Tag Archive | "Roger Goodell"

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Former Terp White among Hall of Famers in head injury letter to Goodell

Posted on 01 August 2013 by WNST Staff

(AP) Seventeen Pro Football Hall of Famers and Dave Robinson, who will be inducted this weekend, have signed a letter telling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell they are concerned about medical care for former players and the league’s “continued denial of the link between repeated head impacts and permanent brain damage.”

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday and signed by NFL greats including Tony Dorsett, Floyd Little, Leroy Kelly and Paul Krause, comes just a few days ahead of the Hall of Fame festivities in Canton, Ohio.

The league is being sued by about 4,200 players who say they suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions, which they believe stem from on-field concussions. Ten of the letter’s signees are plaintiffs in the ongoing legal fight: Dorsett, Kelly, Krause, Lem Barney, Chris Doleman, Mel Renfro, Tommy McDonald, Randy White, Rayfield Wright and Joe DeLamielleure.

Goodell and the NFL insist that player safety has always been a top priority, and league spokesman Greg Aiello told the AP in an email Wednesday night that the players don’t have their facts right.

“We have not seen the letter, but we make no such denial regarding concussions,” Aiello said. “In fact, our concussion poster for players in every locker room, created in conjunction with the CDC a few years ago, states: `Repetitive brain injury, when not managed promptly and properly, may cause permanent damage to your brain.'”

In the concussion legal dispute, a federal judge in Philadelphia has ordered the two sides into mediation over how the complaints will be litigated — in court or in arbitration. U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody asked for a progress report by Sept. 3 and put a gag order on the lawyers involved.

Clearly, there was no silencing of the Hall of Famers, many of whom plan to be in Canton for the 50th anniversary of the football shrine.

“Legions of former players suffer short-term memory loss and other neurological issues, and many cannot even remember taking part in some of the NFL’s greatest moments,” they wrote to Goodell. “In the meantime, the NFL publicly touts the `benefits’ it provides to former players with brain injuries, while denying these players necessary medical monitoring, long-term care, and security.

“No one wants to see another generation of players suffer this fate. As former players, we refuse to stand by quietly and watch men who unknowingly sacrificed their health and future to the NFL go without the care they desperately need.

“Mr. Goodell, we ask you, as the commissioner of the league, to provide the security and care all former players and their families deserve.”

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Goodell staying optimistic over Ravens-Orioles compromise

Posted on 20 March 2013 by Luke Jones

As WNST.net’s Glenn Clark and Drew Forrester have offered their insight into the scheduling conflict jeopardizing the site of the Ravens’ season-opening game on Sept. 5, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell remained optimistic on Thursday that they would be able to work out a compromise with the Orioles.

Goodell said on the final day of the league meetings in Arizona that he hasn’t spoken to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig this week, but the sides continue to work toward a solution. The commissioner went out of his way to take a soft approach in discussing the Orioles’ position after many have accused the league of bullying Baltimore’s baseball team.

“People are working toward trying to find a solution that will work for everybody,” Goodell said. “We recognize that this wasn’t something that baseball or the Orioles asked for. They’ve been very cooperative in trying
to work out a solution.”

The commissioner once again mentioned the idea of the Orioles playing an afternoon game — shifting their scheduled start time of 7:05 p.m. — that would leave enough time for the Ravens to kick off at M&T Bank Stadium later that evening, but many have suggested the only realistic possibility would be a day-night doubleheader later that weekend since it’s highly unlikely MLB, the players association, and the Chicago White Sox would all approve moving the Thursday game to earlier in the day. Both the Orioles and White Sox finish series in other cities the night before and will likely be arriving in Baltimore well after midnight on the morning of Sept. 5.

The league meetings wrapped up on Wednesday, but it’s clear the NFL wants a resolution sooner rather than later so it can announce the teams involved and the location of its season-opening game televised on NBC. It’s all but certain that the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens will be playing in the game, but whether the contest is played in Baltimore remains up in the air.

“We’re both trying to compromise to say, ‘How can we do this so the fans of Baltimore can have a really special day with an Orioles game in the afternoon and a Ravens celebration at night for their Super Bowl championship?’” Goodell said. “I’m hopeful that that will happen.”

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NFL season-opening game in Baltimore in jeopardy?

Posted on 18 March 2013 by Luke Jones

With the NFL congregating in Arizona this week for its annual league meetings, troubling news surfaced Monday morning about the season-opening game presumed to be hosted in Baltimore this September.

As Super Bowl XLVII champions, the Ravens would be in line to host the first game of the 2013 season as has become the tradition in recent NFL seasons, but a scheduling conflict with the Orioles on Sept. 5 is putting that in jeopardy. With the Orioles scheduled to play the Chicago White Sox that night in the opener of a four-game series at Camden Yards, the Ravens have been unable to come to an agreement to move the time of that game and could be faced with the prospects of opening the season on the road.

Via their official Twitter account, the Ravens said a league source labeled Baltimore opening on the road as the “least desirable” possibility, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a Monday press conference that he’s spoken twice to MLB commissioner Bud Selig in attempts to resolve the issue. The league does not want to move the season-opening game to Wednesday, Sept. 4 due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

Goodell and the league is proposing that the Orioles play earlier in the day on Thursday and would move the start time for the Ravens to as late as 9 p.m. that evening in hopes of having a successful doubleheader for the city. The commissioner did not present any other day as being an option for the NFL’s season opener, confirming what many Ravens fans fear if a compromise cannot be reached.

“Unfortunately the only option is to take the Ravens on the road,” Goodell said. “We think that’s wrong for Ravens fans.”

Shifting the Orioles’ scheduled Thursday evening game with the White Sox to that afternoon would still create problems due to parking and the possibility of extra innings or a rain delay. The Orioles would also likely object to playing a day game on Thursday after traveling back to Baltimore from a game in Cleveland the previous night.

With the Orioles and White Sox scheduled for a four-game set that weekend, a day-night doubleheader on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday would also be a solution to open that Thursday night for the Ravens.

However, moving the time of the game by more than 30 minutes — let alone scheduling a doubleheader — is subject to approval by Major League Baseball, the players’ union, and the White Sox, according to The Sun.

Regardless of the circumstances or who’s ultimately to blame — there are compelling arguments for all parties involved — this situation needs to be worked out. The city of Baltimore deserves to be showcased in the NFL’s season-opening game, which has become a major event in recent years as a way to celebrate the previous season’s Super Bowl championship team.

Unfortunatley, this isn’t the first time in which the Ravens have found themselves in this kind of a position as the league elected not to schedule the Super Bowl XXXV champions with a Monday night game — the hoopla of the Thursday night opener hadn’t been created yet — to open the 2001 season even though the previous five Super Bowl winners had received the privilege.

In that case, there was no conflict with the Orioles, who were off on the night of Sept. 10, 2001, as the league chose to open the season in a matchup between the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants.

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Goodell seems to agree with Flacco about punishment system not working

Posted on 01 February 2013 by WNST Staff

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

Super Bowl XLVII News Conference

New Orleans, Louisiana — February 1, 2013

 

Opening Statement:

“Good morning.  This Sunday will be the conclusion of an incredible season of NFL football.  Our teams this season gave fans dramatic games and amazing performances.  Think about it, the inspiring comebacks of Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson; the extraordinary rookie quarterbacks; Calvin Johnson, Tony Gonzalez catching; Aldon Smith, Von Miller and J.J. Watt sacking; the fantastic final Sunday of the regular season.  Everyone is buzzing about how exciting the playoffs have been.  So wouldn’t it be fitting if we have that one final struggle on Sunday night?  This Super Bowl matchup has it all: the Harbaughs, Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, the Pistol offense, and the list goes on.  Congratulations to Steve Bisciotti, to John, Denise and Jed York.  We really can’t wait to see your teams in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

 

“There are two important people who are not here, but very much on our minds.  Art Modell, the legendary former owner of the Ravens, who passed away in September.  Art’s spirit is certainly here this week.  And his name will be on the Ravens jersey on Sunday, as it has all season.  And this is the first Super Bowl without Steve Sabol, the creative genius behind NFL Films.  His imprint is all over our game and the Super Bowl.  Steve and Art were innovators.  They inspire us to exceed our expectations.  As a league, we have challenges.  We always do, and we embrace them for the opportunity to do better.

 

“On and off the field in the last couple of years, we have accomplished some remarkable things that have really strengthened the very foundation of our game.  We have the most talented athletes on earth, in a game that those players and fans love.  Our mission is to make it even better and we are doing the work.  The changes we are making are having a positive impact.  The game is exciting, competitive, tough and safer.  We are making the game better while also evolving into a health and safety culture.  That is a big priority.  We are also improving officiating, investing in upgrading the stadium experience and engaging more people in more ways than ever.  Our numbers are up in overall fan engagement, in most cases, dramatically.  So a big thank you to NFL fans, the best in sports.

 

“Interest in the NFL is expanding as we grow internationally.  In fact, today we are announcing that our two games in London next season – the 49ers and Jaguars and the Steelers and Vikings – are already sold out.  It is a sign that the game is growing globally.  But there is more work to do and more ways to improve.  The Competition Committee’s agenda will include looking at eliminating certain dangerous low blocks; further taking the head out of the game and expanding the standards for the quality of our playing fields.  We will take steps to ensure more diversity in our hiring practices.  The results this year were simply not acceptable.

 

“On the health side, we will update our injury protocols and add neurosurgeons to our game day medical resources.  We are going to implement expanded physicals at the end of each season.  Three days to review players from a physical, mental and life-skills standpoint, so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion.  We want to pioneer new approaches to player health and safety that  emphasize prevention as well as treatment.  This will include our commitment to supporting our retired players.  Those are some of the priorities.   From the quality of our game, to growing fan interest and engagement, to our commitment to evolve and innovate, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future.  I could not be more optimistic or ready to go.

 

“It’s also terrific for us to be back here in New Orleans.  Our 10th Super Bowl here, the first since (Hurricane) Katrina.  And it’s clear this city is back bigger and better than ever.  Our very heartfelt thanks to Mayor Mitch Landrieu; James Carville and Mary Matalin; the Host Committee; the 7,000 local volunteers for being truly, truly great hosts this week.  Also, to Tom and Gayle Benson and Rita LeBlanc, for all you have done for this community.  Everybody here has done an outstanding job.  You should be very proud and we are very grateful.

 

“Now we will get to your questions.”

 

The President recently said he would think twice about having a son play football, if he had a son.  He also said that fans need to examine their conscience about football.  Is there a deeper-rooted problem with the game and its safety than the NFL might have realized?  How can the NFL deal effectively with such problems?

 

“Well, the issue of player health and safety has always been a priority in the NFL.  We will continue to make it a priority.  You have our commitment.  The players have our commitment that we will do that. I started playing the game when I was in fourth grade, tackle football in Washington D.C. and I love the game of football.  I started as a fan, but I wouldn’t give back one day of playing tackle football.  The benefits of playing football, teaching you the values, teaching you character, teaching you how to get up when you’re knocked down, how to work with others, teamwork.  They are extraordinary lessons in life that I use to this day.  I welcome the President’s comments because it has been a priority and we want to make sure that people understand what we’re doing to make our game safer, not just in the NFL, but throughout sports.  The changes we’re making in the NFL, I think, are changing all of sports.  There is better recognition of head injuries, of treating them conservatively, and that affects every sport, beyond sports, to your children playing in the playground, to our troops overseas.  What we’re doing is leading the way to try and make sure people understand that you need to treat these injuries seriously.  We can make our games safer, as we have done. I believe that the changes that we’re making to our game will make football better.  It will make it safer.  It will make other sports safer.  We’re proud of our accomplishments and we have more to do, but we will not relent on this.”

 

More on the same issue – Joe Flacco on Media Day said the current fine system isn’t working. It’s not changing the way that defensive players are playing.  He’s going to get hit no matter what, and all that you’re doing is taking money out of their pockets.  Steve Bisciotti said that he thinks maybe intent needs to be taken into consideration.  Flacco also said maybe suspensions, but with pay, might get through to some of these guys.  I wonder what you think about their comments and about maybe whether suspensions is where you need to go?  I know that the league did try to suspend Ed Reed.

 

“I’m glad that you reminded yourself of that.  This is something that we have seen, an escalation in the discipline, because we are trying to take these techniques out of the game.  I think it was about four years ago at this very press conference, I said, ‘We have to take these hits out of the game that we think have a higher risk of causing injuries.’  The focus was on defenseless players, and I stand by our record because I think we have made those changes and made the game safer.  I think we’re going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders. It’s not just the player, the defenseless player, that’s being protected; it’s the person doing the striking.  We see in the injury rates that the defenseless player and the defensive back are having a higher injury rate.  Taking these hits out of the game can be positive.  The most effective way of doing that, and I’m not for it because we want to see all of our players on the field, is when they are repeat offenders and they are involved with these dangerous techniques, that we’re going to have to take them off the field.  Suspension gets through to them. It’s gets through on the basis that they don’t want to let their teammates down, and they want to be on the field.  We want to see them on the field.  We’re going to continue to emphasize the importance of following those rules.  When there are violations, we will escalate the discipline.”

 

I know that the system for discipline for on-field violations, the way the system exists now, you have neutral arbitrators in Art Shell and Ted Cottrell.  Also, my understanding is that in a new drug policy, the league would be willing to have neutral arbitration in that, too.  If you can confirm that, fine, but also, the NFLPA said yesterday that it is seeking to have neutral arbitration for off-the-field discipline issues.  I’m wondering if you see a connection with that demand as another component to the standstill in negotiations for HGH testing?

 

“Well interesting, Jarrett, to that point, you are correct. In our Collective Bargaining Agreement that we signed two years ago, we did agree to HGH testing.  As part of that, we agreed to neutral arbitration for drug cases.  We will do that as soon as we reach agreement on the HGH, which I expect and hope will be very soon.  We have moved down that path in an effective way.  On the field, we have a system that I think has worked quite effectively.  I don’t agree with all of the decisions, but I don’t expect to.  Off the field, beyond the drug issue, it is very important for us to maintain our integrity and our brand.  We expect that the people that are involved with our game from the commissioner to the players to the coaches will uphold those standards.  We have three great young men here today that are finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  I’m proud of our players.  I’m proud of what they do, but we always have to make sure that we’re reflecting positively on the shield.  When there are violations along those lines, they impact on the integrity of the game.  That is something that the commissioner has had the  authority on for several decades, several versions of the CBA, and that is not something that we’re going to relent on.  We’re going to always uphold the standards of the NFL because the fans deserve that, and I believe the players deserve that.  That is the commissioner’s role, and you can hold me accountable for it, and I will stand by my decisions.”

 

I wanted to ask you about your comment about minority hiring in coaching, and you saying that you weren’t satisfied with it. What do you think are some of the issues that continue to make this a problem and what’s going to bring about real change?

 

“First, the Rooney Rule has been very effective over the last decade, but we have to look to see what the next generation of the Rooney Rule is.  What’s going to take us to another level?  We’re committed to finding that answer.  That’s going to have to come from conversations with a lot of people in this league to find out exactly what can be  most effective  in allowing our talent to excel.  And that’s what it is – we want to make sure we have the best people in the best possible positions, and give everybody the opportunity to do that.  We want to focus on how do we get to a Rooney Rule, or an extension of the Rooney Rule, or a new generation of the Rooney Rule, that will allow us to do that?  There was full compliance with the Rooney Rule.  There were, in fact, I believe, a record number of interviews.  But we didn’t have the outcomes that we wanted, and the outcomes are to make sure that we have full diversity throughout our coaching ranks, throughout our executive ranks, and throughout the league office.  It’s very important to the success of the league to do that, and we’re committed to finding those solutions.”

 

I know you highlighted player safety in your opening statement. What was your reaction to the NFLPA’s study yesterday that said 78 percent of players do not trust their team’s medical staffs?

 

“I did hear that yesterday.  Last week, we met for four hours with union officials.  Several players were there.  Several owners were there.  They did raise the issue of making sure we have proper medical attention, but they didn’t raise those statistics.  That was news to me as of yesterday.  I’m disappointed, because I think we have tremendous medical care for our players.  These are not just team doctors.  These doctors are affiliated with the best medical institutions in the world – the Cleveland Clinic, Stanford, Hospital for Special Surgery.  The medical care that is provided to our players is extraordinary.  Now, we will always seek to improve it.  We will always seek to figure out how we can do things better, provide better medical care, but I think it’s extraordinary.  And as I talk to players – including one yesterday – they feel the same way, but we’ll have to address that and we’ll have to figure out what we can do to try to improve it.  One of those I also mentioned in the opening.  We’ll add a neurosurgeon on the field that can be there for consultation, that can be there for another set of eyes on the field, and to support the doctors in making the best possible decisions on the field, and off the field.  And I believe our doctors do that.”

 

You went to owners meetings in Dallas last year and met with MADD. How disappointing is it that so soon after Jerry Brown’s death that his teammate is arrested for DWI, and is there something else that the league can do to tell the players that this is unacceptable?

 

“Well, Charean, I think we have to go beyond telling players or telling executives.  The reality is we have to do a better job of educating people in the NFL that this is a priority.  This is for your safety, for the safety of the people in your car, and for innocent people that are out there.  There are services designed to help them make better decisions before they leave their homes.  We have to make sure that they understand those services, and most importantly, take advantage of them, use them. We did meet with MADD, and I met with MADD last week.  We’re going to engage in a number of programs to help educate all of our clubs – players, coaches (and) executives – on what we can do.  Victim impact programs have been very effectively used with several clubs over the past several months.  We’re going to do that because this is a high priority, not only for the sake of safety, but it’s part of our responsibility in the communities that we live.”

 

Yesterday, the NFLPA was very vocal about singling out dissatisfaction with Dr. David Chao, the Chargers’ team doctor, and said it requested the league find a ‘suitable replacement’ for him. What is your response to that request and also comments that NFL players deserve better than Dr. Chao?

 

“In the CBA, at the union’s request, we entered an agreement that is called Article 50.  Article 50 states that if there is an issue with any medical decision, or the medical professionals of the club, there can be a solution by engaging with independent doctors, I believe three neutral doctors, including an NFL attorney, and they will review the matter.  As I understand it, that is exactly what is going on in San Diego. We’ll allow the process to unfold. I’m confident our doctors make the best possible decisions for the players, and we’re going to stand behind that. We’ll engage in the process and let it unfold.”

 

The Rams and local stadium authority are waiting for an arbitrator’s decision on stadium improvement proposals there. Are you confident that the parties can resolve their differences and that the Rams will stay in St. Louis?

 

“I haven’t gotten an update on the arbitration process. I expect the possibility of a decision in the next couple of weeks.  It is, as you know, a clause and a part of a contract that they initially agreed to when the Rams came to St. Louis 12-15 years ago. That is something we are engaging in. We want to make sure that the team gets the stadium issues resolved because they need to have the type of stadium that will help support them for the long term in St. Louis. I believe that the business community and the officials in St. Louis want that outcome. I believe Stan Kroenke wants that outcome.  They’re all working together to try and get there. Again, the process is unfolding and I hope they’ll be able to reach that agreement.  I’m optimistic they will.”

 

If they cannot pass the renovations, is the NFL willing to provide any stadium funding for those improvements?

 

“We’re willing to do that in any market where there is a public/private partnership, to allow the other 31 clubs to help contribute to financing the stadium that will help solve the problem for the long term.  If we can get to the point where we have the structure of a deal, I’m very confident that the league will support that and participate.”

 

The 18-game schedule is still on the table. Is that a reality?  And, HGH testing. is that going to happen or not?

 

“Let me start with the second portion of your question.  I believe that HGH testing is going to happen prior to the 2013 NFL season.  It’s the right thing to do for the players, for their health and well-being long-term.  It’s the right thing to do for the integrity of the game. It’s also the right thing to do to send the right message to everybody else in sports.  You don’t have to play the game by taking performance-enhancing drugs.  The science is there. There is no question about that.  Baseball, Olympics, everyone believes that the science is there and are utilizing the tests, so we need to get to that agreement.  On the first part of your question, we’re always going to reevaluate our season structure.  We’ve been very open about the fact that we want to address our preseason. Do we need four preseason games?  Do we only need two or three? How do we continue to develop talent? How do we continue to evaluate players?  The fans’ reaction to the quality of preseason is a big concern.  So, we have to do that collectively.  That’s what our CBA does. If we wanted to implement an 18-game schedule, we could have done that in the prior CBA.  The ownership and management agreed that we would do that collectively and we would consider and balance the player health and safety issues with that.  So, we’ll continue to evaluate that. I think the changes we made in the CBA, particularly in offseason training, the training camp period and even during the regular season – eliminating contact, allowing players to get away from the game – that’s been great for the players.  They deserve that.  Every player I talk to tells me they feel better at this time of the year than they’ve ever felt in the past.  I think that’s a direct result of some of the changes in the CBA.  We will continue to figure out how we can improve with our season structure, but we will not make changes  if we can’t do it in a safe and effective way.”

 

The union yesterday advocated the appointment of a chief safety officer to overview all player safety, and that would be mutually agreed upon, whoever that person is. Also, advocated credentialing for all team doctors and trainers.  Do you see anything that could stand in the way of those kinds of advancements with player health and safety?

 

“Well again, Albert, let me start with the fact that we spent four hours last Friday meeting with union officials, including many players and owners, and that issue did not come up.  It was not raised during that entire four hours. That being said, I would tell you that I believe safety is all of our responsibilities.  I can’t appoint somebody who’s going to make the game safer as an individual. That’s all of our responsibilities.  I’ll stand up, I’ll be accountable. It’s part of my responsibility, I’ll do everything.  But the players have to do it.  The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it.  Our medical professionals have to do it. All of us are going to have to do that.  All that being said, since I just heard this in the last 12 hours, I’ll do anything that’s going to help us make the game safer and better. They have my commitment on that, so I’ll be happy to engage in the dialogue in a meeting where we can talk about the plusses and the minuses and how we make the game safer.”

 

First of all, I have been to 41 Super Bowls.  I don’t want to brag on that, but here is what I want to ask you for all of these people.  The first ticket to the Super Bowl only costs $12 and that was in Los Angeles. Now, the tickets cost $850, $950 and $1250.

 

“It sounds like the prices went down.”  (Laughter)

 

Well yeah, they are down in a certain manner.

 

“I hear you.  I understand your point.”

 

The thing I wanted to know, and I have asked you before, is there some way to put a cap on this thing so the ticket only sells for a certain price?  The other thing I was going to say is about the Pro Bowl and that you will still leave it in Hawaii except come after the Super Bowl.  A man makes the Pro Bowl, and he might make the Super Bowl, but the way it is with this arrangement is I still think it would be better after the Super Bowl the way it was before.

 

“OK, well let me start with your question because the second was a comment.  The first part of your point was, ‘Could there be a cap on the Super Bowl ticket prices?’  I would tell you that we have worked very hard to try to keep them reasonable and to try to give access to people so they can attend the Super Bowl.  It is very difficult because, as you know, they are being sold on the secondary market at multiples of the face value.  So, a couple of years ago, it may have been five years ago because it was the first year I was the commissioner, we put a cap on a certain number of tickets so that they could go to the fans.  I think we capped it at $500.  We found that a lot of times, most of the time, those tickets ended up on the secondary market at multiples.  I want our fans to be able to attend NFL games.  I want them to be able to come because they want to enjoy the experience and enjoy the event  and it’s affordable and that it’s safe.  But the realities are that there is a market demand, and there is a limited number of tickets.  Only 70,000 people are going to get into that Superdome, but there are hundreds of thousands of people here in New Orleans that are celebrating and part of the event.  We work hard to try to engage fans, create the NFL Experience and allow people to be able to come and be part of the event, but there is only a limited number of seats.”

 

Looking back, do you have any regrets on how the Saints bounty investigation was handled?  Even though the player penalties were overturned ultimately, do you feel like the message was still sent to the teams and to the players to avoid this type of behavior in the future?

 

“Let me just take a moment and get back and make sure everyone is clear on the record.   There is no question there was a bounty program in place for three years.  I think that that is bad for the players, for the game, and I think the message is incredibly clear, and I don’t believe that bounties will be part of football going forward.  That’s good for everybody.  I do think that message has come through clear.  As it relates to the regrets, I think my biggest regret is that we aren’t all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get them out of the game to make the game safer.  Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility.  That’s what I regret, that I wasn’t able to make that point clearly enough with the union, and with others.   That is something we are going to be incredibly relentless on.”

 

How do you define innovation to improve the NFL?  Whether it’s consumer marketing, digital media, player safety, game operations, or the fan experience, is it solving a problem or satisfying a need in a glamorous way that increases value?  Within the NFL, is innovation primarily viewed as an ideology or viewed as a process that is less glamorous but more productive?

 

Well, innovation is something that we are proud of.  I made that point in my opening remarks. It’s a philosophy.  It’s about you can always get better and it’s your responsibility to seek solutions.  I like solutions.  I believe in solutions.  You have to identify problems and find those solutions.  But you also have to have a commitment to finding a better way, and that is part of innovation.  What is tricky in an organization like the National Football League is we rely a lot on our tradition. That is important to us.  We believe in it.  It’s what we are all about.  I said this when I became commissioner, I said it to the owners when they fortunately selected me for this job.  I said, ‘Our biggest risk is being complacent.  We cannot assume that our success is going to continue just because we have been successful.’  I think the last six years, we have continued to find ways to improve. Whether it’s player health and safety, whether it’s making the game better or more exciting, whether it’s giving the fans more opportunity to engage with the game of football closer. The NFL Network is now fully distributed.  People are engaging with the NFL on their cell phones. We have more ways for fans to engage, and that’s why I  like to say that there has never been a better time to be a fan.  Innovation is not just some theme.  ,It is something that  we feel in our core and something  where we are always going to live, to try to make things better.”

 

You’ve mentioned on previous occasions that the Competition Committee will revisit blocks toward the knee so we don’t have situations like Brian Cushing with the Houston Texans losing a season on a block like that.  Is the long-term goal of player safety to create a baseball-type of strike zone, which is mid-chest to just above the knee?  Have your studies shown that this is the safest way to avoid the head injuries and maybe some of the lower-limb extremity issues?

 

“There are several things. First, we’re going to review all low blocks.  In working with our Player Advisory Committee that Ronnie Lott and John Madden chair we talked about that earlier this year shortly after the Brian Cushing injury.  We need to review all of those low blocks.  It’s important for us to try to find ‘Is there a better way of doing what we’re doing?’  We are focused on that with the Competition Committee.  As it relates to what you call the ‘strike zone’, there is no question that there is a focus to try to get back to the fundamentals of tackling.  The number one issue is: take the head out of the game.  I think we’ve seen in the last several decades that the players are using their head more than they have, when you go back several decades.  There are several theories on that. The helmets are better; they feel safer using their head.  The facemask.  You can come up with a lot of theories that we’ve discussed. But the reality is we have to get back to  tackling, using the shoulders, using your arms properly to tackle.  And there is a strike zone, and that’s where we are encouraging our players to focus and our coaches to coach that way, and it’s made a difference.  We have seen a dramatic change in the way that’s happening over the years, so we’ll continue that.”

 

Vincent Gray, the Mayor of Washington D.C., recently said if the Redskins were ever going to entertain the idea of coming back to the District, there would have to be discussion about the name issue.  Recently, the most recent “Indian Country Today” polls, the largest Native American magazine, they dispute and contradict everything Sports Illustrated or the NFL  did about 10 years ago.  They say that the overwhelming number of Indians, American Indians, do not like the name, they feel it’s offensive:  Does the league try to absorb the legal costs for the team when they are sued over trademark infringement by American Indians?  And, as a progressive commissioner, how do you feel about the name, and do you have any problem with it going forward?

 

“Well, the first part of your question, I couldn’t answer.  I have no idea who pays the legal costs.  I do know that, growing up in Washington, I do understand the affinity for that name with the fans.  I also understand the other side of that, and I don’t think anybody wants to offend anybody, but this has been discussed several times over a long period of time.  I think Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they’re proud of that heritage and that name, and I believe the fans are, too.”

 

The various committees that are down here for next year’s Super Bowl have talked a lot about feeling a little bit of pressure carrying the banner for cold-weather cities.  Is what they do next year, and the success or problems of the logistical challenge they have, will that affect your future decisions or consideration of other cold-weather sites?

 

“The answer is undoubtedly the game next year is going to have an impact on future decisions for open-air, cold-weather sites.  We believe, though, in the New York/New Jersey market.  We think it’s going to be a fantastic event.  I have said many times before, and I believe that the membership has supported this through their vote of awarding the Super Bowl there, that not only is the community prepared for this – they have a great stadium with two teams.  The plans that have been developed for the Super Bowl, I think, are extraordinary, and they’re just beginning to be released, and we will be prepared for the weather factors, and this community can do that, but the game of football is made to be played in the elements.  Now, we hope they’re not extreme on one hand, but we’ll be prepared for that if that’s the case.  Some of our most classic games in our history were played in extreme weather conditions.  We know them all, the ‘Ice Bowl,’ some of the games that I look back as a fan and say, ‘That was fun.’  So I’m confident the people of New York and New Jersey, the two teams, the host committee are going to do an extraordinary job next year, and we’re looking forward to it.”

 

The largest attendance in the history of the league is in Mexico.  The first game outside the U.S. was in Mexico.  I wanted to ask you why hasn’t the NFL gone back since 2005.  Why?

 

“I’m proud to say I was at that game, and it was a great event. And you could see the passion of the fans in Mexico for that game, and we would like to be back there.  Our focus in the last couple of years has obviously been on trying to prove the model works in the UK.  We have to make sure that whenever we do come back to Mexico, and I expect we will, that we do it successfully,  with the right kind of television support, fan support and sponsor involvement.  The stadium will be the kind of stage that we want for that game. So I would expect if we are   successful in the UK, where we thankfully are continuing to grow, that we’ll have the opportunity to get back there.  And the sooner, the better for me.”

 

Any time frame?

 

“No.”

 

Yesterday the union talked about filing multiple grievances against the NFL, and it recently appealed its collusion loss in the Minnesota federal court to the eighth circuit.  Are you disappointed the relationship with the union has remained so litigious?

 

“Well, Dan, let me start with, the point is I don’t really control that.  What I think disappoints me is that we reached a very comprehensive agreement a couple of years ago for 10 years to take the game to another level, and unfortunately we’re spending most of our time focusing on issues that we had agreed to.  As you point out, collusion charges, which were very clearly dealt with in the agreement.    HGH was agreed to and we should have gotten to the point where we solved our differences and gotten that resolved.  Commissioner discipline – I can go on.  These are things that were resolved and are clear in the document and in our partnership.  What we need to do is get back to focusing on how do we all work together to make the NFL better?  I understand we’re going to have differences, I understand why there are grievances, I understand why there are lawyers, but we have to find solutions for the best interests of the game, and that’s my commitment and that’s what we have to work towards.”

 

Addressing the player safety issue, you said it’s a shared responsibility.  Well, earlier this year Alex Smith sustained a concussion, was forthcoming about his condition and while he was out, he lost his starting job.  My question for you is, how concerned are you that going forward players are going to be less honest about their condition after seeing a situation like that?

 

“I  believe very strongly that there’s a difference between a medical decision and a football decision.  I’m glad that he came forward and identified that he had an injury.  That wouldn’t be in the best interest of Alex in the short term or the long term, so players need to do that.  I also believe, and he’s been healthy for several weeks, that those are football decisions that the coach has now made.  He’s healthy enough to return to play, but the coaches made a decision that they’re going in another direction, and that’s something that the coaches have to do.  So while I understand somewhat the dilemma, the highest priority you can have is for players to make sure that they raise their hands when there’s an injury and so that they can get the proper treatment, because they’re not going to be effective as players if they have lingering problems, if they have lingering issues with a concussion.  They need to be as healthy as possible to compete in this league, and we all want to see the players on the field, but we let the coaches make the football decisions and the medical personnel make the medical decisions.”

 

First of all, do you feel welcome here in New Orleans given the way people feel about you in light of the bounty scandal?  We have establishments that have your picture that say, ‘Do not serve this man,’ or do you feel somewhat like you’re behind enemy lines?  Secondly, Saints fans want to know why you won’t return that second-round draft choice in the next draft?

 

“Let me take the first part of your question first.  I couldn’t feel more welcome here.  You know when you look back at it, my picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade.  We got a voodoo doll.  I’m serious, really, the people here have been incredible.  The last couple of nights I’ve been out with a lot of the people that I worked very closely with following the Katrina tragedy, and we celebrated the work that we did then, but what we did is we all reflected on how great that was that we worked together, and they couldn’t be nicer.  They couldn’t be more welcoming, and the same is true with fans.  Now, I understand the fans’ loyalty is to the team.  They had no part of this.  They were completely innocent in this.  So I appreciate the passion.  I saw that for myself when we were down here for Katrina, and it’s clear that that’s what they’re all about.  So I support the fact that they’re passionate in supporting their team.  On the last point, the reason there won’t be any change in the second-round draft choice is what I said earlier.  There are clear violations of the bounty rule for three consecutive years.  That’s not going to be permitted in the NFL.  That’s not just my judgment. Commissioner Tagliabue reviewed this, and had his own process and came to the same conclusion that there were violations.  So, the reason why we’re not returning any of the draft choices or any of the discipline is because it occurred, and it should not have occurred.”

 

Kind of piggybacking off that question, yesterday I talked with NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth, and he said because of the bounty scandal and everything that’s happened, trust has been fractured from the players within the league. How do you fix that considering penalties were levied, and then they were vacated twice by  parties other than you?

 

“Let’s make sure the record is clear that the first penalties were vacated only briefly to make sure that there was a distinction between what was a salary-cap violation and what was discipline on the field.  That body, the panel that was established by the CBA, made it very clear that that’s the authority of the commissioner.  The second issue is Commissioner Tagliabue and I agree on the facts.  There was no difference in the findings of the facts  with respect to the investigation done by the league overseen by Mary Jo White, verified by Commissioner Tagliabue’s process.  The only difference was that he vacated the disciple from the players.  We disagree with that.  I disagree with that.  I believe that we’re all responsible for what goes on in our locker rooms, on the field, as part of our game.  That’s a collective responsibility.  We’re not going to hide from that.  That will be something that – and I said it to our clubs in December when we met – everyone here should understand the responsibility for our rules will be enforced as fairly and as clearly as possible.  So I’m going to have to work harder to try to make sure that we can work together; we can trust one another.  But we also need to make sure that we understand that we’re going to have differences from time to time, and that’s OK.  But there needs to be a fair resolution and move forward in a positive way for the game of football.”

 

Could you tell us what the selling out of two games in London for 2013, what kind of message that says to your ownership with regard to potential UK franchises?

 

“I think the message is very clear.  There are passionate fans that love the NFL in the UK and, I believe, globally, and that there is another step that we need to look forward to in London. We’re already beginning that process.  What’s the next step, beyond the two games?  Should we move to three?  Should we consider other alternatives to continue to accelerate the growth of the game in the UK?  But I think that’s a positive reaction from the fans and our ownership understands this is a market where we need to be more active, and that we need to continue to grow our game.  Thank you.”

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Ravens C Birk Wins Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award

Posted on 04 February 2012 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE RAVENS CENTER MATT BIRK NAMED WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR

MATT BIRK of the Baltimore Ravens was named the 2011 WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR, it was announced today.  The award recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well as his playing excellence.

The announcement was made during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special airing nationally on NBC Saturday night.

NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL and JARRETT AND BRITTNEY PAYTON, the late Walter Payton’s children, will honor Birk on-field tomorrow before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVI.

“I am honored and truly humbled to be named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” said Birk. “This award is not about the recipient, but rather a celebration of the decades-long tradition of NFL players using their unique platform to touch lives and make a positive and lasting impact in the communities in which they work and live. Walter Payton left a legacy that went beyond the playing field. He continues to be an inspiration and example of what a complete NFL player should aspire to become. I am grateful to have played for two organizations, the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens, which encourage and support their players’ community efforts. I have always considered it a privilege to play in the NFL and serve the communities that support our game.”

Birk, who just completed his in 14th NFL season, is the anchor of the Ravens offensive line and an undisputed leader on and off the field. The perennial Pro Bowl center has started 96 consecutive games, the NFL’s second-longest active streak among centers. In 2011, Birk helped pave the way for Ravens running back Ray Rice to score a franchise-record 15 total touchdowns and rush for a career-high 1,364 yards, also leading the league with 2,068 yards from scrimmage.

A family man and father of six with a passion for emphasizing the importance of education, Birk has focused a great deal of his energy on promoting literacy among the youth around him. The Harvard graduate’s “Ready, Set, Read!” program, an initiative of his H.I.K.E. Foundation (hope, inspiration, knowledge and education), reaches close to 100,000 children in the Baltimore area and motivates students to read at home through an incentive-based system. Birk’s work carries well past the many initiatives and successes of his own foundation. He is committed to bettering himself, his team, his community and the world. Birk has agreed to donate his brain and spinal cord tissue to the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine to help assist in researching the effects of repeated head traumas. Birk is an eight-time Man of the Year (seven with the Vikings, one with the Ravens), and was a finalist for the national award in 2008.

Birk joins an esteemed list of winners of the annual award, including 17 Pro Football Hall of Famers.  Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include MADIEU WILLIAMS, then of the Minnesota Vikings (2010), BRIAN WATERS, then of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009), and former Arizona Cardinals quarterback KURT WARNER (2008).

All 32 team nominees for the award receive a $1,000 donation from NFL Charities to the charity of their choice.  The three Man of the Year finalists received an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL, former NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE, CONNIE PAYTON, Pro Football Hall of Fame members FRANK GIFFORD and ANTHONY MUÑOZ, Giants great and Executive Director of the NFL Alumni Association GEORGE MARTIN, 2010 winner MADIEU WILLIAMS, and Sports Illustrated football writer PETER KING.

The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, DANIEL SCHWARTZ.  In addition, the player’s favorite charity will receive a $20,000 donation in his name.

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Ehrmann: NFL Players Should Honor Mackey With “88” Patch This Season

Posted on 11 August 2011 by WNST Staff

From the official Baltimore Colts alumni release…

I will be officiating the Memorial Service of NFL Hall of Fame player John Mackey this Saturday, along with his brother, Rev. Elijah Mackey. Having been in pastoral ministry over twenty-five years, I have learned that when someone has led a relationally successful and meaningful life, it is an easy and celebratory service to lead and participate in. None should be easier than John Mackey’s – but it is not.

As a player, John is arguably the greatest to ever play his position. As a man, he is one of the most respected teammates, opponents, and men to ever play the game. He was the first President of the NFL Players Association and organized the NFL’s first player strike that led to increased player health and pension benefits. He helped lead and win a court challenge to end the “Rozelle Rule” which set the precedent for true free agency and the salaries enjoyed by current players. And for all he accomplished, his greatest legacy will be as a husband, father, family member and friend – and as a role model of authentic masculinity.

Yet, John Mackey will also be remembered as the most visible face of sports’ growing epidemic of traumatic brain injuries. In 2000 John was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia that eventually led to his spending the last five years of his life in a full -time assisted living facility, unable to communicate, to recognize loved ones or to care for himself. With a push from John’s heroic wife Sylvia, his Baltimore Colt teammates and their advocacy group Fourth & Goal, the NFL and the NFLPA started the “88 Plan” named after John’s jersey number. The 88 Plan provides $88,000-a-year for nursing home care and $50,000 annually for adult day care for players suffering from various forms of degenerative brain damage.

I find it providential that after more than a decade of suffering, John Mackey’s life would end during the NFL’s longest work stoppage as the players and owners reworked their Collective Bargaining Agreement with new guidelines for health, safety and post-career benefits. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, upon learning of John’s passing said, “He worked closely [with] our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund. He never stopped fighting the good fight.” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, expressed similar sincere and heartfelt thoughts, “John Mackey has inspired me and will continue to inspire our players and define our institution. He will be missed but never forgotten.” I hope so.

John Mackey’s last sacrificial gift to the NFL and its players is the opportunity to lead the world of sports in educating athletes, parents and coaches of all ages and all sports on how to prevent, diagnose and treat concussions. While football is the most visible of concussive related sports, every game must address and work through the avalanche of evidence pointing to long term mental health issues related to head traumas. Yet, when Commissioner Goodell began changing the rules on hits to the head and imposing fines and suspensions, it was the players who pushed back. All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher represented the opinion of many players and fans when he said the NFL should rename itself “the NFFL – The National Flag Football League.” Kevin Mawae, the President of the NFLPA who represented current players at the recent negotiations, ridiculed Goodell’s crackdown stating, “The skirts need to be taken off in the NFL offices.” They represent the decades of players coached to make and celebrate the head-rattling hits that too many fans cheer and applaud.

While I do not know what conversations took place at the negotiating table upon hearing of John Mackey’s death, I’d like to think participants took a long pause and reflected on the life, legacy and tragedy of John’s death. I hope current players rethought the rule changes needed to protect players and the responsibility to model how the game can and should be played. John Mackey will be celebrated at the Memorial, I am sure. But more than words of gratitude and plaudits should be spoken to carry on the legacy of a man who “never stopped fighting the good fight.” To truly honor our fallen teammate and leader, I hope the NFL players will demand — and the league and union will agree to — at least one game this season where every player wears a “88” patch on their jersey and each team airs appropriate public service announcements aimed at educating coaches, parents and young athletes on the prevention of head traumas. Then John Mackey’s life will continue to inspire NFL players, address the moral responsibility of the NFL and NFLPA to current, past and future players and honor the game. That would make for a truly celebrative Memorial Service for a man who will be missed — but should never be forgotten.

Joe Ehrmann
Baltimore Colts 1973 -1980
Author of InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives

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Bumpy road ahead to new NFL CBA agreement

Posted on 22 July 2011 by Chris Pika

ATLANTA—As word leaked out that the NFL owners had voted 31-0 on their proposal for a settlement of legal issues and the terms of a new CBA last night, rumors that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith had been on the phone during a prolonged (and unplanned) dinner break by the owners seemed to suggest that there was an agreement in principle in place.

As we found out not more than 15 minutes after the NFL’s press conference at the Atlanta Gateway Marriott announcing their vote and going over the particulars of the league’s proposal, the howls of protest via social media by players and leaking of two NFLPA emails from Smith and NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen seemed to suggest that the players were blindsided by the owners.

It should have been clear (but wasn’t at the time) that the men lined up behind Goodell during the press conference — NFL Executive VP of Labor/League Counsel Jeff Pash, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, New York Giants owner John Mara, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II and Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt — never once smiled, even wearily, as the months of negotiations were at an end.

They knew what we were finding out. The road to ratification is filled with bumps that could still derail the process. It’s easy (in some respects) to get 32 people to agree to a proposal (the supplemental revenue sharing deal brokered during the day between the owners was a bigger story that got lost in the later events). It’s harder to get 1,900 people to share one vision, especially when there are competing personal interests inside the group.

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It's time to name the GENIUS and JACKASS of the week .....

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It’s time to name the GENIUS and JACKASS of the week …..

Posted on 15 July 2011 by Rex Snider

Each Friday, Ryan Chell and I ponder the rosters of sports personalities that have made a GOOD or BAD impression throughout the week. We consider athletes, coaches, owners, media and just about anyone else with a connection to sports.

Fittingly, we call the segment GENIUS & JACKASS OF THE WEEK …..

Given the sparingly thin amount of sports action over the past seven days, I really had to dig deep for my current list of nominees. And, in keeping things fresh or ever changing, I have decided to list my potential recipients for your consideration:

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GENIUS OF THE WEEK

1)  Roger Goodell: by simply taking the high road and keeping his mouth shut regarding the James Harrison/Men’s Journal article, he merits support and a more positive image in the immediate future. And, God knows he needs it.
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2)  Vince McMahon: the dude has absolutely no shame and he’ll gladly be the butt of a joke or the proverbial “slapdick” when he walks into the rasslin’ ring in front of a national audience. This past Monday night, he emerged after months of seclusion to counter a good exchange with noted heel, but audience favorite, CM Punk. Do you think Vince knew he had some competition with the All Star Homerun Derby? Yep …..
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3)  Mark Reynolds: yeah, yeah, I know this incident actually took place last week, but we didn’t learn about it … OR the photo … OR the photoshopped images that would create such a buzz on the web, until just a few days ago. Say what you want, MILLIONS of people now know Reynolds wears #12 … and that he LOVES sunflower seeds.
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JACKASS OF THE WEEK

1) PacMan Jones: uh oh … you know what this means, right? Correct, PacMan ended up behind bars AGAIN. And, I know the world was shocked to learn he got arrested in a nightclub. After that, the story gets sketchy. Police say Pac’ resisted arrest. However, the Bengals misfit claims the cops are lying. Sure they are … and they probably fabricated the facts in the other 1,384, 277 incidents, as well.
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2) Steve Durham: I realize you probably don’t recognize the name, but he’s the federal prosecutor who entered prohibited evidence in the Roger Clemens trial. That’s correct, the long awaited perjury case ended in a mistrial during its FIRST WEEK. Hey, what’s a few million dollars of taxpayer money? We’ll see ya again, in September.
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3) Derek Jeter: the dude racks up his 3,000th hit while garnering adoration and accolades from an entire sports lovin’ nation, and what does he do to show his gratitude? He skips the freakin’ All Star Game !!!! Yeah, he’s nursing an injury. But, he looked fine, last weekend. I don’t care if he’s sore … he owed it to the FANS to show up in Arizona.
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Well, who would your choices be? You can find out my selections during today’s Afternoon Drive, which kicks off at 2pm …..

(NOTE: JAMES HARRISON IS BEYOND BEING A JACKASS; THUS, HE IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR THIS AWARD)

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Former Teammates, Others Remember Greatness of John Mackey

Posted on 07 July 2011 by WNST Staff

A number of former teammates and NFL personalities have chimed in with reactions to the passing of former Baltimore Colts TE John Mackey, via AM1570 WNST or press releases. Here are a few of the reactions:

Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti:
“We are tremendously saddened to hear about the passing of John Mackey, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Sylvia and the entire Mackey family. I was fortunate to get to know John and Sylvia personally, and I was struck by her love and loyalty throughout the difficult times of his illness. John set the standard by which tight ends are measured on the field, and he will be sorely missed not only by his family, but also by the entire Baltimore community.”

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome:
“I am mourning the loss of John Mackey, and my deepest condolences go out to his wife Sylvia and the Mackey family. John revolutionized the tight end position during his Hall of Fame career, and he laid the foundation on and off the field for modern NFL players.”

DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA):
“John Mackey is still our leader. As the President of the NFL Players Association, he led the fight for fairness with a brilliance and ferocious drive. His passion continues to define our organization and inspire our players. His unwavering loyalty to our mission and his exemplary courage will never be forgotten.”

Indianapolis Colts Owner/CEO Jim Irsay:
“I am deeply sorry to learn of the passing of John Mackey. John was as identified at his position as any player who has played in the National Football League.  John combined size, speed and power in being only the second tight end ever voted into the Hall of Fame and earning a spot on the NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team.
His statistical numbers have been eclipsed as the game has evolved, but those in football recognize to this day how John impacted the game.  He authored big moments with his on-field ability, such as his memorable 75-yard scoring reception in Super Bowl V. John’s passion for the game extended beyond his playing years, and he is one of the most notable figures in league history. We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to John’s wife, Sylvia, and the entire Mackey family.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
“John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field.  He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined the tight end position.  He was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association.  He worked closely with our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund.  He never stopped fighting the good fight.  Our thoughts are with Sylvia and the Mackey family on the loss of our good friend.”

Former Colts WR Raymond Berry:
“He was a combination of a lot things, very intelligent, great personality and one of the most well liked players on the team. He was very unselfish, and had a great sense of humor, so he was a delight to be around.  He was the whole package. I’m thinking his playing days far outshadow, anything he did after his playing days. He was such a performer for so many years for the Colts, to me that’s his legacy.”

Former Colts RB Tom Matte:
“It’s a sad day for Baltimore, but I think overall the quality of life that John had in the end was tough. I don’t think there is any question about it that he should have been in the Hall of Fame a lot earlier than he got in. But John, in my estimation was the first big, fast tight end that could catch the ball, block, and make the big plays.  John Mackey was at the forefront of the leadership. There is a lot of respect out there for John Mackey, and what he did as a player, and what he did off the field in negotiations. He’s a great guy, he will be missed, but he is in a better place than he was.”

Former Colts LB Ted Hendricks:
“I was a rookie coming into the league and there was none any better then him at tight end.  To practice against him I’ve learned a lot of things from him.  To me it made the games easier because there was nobody that I played that had more talent than he did. He was definitely a consummate tight end.  Everything, each attribute that he had.  His blocking ability, his pass catching, and not only that but running with the ball after he caught it.  And you couldn’t ask for anything better in a tight end than that.”

Former Colts DE Ordell Braase:
“The thing (I most remember) was the first time I saw John Mackey, how impressed I was with him. Do you realize that he did not get into the Hall of Fame until the last vote? He should have been just an out and out slam dunk on being into the Hall of Fame.”

Former Colts QB Earl Morrall:
“It’s a very somber day, John Mackey was one of my favorites, he is one that really produced for you, and one of the best during his time playing.  John was a great blocker, good solid, opened up the running game for us. He’d release and then go up the field and catch the ball. Defenses would shiver when he got the ball because he would go through them. He could play any day.  He gave you every bit he could on the field.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley:
“Today, we reflect on the life of John Mackey, a great Baltimore Colt and one of football’s legendary players.  His remarkable talents on the football field revolutionized the tight end position and earned him a place in history in the Hall of Fame, while his loyalty, determination and integrity off the field have earned him a place in our hearts.  We are saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time.”

Baltimore Ravens RB Willis McGahee:
“He’s a great guy. Meant a lot not just to our time, but with our time. He set the pace. It’s our job to continue his legacy.”

Detroit Lions Hall of Fame TE Charlie Sanders:
“His loss is a tremendous loss, not only for the NFL and what he stood for, but it’s also a reminder of what this game is all about. I didn’t have a hero or idolize anybody growing up, so he was the one player that I idolized and tried to copy more than anyone else throughout my career. I took pride in trying to get to the top where he was. He’s going to be sorely missed.”

Former Colts C Bill Curry

“I loved John like a brother and he was a great mentor to me, in addition to being a great player.  When you are with great human beings you usually make the mistake of not appreciating them until you don’t have them anymore.  And I am going through a lot of that right now.  What I remember is his rookie year.  Watching number 88 returning kickoffs and when he came exploding out of the end zone it was terrifying.  I said I have never seen anything like that in my life.”

Former Ravens TE Dan Wilcox

“Rest in piece to John Mackey out there.  I definitely send my condolences to his family as well.  Coming to a town like Baltimore and playing in a city like that, you would love to get a piece of what John Mackey had while he played in the NFL. To be around someone like a John Mackey and all the other Colts that are around Baltimore was an amazing experience. John Mackey was definitely one of the best, one of the all time greatest.  And you hate to lose a guy like that.”

Former Ravens Head Coach Brian Billick

“I was so fortunate that when I first came to Baltimore to have a chance to meet so many of the great former Colts and John was one of them.  …That smile of his, that energy, that orb that he had, his love for the game, his love for the Colts.  To watch Shannon and Ozzie communicate and talk with John and the reverence they had for him and what he represented, it’s a loss for all of us.”

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Westminster, Maryland .... a true victim of NFL selfishness

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Westminster, Maryland …. a true victim of NFL selfishness

Posted on 24 June 2011 by Rex Snider

In the wake of the Ravens announcement regarding the cancellation of training camp at McDaniel College, I have been carrying out an impassioned plea for the business community in the Westminster surroundings.

I have no direct stake in the race; no business interests or immediate family residing in the Carroll County area.

But, I do have a heart and sense of fellowship …..

At the core of this frustrating situation, from my perspective, is the reality of witnessing the very first casuaties of the National Football League’s battle among its division of owners and players.

I suppose that’s a given of “war” huh? The innocent always seem to get caught up in the crossfire – or they pay for simply being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

I could probably spew a couple dozen analogies and clever quotes aimed at sensationalizing the plight of the Westminster business community as we’re now a couple days removed from the training camp cancellation.

But, I’ll just be blunt …..

The NFL owes Westminster.

Will Roger Goodell, along with 32 ownership groups and thousands of players see it at that way? Of course, NOT. After all, the self-serving audacity and nearsightedness of both factions have caused such a resulting problem.

Amid reports of renewed optimism and the possible immediacy of a resolution to the lockout, it appears owners and players might be championing a “deal struck” within the next week or so …..
.

They’ll be certain to iron out differences regarding shared revenue, free agency, length of seasons and wage caps for rookies. But, will either side pull their head from the sand (or somewhere darker) to notice the carnage and financial loss suffered by a specific community supporting the NFL product?

Once again, no.

They’re too busy looking out for themselves.

As I said on Wednesday, this is not specifically the fault of the Baltimore Ravens organization. From the outside peripheree, we have monitored Steve Bisciotti living up to his word on how his organization would handle the crisis.

There has been no mudslinging, nor hardline public stances by ANYONE in Owings Mills. And, most Ravens players have been rather muzzled on issues, as well.

The Ravens have delivered championship-caliber football to Baltimore and its loyal surrounding of purple lovin’ communities. And, more importantly, the Ravens organization has been top notch stewards of good public relations.

The problems and associated fallout from Carroll County’s economic loss is at the hands of a bigger behemoth than the Ravens. That’s just the direct truth.

Make no mistake about it, the NFL owes Westminster’s business community some gesture or commitment of amending the upcoming loss of business.

The very businesses on and around that Route 140 corridor are symbolic and very authentic victims of the NFL’s stubborn manipulations.

As they come to an agreement, will either side step up and say, “before we nail this down, what are we going to do in helping the communities directly affected by this lockout?”

Yeah, right …. you’ll have a better chance seeing Joe Flacco, Lamar Woodley and Dhani Jones vacationing together at Disney World.

I don’t have the answers on how to help Westminster. But, I do know the NFL has an obligation to do it. Then again, they’ve probably missed living up to a number of such obligations over the last few months.

Once again, its not the direct fault, nor the direct responsibility of the Ravens to aid Caroll County’s businesses. But, saying “we’ll see ya in 2012” is not a remedy, either.

I know fans haven’t reacted much, at all. That’s typical fandom, though. Wait ’til the end of July rolls around and thousands settle for a day or two of reassembled training camp observations at M&T Bank Stadium.

Kids will get over it. Adults will get over it. But, will all the businesses that depend on a stream of revenue flowing into the Westminster business community survive it? Maybe …. maybe not.

My hearty congratulations to every member of the National Football League, in anticipation of your upcoming labor deal. It’s certainly about time. Meanwhile, it’s a shame you had to sacrifice some “small guys” in the process.

But, that’s business in America, huh?

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