Topic: NFL - 2006/2007 Season
Registered: Jun 2000
posted February 09, 2006 02:31 PM
Michaels traded from ABC to NBC for a cartoon bunny
By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
February 9, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Al Michaels was traded from ABC to NBC for a cartoon bunny, four rounds of golf and Olympic highlights.
The rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a bunny created by Walt Disney in the 1920s before he invented Mickey Mouse, were transferred from NBC Universal to The Walt Disney Co. as part of the agreement to release the broadcaster from his contract with ABC and ESPN.
"As the forerunner to Mickey Mouse and an important part of Walt Disney's creative legacy, the fun and mischievous Oswald is back where he belongs, at the home of his creator and among the stable of beloved characters created by Walt himself," Disney president Robert Iger said after Thursday's announcement.
Michaels had been with ABC for three decades and had been the play-by-play announcer for "Monday Night Football" for the past 20 years.
"Oswald is definitely worth more than a fourth-round draft choice," Michaels said, referring to what the Kansas City Chiefs gave the New York Jets as compensation for releasing coach Herm Edwards from his contract. "I'm going to be a trivia answer someday."
A four-time Emmy Award winner, Michaels agreed last July to stay with ABC/ESPN as the Monday game switched to the cable network next fall, but he asked to back out and instead will broadcast Sunday night NFL games on NBC with John Madden, his partner on ABC during the past four seasons.
As part of the deal, NBC sold ESPN cable rights to Friday coverage of the next four Ryder Cups through 2014, and granted ESPN increased usage of Olympic highlights through 2012 and other NBC properties through 2011. NBC, in turn, gets expanded highlight rights to ABC and ESPN events.
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said ABC Sports and ESPN president George Bodenheimer called last month to initiate talks, which culminated in an agreement Tuesday.
"He told me this incredible story that Walt's first really big production as a cartoonist for the cinema had been a character called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, which was before Mickey," Ebersol said. "And for reasons that aren't still totally clear to me, Walt lost those rights. He didn't have the money to hold onto them."
Disney and his partner, Ub Iwerks, created the rabbit in 1927 at the request of Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Pictures, and made 26 silent cartoons. After Disney learned that Universal held the rights, he created a new character, eventually named Mickey Mouse, who resembled Oswald, but with shorter ears.
Universal continued to make Oswald films from 1929-38 -- Mickey Rooney was one of his voices -- and appeared in a comic book from 1943-62.
"We earn nothing from those rights; they've had no value in the United States," Ebersol said.
The Walt Disney Co. had been trying to reacquire the rabbit for some time.
"When Bob was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word," Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller said in a statement. "Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."
Michaels, 61, began to think about hopping networks during the past season, realizing he wanted to work with Madden, producer Fred Gaudelli and director Drew Esocoff, who also are moving from ABC to NBC.
"As the weeks went on, I began to realize more and more how much I was going to miss being with those people," he said. "That's my family, that's my broadcasting family, and they're moving out of the house, and I wanted to move back in with them."
Cris Collinsworth, who had been set to be NBC's play-by-play broadcaster, will instead be a studio analyst.
Michaels wanted to finish the current NBA season as ABC/ESPN's lead announcer. He is being replaced by Mike Breen.
Michaels' first television broadcast was on NBC, when Buffalo played Minnesota in October 1971. He'll get a chance to work with his brother, who a producer of NBC's Olympic coverage.
"Life comes full circle," Michaels said.
AP Business Writer Gary Gentile in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Registered: May 2000
posted February 15, 2006 01:15 PM
Advertisers who waited until the last minute to grab the remaining spots for ABC's Super Bowl XL telecast this year received 40-percent discounts, Advertising Age reported Tuesday. Moreover, in what amounted to taking money from one pocket and putting it into the other, the second biggest advertiser on the telecast turned out to be the Walt Disney Co., ABC's parent, the trade magazine said. And despite widespread reports that 30-second spots on the telecast were priced at $2.5 million, traditional advertisers actually paid between $2.3 million and $2.4 million, according to AdAge, citing off-the-record talks to at least a dozen media buyers, advertisers and analysts.
Registered: Apr 2000
posted February 28, 2006 12:09 PM
Combine notebook: Settling the score with Vince
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
More combine – Best of the linebacking bunch
INDIANAPOLIS – An otherwise standard NFL scouting combine took an odd twist Saturday and Sunday night, as conflicting information circulated about the Wonderlic test score of Texas quarterback Vince Young.
Late Saturday, two league sources present at the RCA Dome passed on a tip that spread like wildfire – Young had scored a six on his Wonderlic, the 50-question examination that's administered with a 12-minute clock and aimed at measuring an athlete's general intelligence. A score of six would be remarkably low for any combine invitee, but particularly for a quarterback – a position where most teams set their bar for scores in the high teens or low 20s.
But by Sunday afternoon, Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly insisted that Young's supposed score was erroneous.
"I have been told that's an inaccurate report from a very good source," Casserly said during a press conference with the media Sunday. "… Yes, I have been told it was inaccurate, by a source good enough for me to stand up here and quote it. Otherwise I wouldn't get up here and just say it."
Casserly later said his source was National Scouting, the service that organizes the combine, administers the Wonderlic test and tallies the scores. Two other high-ranking sources in NFL front offices also disputed the rumors, and a third wasn't even aware of Young's supposed score. Even Mike Mayock, who is the draft expert for the league-run NFL Network, cast doubt on the report.
"I've been told by the NFL that it is not true," Mayock said.
Team officials aren't scheduled to get the Wonderlic scores until next week, but the rumor simply underscores the kind of combine Young has had.
He came into the week facing questions about his ability to adapt to an NFL offense, and now he might have lost his foothold as the No. 2 quarterback in the draft. Not only has the Wonderlic rumor cast a shadow – and you can bet Young's true score (whatever it is) will become public when teams get the results – but Jay Cutler's strong performance in Indy has elevated the Vanderbilt quarterback to the top of some draft boards, too.
"(Cutler) made a good case, and now we have to see how (USC's) Matt Leinart and Vince Young respond," one general manager said. "But don't forget – Cutler's going to have a pro day, too. Now he's got two chances to wow people instead of one, and I think that gives him a little bit of an edge right now.
"I know this – Vince Young really would have helped himself out if he had done his (drills) here. Maybe people would be talking about how great he looked instead of all this Wonderlic nonsense."
Hope seems to have been renewed for a new collective bargaining agreement. One AFC assistant coach said his team held one last full-staff meeting late Saturday night before some of the assistants were set to fly home Sunday morning.
"(The salary cap guy) said he thought something could be done maybe Monday," the coach said. "We were supposed to have meetings about (free agency) on Monday afternoon, but (the general manager) told us to sit tight until Monday night. He thinks that's when we'll know for sure which direction we're going in."
The combine's biggest winner yet might have surfaced Sunday, when Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson ran a blistering 40-yard dash. He was clocked anywhere from 4.26 to 4.36 seconds – with the electronic time settling at an extremely impressive 4.32.
The draft has looked lean in terms of impact wideouts, with Ohio State's Santonio Holmes appearing to be the position's No. 1 player going into the combine. But Jackson came in with size (6-foot and 213 pounds), good hands and solid route-running skills. With Holmes choosing not to run, people were looking for Jackson to post a jaw-dropping 40 time, and he gave it to them.
Now he's likely secured himself a spot in the draft's top 20, and with the size edge (Holmes came in at 5-10½ and 198 pounds), Jackson is expected to climb to the top of some draft boards at wide receiver. Interestingly, Jackson's agent is David Canter, who represented last year's mover and shaker, Troy Williamson, whose stock rose after running a 4.38 in the 40 and was chosen seventh overall. This year's generous crop of talent might prevent that kind of jump this year, but Jackson is clearly rising.
"(Chad) said, 'Tell me everything I need to do to do what Troy Williamson did,' " Canter said Sunday. "He goes, 'I don't care if it's eating every single of the worst tasting foods for the next three months (or) study the Wonderlic test.' He did his workouts. He didn't complain. He just shut up and went about his business and played his video games. He didn't even go out (at night)."
Another player teams are keeping a close eye on is Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who suffered a massive knee injury last season (torn ACL, MCL and hamstring) but still declared for the draft as a junior. Cromartie has superb size for a corner (6-2½, 208), and he'll be healthy enough to do all of his workouts Monday and right up to the draft. While it's not known how fast he can run now, Cromartie was extremely fast before the injury. He could have been a top-10 pick in 2007 had he gone back to school.
Because of the injury and lack of experience (he played in only 25 games in college), Cromartie is no better than a high-to-mid third-round pick at the moment. But if he can get a clear medical evaluation and show good speed and quickness, a team could take a flier on him somewhere in the second round, hoping he'll eventually develop into that elite talent most thought he could be going into his junior year.
The Elvis Dumerville-Marcus Vick beef was buried at the combine. Heading into the week, Vick still hadn't apologized for the nationally televised incident in which he stomped on the calf of the Louisville defensive end during the Gator Bowl. Vick was contrite about his actions when meeting with the media in Indy, and he apparently expressed those feelings to Dumerville.
"Things happen," Dumerville said. "I think it was an accident. In fact, I spoke to Marcus and he apologized. He made a mistake. He was a man. He came up to me. I have a lot of respect for that. It's time to move on."
Speaking of Dumerville, it's looking more and more like he's going to have to make the transition to outside linebacker if he wants a long future in the NFL. He checked in short (5-11) and light (257) and teams are worried he's going to get overwhelmed and worn down against NFL tackles that will consistently outweigh him by 60-plus pounds. With that in mind, many teams have been asking him about possibly making the move to linebacker. They will likely work him out in that spot leading to the draft.
"I have spoken to teams about that," Dumerville said. "Whatever it takes to get on the field. … I never played linebacker. The only time I played linebacker was in little league. I don't think that counts."
Kudos to all the scouts and fans who said leading up to the draft that Ohio State defensive lineman Mike Kudla was going to break the combine's record for bench presses at 225 pounds. He didn't break it, but he tied it at 45 – well below his personal best of 52.
"I had 46 right there, but I couldn't get that last inch with my right arm," Kudla said.
Texas A&M quarterback Reggie McNeal and Arizona State wide receiver Derek Hagan really opened some eyes Sunday, running great 40-yard dash times.
McNeal tied for the combine's second-fastest time (4.35 seconds), and he'll have NFL teams pushing him to show what he can do at wide receiver in his personal workouts. McNeal wasn't a particularly accurate passer for the Aggies, but his size (6-2, 205) and speed would make him a very attractive wideout if he could make the transition. He said earlier in the week that he'd be open to making the switch.
As for Hagan, he was extremely productive at Arizona State, but the knock on him was that he didn't have enough speed to be more than a possession receiver in the NFL. Hagan showed otherwise, posting a time of 4.42 (some had it as fast as 4.4 flat). Considering his size (6-2, 208) and good production in college (three straight 1,000-yard seasons and 27 touchdown catches his final three years), Hagan has a chance to climb into the bottom of the first round.
Some other notable 40 times Sunday:
Running backs – Mississippi State's Jerious Norwood (4.4 seconds) and Florida State's Leon Washington (4.42).
Quarterbacks – Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick (4.42) and Missouri's Brad Smith (4.46).
Wide receivers – Auburn's Devin Aramashodu (4.35) and LSU's Skyler Green (4.44).
Best two quotes of the day:
USC tight end and former Minnesotan Dominique Byrd, on what has to be the strangest tattoo at this year's combine: "I have the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome right on my arm."
Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk, reacting to the news that fellow college teammate Mike Kudla tied the NFL record for 225-pound bench presses at 45: "Forty-five's a bad day for Kudla. He'll probably break that at our pro day."
Odds and ends: Though they won't have the money to dedicate to it, the Tennessee Titans are still intent on looking for a No. 1 receiver. … The Baltimore Ravens are looking for a veteran quarterback – but not just some guy to back up Kyle Boller. Word around the combine is that Drew Brees is at the top of their list if the new CBA deal goes through. … Bowling Green's Omar Jacobs has been knocked for his throwing mechanics, but he impressed several onlookers Sunday. He's probably still in the middle rounds, but some think he's a worthy project. … Judging from the personnel buzz at the combine, it's starting to look like this year's big loss in free agency for the New England Patriots will be kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Registered: Apr 2000
posted March 01, 2006 09:47 AM
Movers and shakers
Draft prospects who improved their stock at combine
By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com
NFL scouts walked away satisfied on Tuesday afternoon after a week of interviewing potential future employees at the combine in Indianapolis. Players were poked, prodded as well as timed and measured. Records were set and many left leaving a positive impression.
•The top performing running back was Joseph Addai from LSU. After a scorching time of 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, Addai looked comfortable catching the ball and displayed a variety of ball carrying skills.
Washington State's Jerome Harrison was impressive on the stopwatch and during the practice session.
And while they probably wished they ran a little faster, Brian Calhoun of Wisconsin, Maurice Drew from UCLA and Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun all elevated their draft stock.
•Prior to the combine the thinking was only a single receiver would break into the first round. That mind thought changed after Florida's ChadJackson turned in a splendid workout.
He had a blazing time of 4.37 in the 40 and he's a muscular 210 pounds. He then put on a pass-catching clinic in the workouts and is considered a sure-fire first-rounder.
•If you had to pick one workout that will keep scouts buzzing for some time, it was the display Maryland's VernonDavis put on.
The day after benching 225 pounds 33 times, the 263-point Davis ran the 40 in 4.39 seconds. How fast was Davis? During the pass-catching workout he was outrunning many of the passes tossed in his direction.
Tight ends Joe Klopfenstein of Colorado, Leonard Pope of Georgia and Tony Scheffler of Western Michigan also improved their draft stock.
•With all the controversy surrounding Vince Young and his Wonderlic test, several solid performances by the quarterbacks were lost in the shuffle.
Quarterback Jay Cutler continued the momentum he built in January's Senior Bowl. He was accurate during his workout, displaying a live arm and the ability to throw all the passes. Cutler's interviews were another matter as teams were not as impressed during one-on-one sit downs with the Vanderbilt product.
Bruce Gradkowski of Toledo also threw the ball well. His passes were crisp and well-timed. And though there's questions about Gradkowski's arm strength, he showed good flow and rhythm.
A pair of I-AA prospects also put themselves in position to get selected in the late rounds -- Eastern Washington's Erik Meyer and Furman's Ingle Martin.
Registered: Apr 2000
posted March 01, 2006 10:04 AM
Greed may prove to be NFL's downfall
As owners fight among themselves, union prepares to decertify
By Ron Borges
You can never underestimate the corrosive power of unadulterated greed.
That is the NFL's problem today, as its wealthy labor union negotiates with its wealthy owners to extend a labor contract that has made both of them wealthier. Considering what the NFL's labor agreement has achieved since it first went into effect in 1992, one might think "What's to negotiate?'' But that's the problem. You're thinking. They're greedy. The latter is often the counter weight to the former.
It has come to the world's attention that nine of the league's wealthiest owners have threatened to sue their partners if they are forced to accept a majority vote that would force them to share equally or at least in no small part the locally generated revenues teams have been allowed to hoard in recent years. As those numbers have swelled, the rich have gotten richer and the richer still have gotten richer still.
Where this has left the players, who are the guys generating all this revenue in the first place, is simply rich which, naturally, isn't good enough for them.
Union chief Gene Upshaw didn't get rich playing even though he was so adept a blocker he went to the Hall of Fame. But he did get rich once he became the head of the NFL Players Association. Now he's insisting, quite logically, that the 32 rich owners share their total gross revenues with their slightly less rich players, and not just the "designated gross revenues'' as in the past. It's a term that never did make any sense to people whose mothers raised them to think sharing meant sharing what you've got, not just some of what you've got.
Upshaw has said repeatedly there can be no effective negotiation of an extension of the present work agreement, which has allowed the league to prosper peacefully for more than a decade, until the owners decide among themselves how they're going to cut up those local revenues.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft responded to that by saying Upshaw should worry about his union members and getting them a contract extension, and let the owners work out their internal problems between themselves.
The only problem with such thinking is that until those owners stop threatening to sue each other over the idea of sharing their incredible wealth equally the way they always used, Upshaw feels he can't make a deal. The union, you see, knows local revenues in places like New England, Washington, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Denver, Chicago, Houston and Dallas have skyrocketed, yet little of that money is thrown into the pot from which the salary cap emerges. Hence, his wealthy players aren't getting wealthier as fast as the owners are, and neither he nor they are happy about it nor willing to let that gap continue to grow.
The wealthiest owners, meanwhile, say they have different debt structures than long-time owners such as Lamar Hunt in Kansas City or the Mara family in New York, and aren't a publicly held trust like the Green Bay Packers. They argue that they're generating much more local revenue than some of their partners because they work harder at it than, say, Bill Bidwell, who owns the Arizona Cardinals, or Mike Brown, the long-time head of the penurious Cincinnati Bengals. Why should they share with guys who aren't willing to work as hard as they are at maximizing their business, they ask?
What that leaves is the union setting an end-of-the-week deadline for completing an extension of the present collective bargaining agreement, or simply allowing the deal to go to its ultimately disastrous 2007 conclusion.
That would also be the end of sanity in the NFL because it would make that season uncapped, and end the golden goose that has made every owner fabulously more wealthy than they were when they bought these teams because each has functioned with guaranteed labor costs ever since the cap was instituted.
Those fixed labor costs have allowed the value of their franchises to skyrocket, but if the cap ends, so would that increase because everyone knows the NFL would soon become like Major League Baseball. MLB is a marketing disaster in most of its cities because before the first game is played most of the have-not teams have been eliminated from World Series contention. The absence of that kind of situation has been the great magic of the NFL. Because of the cap, anyone (well, perhaps not Bidwell) can create a team that can win the Super Bowl. But if the cap disappears, the NFL will become the athletic and economic version of a third world economy in short order, and both Upshaw and the owners know it.
Should not that simple fact, and the downside that would follow, convince them all to work together? Well, it used to. However, the local revenue numbers have skyrocketed in some cities so dramatically that it has caused the normal levels of greed that made all these owners what they are today to mutate into the kind of greed than can lead eight or nine of them to threaten to sue their partners if they're forced to share, even if the vote is democratically taken.
This recently led Pittsburgh Steelers' owner Dan Rooney to ask, "Sue over what? They can vote no.''
True, but they can't win, and rich guys like Dan Snyder, who owns the Washington Redskins and makes fabulously huge profits, are used to winning. Or at least to getting their way.
In a nutshell, the problem, it seems, is basically that while NFL owners love capitalism, they also love monopolies. They love the free-market system but only as long as they don't have to play along with too many of the rules of the free-market system. In point of fact, as Upshaw said recently, "Everything they do is illegal,'' meaning monopolistic things like the draft (illegal), transition and franchising players (illegal), one-way contracts (illegal), well, you get the drift. What allows them to get away with such things, which fly in the face of both the constitution and federal labor law, is that they've been agreed to by a union representing the players' best interests. But that can change in a minute if the players' greed isn't soon satisfied.
Upshaw is threatening to ask the players to vote to dissolve the NFLPA on or around March 9 when the Governing Board meets in Hawaii (how come these guys never meet in Buffalo?). He would do this to avoid the owners trying to impose a lockout on the players — the theory being you can't lock out union members who don't have a union.
He would also do this so that quite quickly antitrust laws would again apply to the league and even the greediest of owners knows the NFL's winning percentage in federal court on matters of antitrust is similar to the Cardinals' winning percentage in playoff games.
As you can see, the stakes are rising quickly on both sides, and so is the rhetoric. When Upshaw gave his annual state of union address during Super Bowl week, he showed up for the first time in years with Jeffrey Kessler, one of the nation's top antitrust lawyers, at his side. Kessler lingered for some time after Upshaw finished speaking to answer questions about the league's antitrust violations and the NFLPA's legal options if the present agreement isn't extended.
Over on management's side, you heard for the first time in years the word "lockout'' as well as talk of obscenely rich guys suing only ridiculously rich guys over the one side's refusal to share local revenues with the other side the way their mothers and the NFL's founders taught them.
Is this all a recipe for disaster? Kraft insists not, saying this is what happens at such times, with all sides jockeying to get as much as they can before the "11th hour and 59th minute arrives'' and a deal is struck.
It is then and only then, he says, that common sense prevails. Not long after he said that, it was learned he was among the eight or nine owners threatening to sue his partners if forced to share local revenues equally.
So much for the 11th hour and 59th minute.
Kraft is a very smart guy, but he's also one of the guys who doesn't want to share with partners he feels are not working as hard or as intelligently as he is to maximize their investment. He's a very good businessman who understands brinkmanship and suicide and is smart enough to avoid them both on most occasions.
But then again, the guys who own hockey teams and baseball teams were supposed to be smart guys too, and look what they've done. Could the same thing happen in pro football? You wouldn't think so, but don't underestimate the most destructive force on earth — blind greed.
Registered: Apr 2002
posted March 02, 2006 09:15 AM
'Dire as dire can be' — NFL owners end talks
Teams may have to dump veteran players with free agency starting Friday
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - NFL owners voted unanimously Thursday to break off talks with the players’ union on a contract extension, leaving the current salary cap in place with the start of free agency looming — and possibly forcing the mass dumping of veterans.
“The situation is about as dire as dire can be,” commissioner Paul Tagliabue said.
The owners, who met for 57 minutes Thursday morning, endorsed a recommendation by their management council executive committee to reject the union’s latest proposal.
The breakdown of talks left intact, for now, a salary cap of $94.5 million. The two sides had hoped to add $10 million to $15 million to the 2006 salary cap. Without the additional room, some teams could be forced into wholesale cuts to get beneath the cap by midnight. Free agency starts Friday.
Without an agreement, 2006 will be the last season with a salary cap — under the current contract, 2007 is scheduled to be an uncapped year.
Owners did not seem inclined to cut into the difference of 4 percentage points between the sides. New England owner Robert Kraft had suggested that Thursday morning’s meeting might be short, just enough time to rubber stamp the executive committee’s decision.
That’s exactly what the owners did.
“The players are totally out of bounds,” said Dallas owner Jerry Jones. Most of the other owners declined comment, unusual in a league where many are eager to express their opinion.
Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said he expected the move by the owners. He said it was unlikely that talks would resume soon, although some league officials suggested anything could happen.
But the two sides remain far apart — according to Upshaw, the union wants a little over 60 percent of the league’s total revenue, the owners are offering 56.2 percent.
“I won’t come down,” Upshaw said Thursday. “The players know that. Only the owners can make a proposal.”
That is unlikely to happen.
“They have to make a fundamental change in their proposal in how they are defining their expectations for the players,” Tagliabue said.
Beyond the numbers is an issue that has divided the owners for two years — revenue sharing among the teams.
Under the current system, some teams make far more than others in ancillary income, ranging from local radio rights to stadium naming rights and advertising. The lower-revenue teams say that forces them to commit as much as 70 percent of that money to the players while teams with more outside money contribute far less, giving the high-revenue teams more available cash for upfront bonuses to free agents.
An uncapped year in 2007 means new rules that will force teams and agents to change their plans this year and could keep a lot of teams out of the free-agent market entirely. More will have to cut players to meet the cap because they negotiated long-term deals anticipating an extension of the union contract.
A few teams do have room, notably Arizona, Cleveland and Minnesota, all relatively low spenders in the past. Washington, which has thrown money at free agents since Daniel Snyder bought the team in 1999, may be in the deepest cap trouble.
“It might mean that no rookies get signed because no one is sure of the long-term ramifications,” said Tom Condon, the agent for a number of the game’s top players.
The ramifications of a lower than anticipated cap were evident Wednesday, when some high-priced veterans were cut. Among them were defensive end Trevor Pryce and running back Mike Anderson of Denver, the team’s leading rusher last season. Denver also cut tight end Jeb Putzier.
Buffalo, meanwhile, released defensive tackle Sam Adams and Carolina released three veterans: running back Stephen Davis, defensive tackle Brentson Buckner and kicker returner Rod Smart, “He Hate Me” of old XFL days.
Miami cut left tackle Damion McIntosh, saving $3.8 million against the cap, and former Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Madison. The Dolphins are a prime example of a team that needs a new labor agreement: They are estimated to be about $9 million over a $95 million cap.
Registered: Apr 2000
posted March 08, 2006 06:15 PM
Owners approve union deal, labor peace back to NFL
By DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer
March 8, 2006
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) -- Labor peace was restored to the NFL when the owners agreed to the players' union proposal Wednesday, extending the collective bargaining agreement for six years.
There were no further details on the agreement, including whether it includes expanded revenue sharing.
The vote was 30-2, with Buffalo and Cincinnati, two low-revenue teams, voting against it.
Free agency, put off twice by the protracted negotiations between the owners and players, now will start at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
"It was a good compromise," said Jim Irsay, owner of low-revenue Indianapolis. "We're happy with it -- 30-2 is a good vote."
Registered: Apr 2002
posted March 27, 2006 01:01 PM
Dolphins at Steelers to open NFL season
By BARRY WILNER, AP Football Writer
March 27, 2006
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Thursday night season opener featuring Miami at Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh, and a Thanksgiving night game at Kansas City highlight a portion of the NFL scheduled announced Monday.
The league's new tradition of opening on a Thursday night moves to NBC, which has taken over one of the prime-time television packages. The Dolphins, who finished 9-7 last season, will play at the Steelers on Sept. 7 at 8:30 p.m. EST.
NBC's first Sunday night matchup will be a brotherly quarterback feud between the Mannings as Peyton brings his Indianapolis Colts to the Meadowlands to play Eli and the Giants at 8:15 p.m. EST.
The main national TV doubleheader game for the full opening day Sept. 10 has Dallas at Jacksonville at 4:15 p.m. EST.
With ESPN taking over the Monday night package, the league scheduled a doubleheader for Sept. 11. Minnesota will visit Washington at 7 p.m. EST, followed by San Diego at Oakland at 10:15 p.m. EST.
That's an odd coupling. While the Redskins sell out every game and have led the NFL in attendance for six straight years, the Raiders rarely have a full stadium. That raises the potential for a blackout in the Bay Area for the game with the Chargers.
The Thanksgiving lineup features the Dolphins at Detroit at 12:30 p.m. EST, followed by Tampa Bay at Dallas at 4:15 p.m. EST. And the league has added a third holiday game, with the Broncos visiting the Chiefs at 8 p.m. EST.
The Chiefs used to host a Thanksgiving Day game in the AFL days and have long campaigned to host one in the NFL.
"I've thought all those games should be rotated," Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said Monday. "But it's a plus for us to have the first one at night.
"We have a history in them. We always hosted them before the merger, and we've wanted to do it again."
The Broncos-Chiefs match will be the first live, in-season game on NFL Network, which will show eight prime-time games from Thanksgiving through the end of the season. Those games will be on either Thursday or Saturday nights.
"It ought to bring a great rating," Hunt said. "People will be worn out from all of their Thanksgiving Day activities, so they can sit down and enjoy the game."
The entire schedule will be released in early April.
Registered: Apr 2000
posted March 29, 2006 01:03 PM
NFL looking at 2007 preseason game in China
By BARRY WILNER, AP Football Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- With the Summer Olympics headed to China, why not the NFL, too?
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Wednesday the league is considering playing a preseason game in Beijing next summer, one year before the Olympics are staged there.
The NFL has played exhibition games outside the United States regularly since 1986, although there won't be any this summer. Last Oct. 2, Arizona beat San Francisco in the first regular-season game played abroad, in Mexico. The Cardinals gave up a home game in Tempe, Ariz., to play in Mexico City, where they drew 103,467 to Azteca Stadium.
"I think the chances are increasing," said Tagliabue, who was in China last May and met with Beijing officials and Chinese Olympic executives. "We've had many discussions on that and our international people have been to China."
Several NFL owners have cited China as a new frontier the NFL needs to penetrate in a global marketing approach. The NBA already has succeeded in that area, in great part thanks to the popularity of Rockets All-Star Yao Ming.
While Tagliabue called the Mexico City game "a resounding success," no regular-season games will be played abroad this season. He did emphasize the need to "institutionalize" having such games, or the Pro Bowl, played outside the United States in the future.
PAYTON'S ADDITIONAL CHALLENGE: A first-time head coaching job in the NFL is tough enough without having dozens of outside issues to deal with.
Sean Payton doesn't have the luxury of moving smoothly into his position as coach of the New Orleans Saints. Football is not the only priority for his team.
"We're interested in any way we can help the transition to the area of the families and the players," said Payton, who was the Cowboys' passing game coordinator last season. "At our first team meeting we talked about managing it. What went on last year was unprecedented. Trying to focus on your job with the distractions that were happening to your family is difficult.
"The more we can transition players and coaches back into the routine quicker, then we'll get back into that day-to-day schedule. That first step begins with the first team meeting back in the area "
Payton has been living at an airport hotel. He's toured the region enough to see some of the worst damage from Hurricane Katrina and some of the neighborhoods that have resumed something close to normality.
While driving from New Orleans to Mobile for the Senior Bowl in late January, Payton saw "the area or two that were hit the hardest. And there also are the areas where the hotels and restaurants are open and people are coming."
"I'm very optimistic. We plan to be successful in New Orleans," he said.
GOING TO THE RACES: NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira is heading to the races.
Pereira will attend next week's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway to examine Fox TV's coverage, specifically its high-definition cameras. Pereira is looking into the feasibility of using HDTV replays in NFL games.
He noted that Fox uses a bank of large screens in its onsite broadcast center that shows each camera shot during a race.
"Replay is here to stay in sports," he said. "I want to stay on the cutting edge and make sure we're getting the best possible system."
Pereira said he'd never been to a NASCAR race until three years ago and now he is a "racing junkie."
LOS ANGELES COMMITTEE: The NFL isn't any closer to fulfilling its desire to get a franchise back in Los Angeles, but Tagliabue did add five owners to the group looking into stadium proposals from Anaheim and from the current LA Coliseum. In the next few weeks, that 11-member group will meet with representatives from both sites, with the hope of making a presentation at the spring meetings in Denver on May 22-24.
Added to the committee were Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Seahawks owner Paul Allen, Pat Bowlen of the Broncos, Jeffrey Lurie of the Eagles, and Steve Tisch of the Giants.
"We'll be looking at all kinds of alternatives," said Tagliabue, who has made getting a franchise back in Los Angeles a priority since the Raiders and Rams both left after the 1994 season.
Anaheim officials reportedly are willing to sell land to the NFL for about 50 percent of its value.
NO DEFENSIVE COMMUNICATIONS: Allowing one player on defense to wear a headset the way a quarterback does was defeated in voting by the owners Wednesday. Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Falcons general manager Rich McKay, chairmen of the competition committee, expect it to be brought up again.
"I'm not going to say the offensive coaches voted it down," McKay said with a smile, "but it did not pass."
Colts coach Tony Dungy, whose background is in defense, blamed logistical problems.
"They felt they can only give you one helmet, because unlike offense with the quarterback, it's difficult to monitor which helmets are in the game (defensively)," Dungy said. "Or if the guy gets hurt, a team would be without it and at a disadvantage."
Fisher, also a former defensive coordinator, agreed, citing a "production crunch" allowing only time to get one helmet produced per team with a headset in it.
"A lot more work needs to be done," he said.
NEW CUTDOWN NUMBERS: The first cutdown in training camp this summer will be to 75 players rather than 65. In the past, teams were allowed to keep 65 plus anyone who played in NFL Europe for the cut after the third preseason game. Now, there are more options for coaches.
"You get to choose who you keep instead of having to keep 10 NFL Europe players," McKay said.
Registered: Apr 2002
posted April 03, 2006 01:13 PM
News Broadcasters Slam New NFL Policy
The Radio and Television News Directors Assn. (RTNDA) has accused the National Football League of "subverting the American tradition of a free press" by barring local TV news cameras from the sidelines of its games. In a letter to NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, RTNDA President Barbara Cochran called the NFL's ban "discriminatory and unprecedented" and taken "without announcement, consultation or consideration of the broader impact on public interest." Noting that most games are played in publicly owned stadiums, Cochran said, "When electronic journalists are denied the ability to report on a news event with their own microphones, cameras and production crews, it allows newsmakers to determine the content of the news, a result that is inconsistent with our society's democratic values." But in an interview with Daily Variety, a league spokesman said that the footage often ends up portraying the NFL unfavorably. "We're just imposing tighter guidelines," the spokesman said, noting that other sports leagues similarly bar camera crews from games except networks or stations with signed deals.
Registered: Apr 2002
posted April 25, 2006 04:51 PM
NFL suspends Ricky Williams for 2006 season
April 25, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) -- Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams was suspended for the 2006 season by the NFL on Tuesday for violating the league's substance abuse policy for the fourth time.
The league announced the suspension after Williams' appeal of his latest positive drug test was denied. Williams met with NFL counsel Jeff Pash on April 10 in an attempt to have the league overturn the test.
Previous positive tests were for marijuana, which Williams acknowledged using. The latest test apparently involved a drug other than marijuana.
The 1998 Heisman Trophy winner and 2002 NFL rushing champion, Williams retired and sat out the 2004 season, then returned last year to play for new Miami coach Nick Saban.
He served a four-game suspension at the start of the 2005 season for his third violation of the drug program, then ran for 743 yards and averaged 4.4 yards a carry while sharing playing time with rookie Ronnie Brown.
News that Williams had failed another drug test surfaced in February, while he was in India studying yoga and holistic medicine.
Saban repeatedly has praised Williams' conduct and performance last season and supported him in the appeal process.
The suspension represents a financial blow for Williams, who owes the Dolphins $8.6 million for breaching his contract when he retired in 2004. His return to the NFL was motivated partly by the need for a paycheck.
It's unclear whether the suspension might be the end of the mercurial running back's career. If he tries to return in 2007, he'll be 30 years old and will have played a total of 12 games in the previous three seasons.
Registered: May 2000
posted May 15, 2006 10:09 AM
Flutie, 43, ends colorful football career
QB was mostly backup in NFL after winning Heisman, throwing '84 miracle
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Doug Flutie retired Monday, ending a 21-year career in which the undersized Heisman Trophy winner threw one of college football’s most famous passes and went on to play a dozen seasons in the NFL.
The decision by the 43-year-old Flutie was announced by the New England Patriots, for whom he played five games last season.
Flutie spent 12 seasons in the NFL and also played in the USFL and the Canadian Football League. He won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award six times and the league’s Grey Cup championship three times.
Flutie finishes with 14,715 passing yards and 86 touchdowns in the NFL, spending most of his time as a backup. Last season, he attempted just 10 passes and converted the league’s first drop kick for an extra point since the 1941 NFL title game.
“If that ends up being my last play, it wouldn’t be bad,” Flutie said after the game, a mostly meaningless regular season-ending loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Flutie said this month he had spoken to many teams, as well as to networks about broadcasting.
“I still have that passion but you’ve got to make that decision if you can stay healthy through the year,” he said at an appearance at a Boston high school, where he demonstrated drop kicks.
A resident of nearby Natick, Flutie won the 1984 Heisman Trophy at Boston College after connecting with Gerard Phelan on a desperation 48-yard touchdown pass to beat Miami as time expired. His signature play, it remains one of the most memorable in the sport.
Flutie left BC as the school’s passing leader with 10,579 yards, and he remains a hero on campus; his Heisman is the centerpiece of the school’s new Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round in 1985 but chose to play for the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, owned by Donald Trump.
When that league failed, he joined the NFL, but his freewheeling style and short stature — the Patriots generously listed him at 5-foot-10 — were a poor fit for its conservative schemes. He played five games for Chicago the next two seasons and 17 for New England from 1987-89.
Only in the CFL, with its wide-open game, did he truly find success, throwing for 41,355 yards and 270 touchdowns in eight seasons with British Columbia, Calgary and Toronto.
He joined Buffalo in 1998 and played more regularly — 39 games over three years. He started all 16 games for San Diego in 2001 then spent the next three years as backup to Drew Brees.
Last April, he signed with the hometown Patriots for a second time and played sparingly, making his biggest splash on special teams with his drop kick.
“I think Doug deserves it,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, sensing that the play would be Flutie’s football finale. “He is a guy that adds a lot to this game of football, has added a lot through his great career — running, passing and now kicking.”
Registered: Apr 2000
posted June 12, 2006 09:57 AM
What an idiot!
Early indications are injuries not life-threatening
ESPN.com news services
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger, who last season became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl title, was injured Monday morning in a motorcycle accident and has been transported to a local hospital with head injuries of unspecified severity.
"He was alert and conscious," said Ernie Roman, shift commander for the Allegheny County emergency service, told The Associated Press.
ESPN.com's John Clayton reports that early indications are the injuries are not life-threatening.
Roethlisberger, the team's first-round choice in the 2004 draft, was transported to the trauma unit of nearby Mercy Hospital, a source confirmed for ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, but his condition is unknown.
Witnesses told authorities that Roethlisberger's motorcycle collided with a car near a downtown intersection and that Roethlisberger's head hit the windshield and was bleeding. Roethlisberger has said in the past that he prefers not to wear a helmet when riding.
Steelers officials have confirmed the accident, which occurred on Second Avenue near the intersection of 10th Street in Pittsburgh, around 11:30 a.m. The route is one often taken in traveling to the Steelers' facility in the Southside section of the city.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Roethlisberger wasn't wearing a helmet. In previous interviews, Roethlisberger has said that he does not like wearing a helmet while wearing a motorcycle.
In the wake of a motorcycle accident sustained by Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow last spring, Roethlisberger spoke about his own fixation with motorcycles, and his penchant for riding without a helmet. He was admonished by former Steelers quarterback and Hall of Fame member Terry Bradshaw for potentially jeopardizing his career.
One of his agents, Ryan Tollner, is in route to Pittsburgh for what was supposed to be a pre-planned trip and will arrive later Monday.
One witness told KDKA television that Roethlisberger was conscious but appeared disoriented before he was taken from the scene to Mercy Hospital.
A Steelers spokesman is at the hospital and confirmed Roethlisberger is being treated there, but wouldn't provide additional details.
John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli contributed to this story. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
N F S I 2
Registered: Jun 2006
posted July 26, 2006 01:53 PM
Browns Call Penalty Against Cleveland TV Station
Cleveland TV station WOIO on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the Cleveland Browns in an attempt to block the team from breaking a three-year, $4-million contract to broadcast preseason games and other Browns-related programs. The NFL team had informed the station that it was terminating the contract because of "repeated instances where WOIO news staff stepped well outside any legitimate boundary of responsible journalism." Browns Vice President Michael Keenan, in a letter to station manager Bill Applegate (who has a legendary reputation for building local TV news operations on sensational coverage), complained about the "overtly negative reporting on the organization and its players." Keenan indicated that things came to a head when the station broadcast a recording of a 911 call placed by the sister of team owner Randy Lerner after she found her 6-year-old daughter drowned in a creek on her property. However, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Sam Fulwood III, while conceding that he rarely watches WOIO's "junk-food news," asked how the team might have reacted had the station aired a similar tape from "an ignorant-sounding person from some poor Cleveland neighborhood." "Why should this case be so different?" Fulwood asked. "Why should television rights to Browns games hold sway over news decisions? ... I defend the decision to air the 9-1-1 tape. It was a public record, and it involved locally prominent people. Sounds like news to me."
Registered: May 2000
posted July 31, 2006 09:00 PM
Leinart a no-show as Cardinals hold first practice
July 31, 2006
Arizona rookie quarterback Matt Leinart stayed out of the sun Monday, as did veteran counterpart Tom Brady, who was mysteriously absent from workouts with the New England Patriots.
Leinart missed the first day of practice while contract negotiations went on between the Cardinals and representatives of the first-round pick.
Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, missed his third straight practice, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't say why his quarterback wasn't on the field.
"Guys that aren't out here, it's either because of their practice routine or they are day to day," he said.
It was unclear which reason applied to Brady, who participated in all four practices on Friday and Saturday, the first two days of camp. He missed Sunday's single session and both of Monday's practices.
Arizona appeared close to a deal with Leinart when his agent, Tom Condon, came to Phoenix on Friday to meet with club officials. But Condon left after the sides didn't meet Sunday.
"We want to get Matt in as quickly as possible," Condon said. "We're anxious to see him on the field."
Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, Leinart's teammate at Southern California, showed up at the Saints' training camp in Jackson, Miss. He is expected to practice Tuesday after undergoing a conditioning test.
Bush didn't expect his contract to get done quite so soon.
"You never know when it's going to happen. It's like waiting to be called into the army," Bush said. "I'm just glad to finally be here. It's a business, but I knew we'd get it done soon. I'm ready to go."
As temperatures soared Monday during another sweltering heat wave around the country, some NFL teams were taking steps to make things easier on their players.
The Chicago Bears scheduled only one practice on Monday and Tuesday and moved the starting time to 7 p.m., thus avoiding mid-90s heat and sweltering humidity in Bourbonnais, Ill. The players might get a break on Wednesday, too, as that practice could be pushed back.
"I'm sure they probably were glad to get out of that heat a little bit," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We would like to get a good practice no matter what, and the best way to do that is for the players not to have to deal with the heat."
Some have already suffered. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, rookie return man Devin Hester and rookie defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek missed time because of heat exhaustion symptoms in the last couple of days.
As a precaution, the Bears have also given a handful of veteran players such as Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown and Brian Griese one morning practice off.
"Night is great for us, I love it," Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz said. "I think we just canceled it just to be safe. There's been a lot of bad -- I wouldn't call them accidents -- but bad things that have happened in the heat. So we're not taking any chances."
The heat also caused some problems at the Indianapolis Colts' first practice.
Linebacker Keith O'Neil, a four-year veteran, spent about 25 minutes in a cooling tent, then left practice before the Colts finished their final drill. Colts coach Tony Dungy said O'Neil probably would have returned if the practice lasted longer.
With the heat index approaching triple digits, everyone was paying attention to the thermometer.
"I think players have taken it very seriously ever since, God rest his soul, the tragic death of Korey Stringer," two-time MVP Peyton Manning said. "So guys try to be smart about it."
Manning said the Colts chart weight loss in correlation to the amount of Gatorade they drink -- approximately two bottles of Gatorade for each pound lost.
"We had a lot of coaches out there sweating profusely, and that's when I know it's hot," Dungy said. "We took more breaks and longer breaks, that's really about all you can do."
The Titans pushed their afternoon practice back four hours so it could be held under the lights. A heat advisory issued for much of Tennessee was set to expire by then.
Florida native Travis Taylor is familiar with Sunshine State heat, but the warmth of Minnesota has already gotten to him.
"I thought this was supposed to be Minnesota?" the Vikings wide receiver said of the state's icy reputation.
After temperatures rose into the upper 90s on Sunday, the Vikings were bracing for 100-degree predictions for Monday's first full-squad practice.
"Heat is probably the story today," coach Brad Childress said. "You have to be mindful of the heat."
Pro Bowler Darren Sharper arrived at camp with a freshly shaven head, a new look for the image-conscious safety.
"Actually I'm just getting old," Sharper joked. "When I saw that it was going to be 100 degrees here, I thought I'd shave it off and it would maybe cool me off a little bit."
Wide receiver Brian Finneran is out for the season after tearing up his left knee in practice.
Finneran, one of quarterback Michael Vick's favorite targets, went down during a workout Sunday night as he practiced a one-on-one drill with rookie cornerback Jimmy Williams. An MRI confirmed that Finneran tore the anterior cruciate ligament, in addition to sustaining cartilage damage and a slight displacement of the knee cap. He will undergo surgery later this week.
The loss of Finneran was a serious blow to the Falcons' hopes of bolstering an offense that ranked 27th in yards passing last season. As a backup, he led Atlanta wideouts with 60 catches for 611 yards.
The Falcons placed Finneran on injured reserve and signed long snapper Boone Stutz, who was cut by Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago.
Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon and right offensive tackle Ryan Tucker, two of Cleveland's steadiest players the past few seasons, will both undergo knee surgery in hopes of being ready for the season opener.
McCutcheon, the only player left from the club's 1999 draft class, will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday. Tucker, too, will have a procedure to clean up torn cartilage in his left knee.
The operations come less than a week after center LeCharles Bentley suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice.
Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey was dazed after a collision with safety Will Demps late in the evening practice. Shockey was reaching for a pass by Eli Manning during a two-minute drill when Demps appeared to hit him in the helmet. A stunned Shockey fell to the grass and stayed down for about a minute. He returned to the huddle and ran the final two plays of the practice, but he slammed his helmet to the ground after the last play.
Shockey later walked off the field with trainer Byron Hansen. He held his head a couple of times on the way to the locker room and then gingerly walked down the stairs to the room.
A four-day training camp holdout earned Tye Hill extra scrutiny on his first day of practice. Instead of easing their first-round pick into the mix Monday, Hill was given plenty of action with the second unit at cornerback. He also saw time as a gunner on special teams, and tried, unsuccessfully, to cover Torry Holt.
"He got me a few times today. But hey, he's a Pro Bowler and he's going to be in the Hall of Fame," Hill said.
Hill said Holt, who tied for third in the NFL with 103 receptions last year and has been to five Pro Bowls, rubbed it in just a bit.
"He was like 'Welcome to the league, rookie,"' Hill said. "It's all good, I love playing against him. I've got to crawl before I walk and going up against him is going to make me better."
Rookie safety Donte Whitner believes he's close to signing with the Buffalo Bills. The team is not so sure.
"I was a little more encouraged a couple of days ago than I am now," Bills general manager Marv Levy said Monday.
Levy added there's been little progress in talks with Whitner's agent.
Whitner, selected eighth overall out of Ohio State, was more hopeful in an interview on the Ohio State campus Monday afternoon.
"It won't be long," Whitner told The Associated Press.
Through Monday, Whitner has missed six practices since the Bills opened camp on Friday. He was projected to be a starter this season.
Linebacker Takeo Spikes was back after a long absence, donning full pads for the first time since tearing his right Achilles' tendon in Week 3 last season.
Indianapolis put Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders on the physically unable to perform list. Sanders had offseason surgery to repair his left shoulder and said Sunday he didn't expect to practice for a couple of weeks.
The Colts also put their second-round pick, cornerback Tim Jennings, on the PUP list. He is still recovering from spring surgery on his ankle. Sanders and Jennings both ran Monday, and Sanders even caught a few passes.
Tennessee released running back Damien Nash, finally losing patience with their fifth-round draft pick of 2005. Nash reported to training camp expecting to compete with a large crop of running backs: Chris Brown, Travis Henry, rookie draft pick LenDale White and Jarrett Payton. But Titans coaches said he was out of shape and about 10 pounds over the weight they required for camp.
Defensive end Paul Spicer signed a new three-year contract. Terms were not announced.
Spicer had two years remaining on his original four-year contract, but opted for a deal that extended his contract through the 2008 season.
"I've been busting my hump since I've been here to become a starter," Spicer said. "Now I'm going to let my play get me paid."
Spicer earned a full-time starting role in 2005. He produced career-best numbers with 7 1/2 sacks, second on the team, along with 56 tackles and 24 quarterback pressures.