tomorrow at 4:00 PM ET on NFL.com.

“In recognition of national Breast Cancer Awareness Month that we have been celebrating, we are focusing this chat on our female fans,” Commissioner Goodell said. “But we welcome questions on any subject from all fans. I am looking forward to it.”

To submit a question to Commissioner Goodell, click here.

Ray Anderson on Mike & Mike: “We are going to protect our players” with stricter enforcement of rules against illegal hits

NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson (right) discussed today on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike Show the need for more stringent enforcement of the current rules against illegal hits to the head.

“If there are flagrant and egregious violations of our current rules, we will be enforcing discipline at a higher level,” Anderson said.  “We need to get our players firmly in line with the current rules, and that’s what our intentions are, effective immediately.”

“There is no intent to change any rules,” Anderson continued. “We are just going to enforce the existing rules much more to the letter of the law so that we can protect our players.”

“We understand that this is not just about the NFL. This is about safety at our level at the college level, at the high school level, at the peewee level, because we are the standard bearer. We are committed to safety at the highest level. We will take all the criticism and all the backlash against those who say that we are acting too aggressively in this regard,” Anderson added. “We are not going to be apologetic. We are not going to be defensive about it.  We’re going to protect our players and hopefully players at the lower levels as well.”

Following are excerpts from Anderson’s interview:
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NFL, NFLPA agree to expand “88 Plan” coverage to former players with ALS

The National Football League and NFL Players Association announced today an agreement to expand benefits provided under the “88 Plan” to include coverage of qualifying players for reimbursement of expenses associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), effective immediately. Since its inception in 2006, the Plan, named after Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, has provided coverage to former players diagnosed with dementia without the need to demonstrate that the condition was caused by their participation in the NFL.

The ALS benefit will be awarded on the same terms, including qualification without regard to causation, and eligible players will receive the same financial benefits  – up to $88,000 per year for institutional care, up to $50,000 for home custodial care plus costs for certain physician services, durable medical equipment, and prescription medication.

“We are pleased to jointly expand this financial resource that will improve the quality of life for suffering former players and alleviate the financial drain imposed on their families by this terrible disease,” the NFLPA and NFL said in a statement.

To date, the “88 Plan” has awarded $9.7 million toward the care of 132 former NFL players.

Week 6 kicks off with 13 Sunday games

Week 6 of the 2010 NFL season kicks off today with 13 games.

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

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

Ask NFLlabor.com – Players will be impacted next fall by revenue loss now

Following is the answer to a recent question in the NFLlabor.com mailbag. To submit a question, send an email to NFLlabor@nfl.com.

I have a question about the Wall Street Journal article earlier this week which stated that the NFL and players will lose up to $1 billion if there is not a new agreement by next September.  If players are still getting their regular paychecks, how are they losing money?

NFL players are paid their salaries in 17 paychecks during the season – one for each week beginning Week 1.  As the article noted, with no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, NFL teams and players are beginning to lose money right now. For the players, those losses will be reflected in their overall compensation and game checks starting next year. As the revenue pie shrinks – due to losses in season-ticket, sponsorship, and other sales – the amount available for the players will shrink with it.

Gay Culverhouse to NY Times: Disappointed for retired players who paid union dues

Earlier this week, the NFL announced a new partnership with the Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program and the NFL Alumni association to expand outreach for retired players in need.

In a New York Times story following the announcement, Alan Schwarz wrote, “Culverhouse said that she approached the league and the players union this summer to solicit their support, and that the union had not expressed much interest. A union spokesman declined to comment.”

Said Gay Culverhouse (above right), “I was disappointed not for me, but for my players who had paid union dues.”

The Times also quoted Commissioner Roger Goodell. “NFL clubs are committed to doing the right thing for former players,” he said.

For the complete story, click here.

USA Today: What happens to player health care coverage if CBA expires?

USA Today NFL writer Jarrett Bell today reported on how medical insurance for players would be handled in the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires next March 3.

“If the NFL’s labor deal expires in March,” Bell writes, “players had better not expect their current employers to foot the bill for continuing health care coverage.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to a question about it during his press conference following the league meeting on Tuesday. “That’s a pretty good reason to come to the negotiating table and get a labor agreement,” Commissioner Goodell said. “That’s pretty good motivation.”

“It’s been dealt with in other circumstances and other negotiating positions, where unions have arranged to pay for their COBRA care,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “That’s the issue. They’ll continue to get medical care. It’s just that the burden of paying for that will no longer be on the clubs, it would be on the individuals or on the union.”

For the complete story, click here.

Tom Brady: Patriots owner Robert Kraft “is a deal maker…open to getting things done”

New England quarterback Tom Brady said he was “optimistic” after Patriots owner Robert Kraft stated that it is realistic that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could be completed by the end of this season.

“I love to hear that he’s optimistic,” Brady said in an interview yesterday with Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio. “I know one thing about Mr. Kraft. He’s a deal maker.  I think he’s very open to getting things done.  And I know our guys who represent the players are also for it.  So everyone’s trying to make it happen.  I think we’ve enjoyed a lot of success with the NFL and I think we’ve avoided a lot of the issues that have come up in the other leagues.  I think football is extremely popular, right now the most popular sport in America, and for good reason.  I think everyone has worked hard to contribute to that success so it’s good to keep it moving down the right path. 

“There’s got to be give and take from both sides,” Brady continued.  “Ultimately everybody wants to see a deal get done.  I love to hear that he’s optimistic.  That always is a great sign for the players. And we, as players, have got to do our part. I sure hope something happens.”

At his press conference following Tuesday’s league meeting, Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about Kraft’s optimism that an agreement can be reached by the end of the season.

“I think it’s realistic,” Commissioner Goodell said. “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m not one for rhetoric or projections. Let’s get it done.”

Arthur Blank honored today for philanthropy in Atlanta

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank will be honored today as Atlanta’s Council for Quality Growth’s 2010 “Four Pillar Honoree.”

The Four Pillar Award, which will be presented to Blank in front of area business leaders at the Georgia World Congress Center, is the Atlanta business community’s highest honor celebrating the pillars of “Quality, Responsibility, Vision and Integrity” and reflects the contributions made to economic development and the region’s quality of life.

“The mission of the Blank Family Foundation is to promote positive change in people’s lives and to build and enhance communities in which they live,” the Council for Quality Growth wrote in announcing the honor. “The Foundation has an especially strong interest in supporting innovative endeavors leading to better circumstances for low-income youth and their families. Through his generosity, The Blank Family Foundation has granted more than $250 million to support early childhood development, education, the arts, and parks and green space.”

Said Council President & CEO Michael Paris, “Arthur Blank is a visionary…but what makes him the ideal honoree is the dedication and generosity he has shown to this community, state and country.”

Added Council Chairman Gerald Pouncey: “The level of quality and integrity in which Arthur conducts his businesses and foundation is unmatched in the state and perhaps the country.”

Commissioner Goodell transcript from fall meeting

Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with the media following yesterday’s fall league meeting in Chicago. He answered questions on a number of topics including the NFL’s new partnership with the NFL Alumni and the Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program which will provide expanded services to retired players.

Following is a complete transcript.

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

Fall League Meeting News Conference

Chicago, IL – October 12, 2010

Roger Goodell: Good afternoon. You all know and you’ve gotten the release about our announcement of working in partnership with Dr. Culverhouse and George Martin. It’s part of what we spent a fair amount of time today talking about – retired players and our continuing efforts to address their issues responsibly.  We also had Mike Ditka come in and address our ownership right before lunch, which was also productive.  What we are going to do is hear from both Gay and George, ask them questions, and then I will come back and take questions.

Gay Culverhouse: Good afternoon. It’s nice to be here. It’s actually a real pleasure to be here. When I first addressed Congress in October of last year, I was very critical of the NFL and was worried about our players, our retired players.  I have to say that in this year that’s passed, I’ve gotten to know the people involved in the Player Care Foundation and have come to understand their true emphasis on and their sincerity in looking after the retired players. They and I have come to an agreement which I think will benefit the players tremendously going forward and we’ll work hand in hand to provide the services that these players need. I am thrilled and very confident that this partnership will work, be fruitful and have long-range effects for those players that have retired from the NFL.

George Martin: Good afternoon. I would like to add my sincere elation about this collaboration between the NFL, Dr. Culverhouse and the NFL Alumni Association. It is something that is extremely gratifying because I have been a great admirer of Dr. Culverhouse and her dedication and her commitment to NFL Alumni.  With this collaboration, it will obviously allow us to broaden our scope of benefits and services to our constituents.  As the Commissioner alluded to, this gives us an opportunity where we can certainly demonstrate a collaboration where the sum of our total is greater than the sum of our parts. Along with Mike Ditka and the Gridiron Greats, I think we have the essence of a new attitude toward helping alumni and those individuals who have played and paid so dearly to be a part of this great industry. I am delighted. This is something that we’re all gratified is taking place. And we look forward to a lot of productive results from this collaboration.

What are you going to be doing for the retired players?

Culverhouse: I have the Gay Culverhouse Player Outreach Program which is a 501c3 incorporated entity for almost the last year.  When I was before Congress, they said, “What are you going to do next?”  And I said, “I am going to find Jerry Eckwood.” And as you may or may not know, we found Jerry Eckwood. And he did qualify for the Plan 88 and is now in a very lovely assisted facility. We talk to Jerry at least twice a day. We are his “friends” and we adore him.  Since Jerry, there have been many players, many players. We have gone to many NFL cities and cities where players are gathered like Orlando, which is not an NFL city but there are a lot of retired players in Orlando, and we have spoken of what NFL Player Care has to offer, and we have processed those requests. We get calls 24 hours a day and that’s one of the things the NFL will help us with. I have answered calls at 1:37 in the morning and they are going to take that from me, which will be delightful. What the NFL is going to do is help us improve and reach more players. We are going to take our system which is in effect and basically, and this is going to be a bad pun, shoot it full of steroids and make it bigger and better.

On what has changed since you were critical of the NFL?

Culverhouse: I think there has been a meeting in the middle. The real turning point came for me when the poster was released. And you know what poster I’m talking about. The poster on the concussions. When that poster was released, it marked for me a real turn for the NFL in viewing some of the issues associated with head trauma and I felt that there was a change of foot, if you will.  When I noticed that the NFL had brought in some other doctors as their advisors, I felt they were making a real concerted effort to change as the information we were receiving changed. Five or six years ago this was a non-issue. Now we’re all jumping on the bandwagon and wanting the best for our players regardless how they got to the state that they are in.  Unfortunately we did not know Mike Webster was homeless. If I could have found Mike Webster, I would have done something. One of the things we try to do is we try to prevent the Mike Websters. Jerry Eckwood was two weeks away from being homeless. Now I have one of my staff people going through the entire list of the 1990 rosters, through every single team.  She’s now at the Patriots. And we are locating each player. Any player that is off the grid we’ve notated and we are then asking the guys that played to the left of them, the right of them and their roommate, “Do you keep in contact with this person? Do you exchange Facebook? Do you exchange Christmas cards?” We are actively searching for the missing players because we know they are out there. But they are not reading the paper, they are not e-mailing.  So we actually go and find players like we did Jerry Eckwood.  Long answer to a short question.

Do you have enough money to get done what you need to get done?

Martin: I think that’s a question delving into the unknown. We don’t know how broad and wide the need is right now. I think we definitely have enough resources to implement the program and continue the great work that Dr. Culverhouse has started. There’s no question about that. And with the determination, expertise and the methodology they already established, I think we’re going to have a great impact on this situation.

Culverhouse: Let me say one more thing to tag onto that. And this is a plug, but why not?  We’re having a golf tournament that’s put on by Doug Williams. Lee Roy Selmon, Jack Youngblood are all helping me with a golf tournament in Tampa the weekend of November 6. They have promised me along with several other retired players to put on 20 golf tournaments around the country for our program. And to have people of that stature to come forward, and without me knowing it, I didn’t ask, they got a group together because they are so thrilled with my passion and my enthusiasm and what I’ve been able to do for their teammates. We’re getting some good response from the former players for these fundraising events. I think that with what the NFL can offer us and what fundraising opportunities we can provide, I think we’re going to be tremendously successful.  And there are also opportunities for all sorts of people to come forward and offer help. It’s just a project you can’t say no to.

Goodell: The most significant thing is everyone is trying to do the right thing here. What our recent partnership here will allow us to do is to coordinate our efforts better. Dr. Culverhouse is doing great work. George is doing great work. Our Player Care Foundation and our Alliance are doing great work. We just want to coordinate our efforts better so we can identify the individuals who need help and try to get them help. We have programs available and unfortunately quite a few people that aren’t aware of it and don’t make use of the programs.  That’s one of the things Dr. Culverhouse mentioned to me when we met a couple of months ago in my office, “I’ve come to realize we have a lot of great programs. My foundation is working to try to make sure we have the right outreach to make sure your programs are available to the individual players and their families.” That’s one of the things we are excited about. So, we thank you both.

Culverhouse: We know we can’t do it without you.

What’s the website?

Culverhouse: It’s www.playersoutreach.org. If you google me, it will come up.

Goodell: We had a very productive session, but we covered a lot of different subjects. I’m sure you’ve been updated on some of them.  We spent a lot of time talking about our CBA negotiations and our preparations in that area. We spent a great deal of time talking about the game and the player health and safety issues, including getting reports from two of our medical advisors today. Retired players we discussed. We updated the ownership on our in-stadium efforts, continuing to improve the quality of what we’re doing in our stadiums and trying to create greater value for our fans who we know are challenged in this economic climate.  We also worked and made sure our ownership clearly understood how we are restructuring our apparel business, which our committee has been working on for close to 10 months now. I think those are the key issues we covered today although we ran over a lot of issues and I would be happy to take your questions.

On update on Brett Favre situation:

I’ve been in meetings all day today. I’ve gotten briefings over the last couple of days. I don’t think there’s anything significantly new though. I met with Milt [Ahlerich] earlier today. But there’s nothing significant to report.

On timeline for a resolution:

I’ve been travelling since late last week and expect to be travelling  a couple more days. When I get back I will make sure we get into this. Our staff has been working aggressively on this, gathering all the data. I’ll get reports on that and then make some determinations. I would be hesitant to say anything about timing until I had a chance to understand that and make sure we can get all of the information. As you know we’re seeking to get cooperation to make sure we understand all those facts.

On what you’re looking for in terms of violation? Did he break a law?

We’re just looking for facts right now before making an implications on what he did. We would like to understand what the facts are.

Will you meet with Brett any time soon?

I don’t have any plans to. At some point if it’s something that would help us get to a conclusion and something that I feel is warranted, I will do so.
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