Category Archives: NFLPA

HGH TESTING STALLED: NFLPA and NFL agreement stuck over appeals process

DeMaurice-Smith NFLPA and NFL HGH talks stalled - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The NFL and NFL Players Association met last week to discuss solutions to revive HGH testing talks, which have stalemated over Commissioner Roger Goodell’s power in the appeals process, league and union sources said Thursday.

The sides have been in contact since, but there hasn’t been any movement on the central issue. The NFL has been adamant that Goodell retain final say over appeals in evidentiary cases and cases involving the law. The former would encompass circumstances like baseball’s Biogenesis case, and the latter would include findings based on, for example, arrests and grand jury testimony.

The league and players’ union agreed in principle to HGH testing in early August, with the overall drug policy’s appeals process being the sticking point preventing a comprehensive deal.

According to union sources, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has not been the one railing against Goodell retaining power in the appeals process. It has been the player reps who are unwilling to go along with the league’s desire to keep the commissioner in place as the appellate officer. The players, according to sources, have used Goodell’s handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal to explain why they’re unbending on the matter.

Time will come into play here, too. The union and league have been informed that it will take two to three months to complete a population study. While the sides seem amenable to the less-ideal scenario of collecting blood from all players on regular-season rosters — rather than all players on the larger training-camp rosters — to set thresholds through the population study, the lag time in setting those thresholds makes the thought of sanctions against offenders in 2013 increasingly less likely.

Roger Goodell NFLPA and NFL HGH talks stalled - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The plan has been to collect blood en masse, then start the testing protocol after that. Then, once the threshold for a positive test is set, sanctions will begin. That means players whose blood initially is collected after the population study would be subject to sanctions a couple months down the line. So if a comprehensive agreement came in November, it’s unlikely the threshold would be set in time to suspend players during the 2013 season.

An additional part of the tentative agreement involves the population study. If more than 5 percent of all players test over an agreed-upon threshold, then those players will be subject to more frequent reasonable-cause testing, which includes an immediate test after the population study and could lead to punishment.

Dialogue between the league and union on this matter has been consistent and is expected to continue.

NO TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: Plaintiff attorney in NFL concussion suit calls Jerry Jones a “hard-ass”

NO TERMS OF ENDEARMENT - Plaintiff attorney in NFL concussion suit calls Jerry Jones a “hard-ass” - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

There was a humorous, Dallas Cowboys-related moment today during a media conference call to announce terms of the concussion lawsuit settlement between the NFL and 4,500 former players.

Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, was asked if he is concerned the players left money on the table by settling the suit.

“I think you all can assume that the NFL and the NFL owners are pretty tough individuals,” he said. “In fact, you’ve got one down in Texas who I would call a hard-ass. I think that’s a fair characterization.

“These are not easy people to negotiate with, and these were contested, hard-fought battles. And I believe we got everything we could possibly get out of the NFL in this litigation.”

Seeger was asked to clarify the Texas owner to which he was referring _ not that there was much doubt about the answer. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is a power-broker on several key owner committees, so it seems likely that he was directly involved in negotiations.

“Oh, oh, oh, sorry,” Seeger said. “I don’t even know who the owner in Houston is, frankly. I hope I didn’t offend him. I’m talking about the one in Dallas.”

NFL CONCUSSION LAWSUIT: League, ex-players agree to $765M settlement proposal

NFL CONCUSSION LAWSUIT - League, ex-players agree to $765M settlement

PHILADELPHIA — The NFL has reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players, agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research.

A federal judge announced the agreement Thursday after months of court-ordered mediation. It came just days before the start of the 2013 season.

More than 4,500 former athletes — some suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s that they blamed on blows to the head — had sued the league, accusing it of concealing the dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field while profiting from the kind of bone-jarring hits that make for spectacular highlight-reel footage.

nfl commissioner roger goodell - the boys are back blog

The NFL long has denied any wrongdoing and insisted that safety always has been a top priority. But the NFL said Thursday that Commissioner Roger Goodell told pro football’s lawyers to “do the right thing for the game and the men who played it.”

The plaintiffs included Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year.

Jim McMahon on his controversial dementia worries - NFL Lawsuit

Under the settlement, individual awards would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia, said lead plaintiffs’ lawyer Christopher Seeger.

Any of the approximately 18,000 former NFL players would be eligible.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia announced the proposed agreement and will consider approving it at a later date.

The settlement most likely means the NFL won’t have to disclose internal files about what it knew, and when, about concussion-linked brain problems. Lawyers had been eager to learn, for instance, about the workings of the league’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which was led for more than a decade by a rheumatologist.

In recent years, a string of former NFL players and other concussed athletes have been diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Those ex-players included Seau and lead plaintiff Ray Easterling, who filed the first lawsuit in Philadelphia in August 2011 but later committed suicide.

About one-third of the league’s 12,000 former players eventually joined the litigation. They include a few hundred “gap” players, who played during years when there was no labor contract in place, and were therefore considered likely to win the right to sue.

Download the complete press release PDF here.

Read the text of Brody’s order that outlines the proposed settlement here.

TENTATIVE AGREEMENT ON HGH: NFLPA memo tells NFL players that testing is closer

TENTATIVE AGREEMENT ON HGH - NFLPA memo tells NFL players that testing is closer - Population Study during training camps - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

The NFL Players Association has “tentatively agreed” to human growth hormone (HGH) testing and accompanying punishment for the 2013 regular season, according to a union memo.

The memo says that a first offense for any player who tests positive for HGH will bring a four-game suspension. The NFLPA will allow the league to obtain 40 blood samples for HGH tests each week during the testing, according to the tentative agreement.

The NFL denies that an agreement has been finalized.

“We do not have yet a comprehensive agreement for HGH testing and decline to comment on the union’s memo,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

The sides agreed on all procedural aspects of HGH testing. The last sticking point remaining is the appeals process and the presence of a neutral arbitrator. The memo from the NFLPA revealed some of the details of the testing.

Every player in the NFL will provide a blood sample in training camp for a “population study” that will determine what level of HGH will result in penalties, the union wrote in the memo. Eight players randomly will be chosen from five teams each week during the regular season for testing. The memo says the comprehensive agreement likely will be finalized soon.

The entire memo can be seen below:

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SAINTS GO MARCHING IN VICTORY: Paul Tagliabue overturns suspensions

Saints Bounties Hearings

NEW ORLEANS — Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has overturned the suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players in the league’s bounty investigation of the club.

Tagliabue, however, found that the players’ conduct was detrimental to the league. He says they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays — including hard tackles — that could justify fines.

But the former commissioner said Tuesday that “this entire case has been contaminated by the coaches and others in the Saints’ organization.”

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma initially had been suspended the whole season, while Saints defensive end Will Smith, Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove received shorter suspensions.

The Saints face the Cowboys on Dec. 23.

RELATED: Tagliabue vacates bounty players’ suspensions

In a sharp rebuke to his successor’s handling of the NFL’s bounty investigation, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the suspensions of four current and former New Orleans Saints players in a case that has preoccupied the league for almost a year.

Tagliabue, who was appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeals, still found that three of the players engaged in conduct detrimental to the league. He said they participated in a performance pool that rewarded key plays – including hard tackles – that could merit fines. But he stressed that the team’s coaches were very much involved.

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NFL HITS SEAHAWK: Golden Tate fined $21,000 for block on Sean Lee

Illegal hit on Sean Lee vs Seattle Seahawks - The Boys Are Back blog

Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate has been fined $21,000 by the NFL for a "blindside block" on Sean Lee.

The amount is the designated minimum for a blindside block, which is what the league is calling it.

The NFL won’t announce the amount until later in the week, but a first offense in this category carries a $21,000 fine under the collective bargaining agreement.

Tate was not flagged for a penalty on the play even though it was a hit on a defenseless player. In fact, the Cowboys were assessed a 15-yard penalty at the end of Russell Wilson’s scramble when Bruce Carter was called for pushing the quarterback out of bounds.

After the hit, Tate stood on the field and flexed his muscles.

The Seahawks were up 20-7 early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Russell Wilson got flushed from the pocket. As Lee ran toward Wilson, Tate blindsided him with a vicious block that repeatedly was shown on the replay board in the stadium. The Cowboys were sure the flag on the field was against Tate, though it instead was against Bruce Carter for a push out of bounds on Wilson. Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former director of officiating who now works for Fox, agreed on Twitter at the time that Tate should have been penalized.

"It’s up to the NFL," Lee said today. "I don’t really care. The part I don’t like is the celebrating after the hit. … To me, a crack-back block isn’t tough. Anyone can do that. Toughness is about being able to take a hit and getting back up and doing it again."

RELATED: Golden Tate – ‘I’d be upset if I was on that highlight, being crushed’

Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate said Monday that he was praying he didn’t get fined by the NFL for the blindside hit he delivered Sunday on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.

Tate posted the following statement on his official Twitter page Sunday evening:

“I hope Sean Lee is ok. I never have intentions on injuring another player. It’s football which means Its physical, dirty hit would be if I went for his head or neck area.”

Well, the NFL saw things differently, fining Tate $21,000 on Wednesday.

“I don’t think I did anything wrong, but only time will tell,” Tate said Monday on Sports Radio KJR in Seattle. “We’ll see what the NFL office says and we’ll go from there.”

Tate also said during the Monday interview that he aimed lower to avoid a helmet-to-helmet collision because he “had no interest in hurting” Lee.

But Tate wasn’t too remorseful when he heard that Lee said the Seattle receiver wouldn’t be celebrating the way he did if the two players met up one-on-one.

“He has his own opinion of what he thinks,” Tate said Monday. “I’d be upset if I was on that highlight, being crushed. But I’m a lover not a fighter so if it came to one-on-one we’ll deal with that whenever that time comes.

“Like I said, I never have any intentions on hurting another player. The way I see it, this is a big fraternity. I was just playing hard and got caught up in the moment.  At that point I thought the game could go either way. It was a momentum changer. It sprung us, and that was my only intentions, was putting this offense in better position to score and win the game. And that was an opportunity that I feel like, at the end of the day, any defensive player would be licking their chops to get a hit on a quarterback. So I felt like maybe this is a legal block I was going to get on a defensive player versus them always trying to knock us out.

“So, I wasn’t trying to be vicious at all. But it is what it is.”

LASTING LEGACY: Steve Sabol, NFL Films president, dead at age 69

Steve Sabol - NFL FILMS - The Boys Are Back blog

With the eye of an art history major, Steve Sabol filmed the NFL as a ballet and blockbuster movie all in one.

Half of the father-son team that revolutionized sports broadcasting, the NFL Films president died Tuesday of brain cancer at age 69 in Moorestown, N.J. He leaves behind a league bigger than ever, its fans enthralled by the plot twists and characters he so deftly chronicled.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we learned of the legendary Steve Sabol’s passing," FOX Sports Media Group chairman David Hill said. "He was a terrific man and a skilled and talented artist. Steve and his father Ed built NFL Films from nothing and were pioneers in sports television and filmmaking, and after taking the reins from his father, Steve put his own stamp on NFL Films, and its ability to capture football’s nuance and subtlety. When we started FOX Sports, no one was more helpful than Steve, and in a short time he became a great, great friend. He was always there to listen to one of my idiotic ideas. Nothing was ever too much trouble for Steve, and no one, absolutely no one, could rock a pink shirt while talking about the NFL as well as Steve. He was greatly respected and will be missed by everyone at FOX and the entire NFL community.”

Sabol was diagnosed with a tumor on the left side of his brain after being hospitalized for a seizure in March 2011.


”Steve Sabol was the creative genius behind the remarkable work of NFL Films,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement from the league confirming Sabol’s death. ”Steve’s passion for football was matched by his incredible talent and energy. Steve’s legacy will be part of the NFL forever. He was a major contributor to the success of the NFL, a man who changed the way we look at football and sports, and a great friend.”

When Ed Sabol founded NFL Films, his son was there working beside him as a cinematographer right from the start in 1964. They introduced a series of innovations taken for granted today, from super slow-motion replays to blooper reels to sticking microphones on coaches and players. And they hired the ”Voice of God,” John Facenda, to read lyrical descriptions in solemn tones.

Until he landed the rights to chronicle the 1962 NFL championship game, Ed Sabol’s only experience filming sports was recording the action at Steve’s high school football games in Philadelphia.

”We see the game as art as much as sport,” Steve Sabol told The Associated Press before his father was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year. ”That helped us nurture not only the game’s traditions but to develop its mythology: America’s Team, The Catch, The Frozen Tundra.”

Steve Sabol - The Autumn Wind - The Boys Are Back blog

The two were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003. In his career, Steve Sabol won 35 Emmys for writing, cinematography, editing, directing and producing – no one else had ever earned that many in as many different categories.

”Steve Sabol leaves a lasting impact on the National Football League that will be felt for a long time to come,” NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said. ”His vision and innovation helped make him a pioneer the likes of which the NFL has never seen before and won’t see again.”

He was the perfect fit for the job: an all-Rocky Mountain Conference running back at Colorado College majoring in art history. It was Sabol who later wrote of the Raiders, ”The autumn wind is a pirate, blustering in from sea,” words immortalized by Facenda.

The Sabols’ advances included everything from reverse angle replays to filming pregame locker room speeches to setting highlights to pop music.

”Today of course those techniques are so common it’s hard to imagine just how radical they once were,” Steve told the AP last year. ”Believe me, it wasn’t always easy getting people to accept them, but I think it was worth the effort.”

His efforts extended beyond his work as a producer, including appearances on screen and in public to promote NFL Films’ mission.

An accomplished collage artist, Sabol exhibited at the ArtExpo in New York, the Avant Gallery in Miami, the Govinda Gallery in Washington, the Milan Gallery in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Garth Davidson Gallery in Moorestown, N.J.

”Steve was a legend in this business – a dynamic, innovative leader who made NFL Films the creative force it is today,” ESPN President John Skipper said. ”The work he and his dedicated and talented team create every day is one of the many reasons why so many more fans love the game of football today.”

Sabol is survived by his wife, Penny; his son, Casey; his parents, Audrey and Ed; and his sister, Blair. The NFL said there would be a private funeral.


Steve Sabol - NFL FILMS - 1942 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

We are honored to link to an excerpt from "Ed Sabol’s Last Football Movie" (courtesy of, the ultimate illustration of the master’s vision and passion for the game.

Steve and Ed Sabol - NFL Films - The Boys Are Back blog

Sabol leaves lasting legacy – FOX Sports – Photographs – Through the Years – 9 images

Steve Sabol - NFL network - The Boys Are Back blog

Remembering Steve Sabol – Rich Eisen of the NFL Network

CBA RULE CHANGE SPOTLIGHT: Explaining (and exploiting) the new 46-man roster rule

CBA RULE CHANGE SPOTLIGHT - Explaining (and exploiting) the new 46-man roster rule - The Boys Are Back blog

With the new CBA, little attention has been paid to the rule changes that will affect the teams on game days. But one change that the owners and players agreed to will come into play on game days.

The owners and players have agreed to expand game day rosters from 45 to 46 active players. The No. 3 quarterback will no longer be an “emergency” inactive player.

In other words, a team can insert its third-string quarterback for a short period at any point in the game, then take him out and put the starter back in. Previously, the first and second quarterbacks couldn’t re-enter the game if the No. 3 quarterback played before the fourth quarter.

That rule came up most prominently (in the 2010 season) when the Bears bungled the backup quarterback situation in the NFC Championship Game. After starter Jay Cutler went down and backup Todd Collins struggled, Bears coach Lovie Smith inserted No. 3 quarterback Caleb Hanie into the game just in time for him to hand off twice in the third quarter. Smith’s decision to put Hanie in the game in the third quarter instead of waiting for the fourth meant that if Hanie had suffered an injury, the Bears would have been without a quarterback for the rest of the game.

The lack of a third-quarterback designation could be helpful for teams with third-string quarterbacks who are running threats: Now the third-stringer could be inserted as a wildcat quarterback for a play or two and then be replaced by the starter.

But the most likely result of the change to 46 active players on Sundays may just be that teams will add another active player at another position and keep two quarterbacks active on Sundays. For most teams, having extra depth at another position will be more useful than the ability to insert the third quarterback into the game whenever they please.

POINT OF DISCUSSION - I’d like to see the Dallas Cowboys take advantage of this rule change and incorporate some innovative plays - The Boys Are Back blog

POINT OF DISCUSSION: I’d like to see the Dallas Cowboys take advantage of this rule change and incorporate some innovative plays during the course of the game (in a scripted series). It would be interesting with one of Dallas’ offensive weapons that can throw a little, if necessary. Maybe even something with Romo and Orton in at the same time. Have a three-down scripted set of plays … or something along those lines. Orton and the backup wide receivers practice together … imagine something creative with Beasley, Holmes, etc. What do you think?

BREAKING NEWS: Saints player bounty suspensions overturned on appeal

VIDEO - Bounty appeal overturns suspensions - The Boys Are Back blog

VIDEO: CBA appeals panel overturned NFL suspensions regarding Saints Bounty program.

A collective bargaining agreement appeals panel overturned the NFL’s suspensions of four players for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ "bounty" program, NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said Friday.

While the suspensions are vacated immediately, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell can go back and suspend the four players if he proves there was an intent to injure. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said all players are eligible to play, starting this weekend, until Goodell does so.

"Consistent with the panel’s decision, Commissioner Goodell will, as directed, make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed for violating the league’s pay-for-performance/bounty rule," Aiello said in a statement. "Until that determination is made, the four players are reinstated and eligible to play starting this weekend."

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season, free agent Anthony Hargrove for eight games, Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita three games.

Fujita and Hargrove played for the Saints during the program’s duration, from 2009 to 2011, under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. The suspensions of Williams, coach Sean Payton (season-long), general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games) weren’t involved in this appeals process.

Vilma took to Twitter to express his satisfaction about the ruling, writing: "Victory is mine!!!!."

Hargrove’s agent, Phil Williams, wouldn’t comment on his client’s status. Williams also wouldn’t say whether or not teams had begun calling him on the assumption that Hargrove is eligible to be on the field for the opening week of the 2012 NFL season.

"It’s all too new," Williams told and NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport.

When asked if his client is physically able to play after being released by the Green Bay Packers in August, Williams said: "Of course. He’s ready to play if he falls out of bed after a month."

According to a source close to Smith, the defensive end plans to play Sunday in the Saints’ regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins and has been led to believe by the team that he will play.

Saints safety Roman Harper said he’d welcome the return of his defensive teammates, Vilma and Smith.

"Well, if coach (Aaron) Kromer would let him come out, I’d definitely like to play with these guys," Harper told reporters.

"I’m excited," Saints quarterback Drew Brees told and NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala. "I’ve been focused on the game, but I hoped that that would be the case. No, I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t call me surprised. Obviously, they saw the information that we’ve seen for a long time."

Albert Breer | NFL


Video - Watch Now - The Boys Are Back blog - Press play VIDEO: Saints Harper reacts to teammates overturned suspensions

DEZ BRYANT RULES: Jason Garrett discusses guideline agreement between Dez Bryant and Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett and Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday the rules placed on wide receiver Dez Bryant are meant to hold him accountable and support his family.

Bryant has agreed to strict guidelines from team officials regarding his conduct away from the field.

Some of the guidelines say Bryant has a midnight curfew, can’t drink alcohol or attend strip clubs and must have a security team taking him to and from team functions, practices and games.

"Like we’ve talked before, we want to support Dez Bryant and we want to support Dez Bryant’s family and do anything that we can as an organization using our players assistance, players development program to help him, just like we would with any player," Garrett said before Monday’s practice at Valley Ranch.

"The balance with all is you want to support them and you want to help them but you also want to hold them accountable. We feel like we do that throughout our organization, with all our guys. We believe in player development and we believe in helping them as football players on the field and as people off the field. What we’ve tried to do is come up with a plan for Dez, like we would for any player who we feel like needs our support and help him be his best as a player and as a person. And the accountability factor is an important part of that with him and with anybody on our football team."

The guidelines established by the Cowboys came forth after a July 14 incident in which Bryant was charged with allegedly assaulting his mother, Angela Bryant. Bryant was charged with a Class A misdemeanor by the DeSoto Police Department.

The Dallas Country district attorney’s office is still reviewing the case and trying to determine whether charges should be filed.

Bryant’s arrest also subjects him to a possible suspension or fine by the NFL as part of the league’s personal conduct policy.

League officials are still reviewing the case.

"We’re going to control what we can control as an organization and Dez has done everything that we’ve asked him to do up to this point both on and off the football field," Garrett said. "And we’re going to continue to just move forward with what we can do as an organization as individuals within the organization and any decision about that is out of our control."

On Saturday night, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the rules applied to Bryant are not the strictest he’s imposed on a player. Jones said Bryant is willing to abide by the rules.

"Oh yeah, very much willing to do anything he can to help himself and help the team," Jones said of Bryant. "He’s very open-minded and cooperative. He’s doing the right things by his teammates and everybody is counting on him.

Eugene Parker, Bryant’s agent, said he and his client deem the rules fair. NFLPA officials told Parker the rules were voluntary and the association wouldn’t contest them with the league or the Cowboys unless Bryant had issues with them.

Bryant, who isn’t available to comment with reporters, pending his legal situation, isn’t expected to play in Wednesday night’s final preseason game against Miami because of knee tendinitis.

Calvin Watkins | ESPN Dallas


RELATED VIDEO: Press PLAY to watch or click HERE

Jerry Jones and Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blog

Watkins: ‘He Understands The Situation’

ESPN Dallas’ Calvin Watkins joins SportsCenter to discuss the strict rules Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has agreed to follow.

Editors Note: ESPN is notorious for deleting videos and other content without warning. We encourage you to view them as soon as possible to the post date. Enjoy!

CONTRACT HOLD-UP: Agent Bus Cook doesn’t know whether Claiborne will be signed before camp

610x-1The Cowboys waited until June to start signing draft picks, and they now may have to wait until August to get the last member of the incoming class signed.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, has yet to agree to terms.  Agent Bus Cook tells Calvin Watkins of that Cook doesn’t know whether a deal will be done before training camp opens on July 25.

“I have no idea, don’t know,” Cook said.  “I don’t know.  We’ll see.”

Cook declined to delve into the specifics.  It widely is believed that, for most if not all of the first eight picks (none of whom are signed), the question of whether their fully-guaranteed contracts will include offset language provides the primary stumbling block.

Last month, Cowboys executive V.P. Stephen Jones acknowledged that the offset language is the culprit.  That’s probably what is holding everybody up, because the money is the money,” Jones said, via Watkins.  “I think everyone wants to be consistent at the end of the day.  I think that is what is holding everything up, see what is going to be the flavor of the day.”

The teams believe that, if the player is cut before his four-year deal expires, and if he gets another job elsewhere, anything he makes with a new team should reduce what he’s owed under his fully-guaranteed contract.  The players (or, more accurately, their agents) believe that the compensation has changed so dramatically at the top of the draft under the new labor deal that the teams should be willing to assume the entire financial risk arising from what ultimately would be an admission that they made a mistake by taking the player at the top of the draft.

It’s a given that the first 16 players taken will receive fully-guaranteed four-year deals.  Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, the ninth overall pick, avoided the offset language.  The eight players taken before him want that same term — especially since four of them are represented by CAA, the same firm that represents Kuechly.

As to the non-CAA players in the top eight, like Claiborne, there’s a very good chance that the agents are waiting to see what happens with the quartet of CAA clients.

Courtesy: Mike Florio |

NFLPA files suit against NFL over ‘bounty’ ruling

The NFL Players Association has filed a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of three players suspended in connection with the league’s “bounty” scandal investigation.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Orleans on Thursday. It says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell violated the collective bargaining agreement by showing publicly he had determined Will Smith , Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita had participated in a bounty system while with the New Orleans Saints even before serving as an arbitrator at their hearing.

The lawsuit asks a judge to set aside earlier arbitration rulings and order a new arbitrator to preside over the matter. The suit comes two days after Goodell denied appeals by four players . The other player, Jonathan Vilma , has sued the NFL and Goodell separately.

The NFL released the following statement in response to the lawsuit: “As in the case of Mr. Vilma’s lawsuit, this is an improper attempt to litigate an issue that is committed to a collectively bargained process. There is no basis for asking a federal court to put its judgment in place of the procedures agreed upon with the NFLPA in collective bargaining. These procedures have been in place, and have served the game and players well, for many decades.”

Vilma is suspended for the 2012 season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith four and Fujita three.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

REINSTATEMENT REQUIREMENTS: Sean Payton can’t consult Saints, Vitt, Loomis before Super Bowl

Video - BOUNTYGATE suspensions upheld - The Boys Are Back blog

In his judgment upholding suspensions for New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the parties had to meet certain requirements for their potential reinstatements.

One of the expectations is that they avoid all football and operational communication, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, citing NFL rules. Once Payton’s suspension kicks in April 16, he can’t speak to Loomis or Vitt –- or have any communication with the team –- regarding football or operational matters until after the Super Bowl. There is latitude for dialogue, for example, should a personal matter arise and counsel is warranted.

Though Payton’s suspension technically ends after the Super Bowl, he has to re-apply for reinstatement and have Goodell review his status to determine whether to allow him back to coach in the NFL.

Loomis and Vitt can operate as normal until the start of the regular season but once their suspensions begin, Vitt can’t speak with anyone on the team regarding football matters for six games, Loomis for eight.

What could be an intriguing wrinkle is how the schedule lays out for the Saints. If the NFL schedules a bye week in the first six games, Vitt’s and Loomis’s suspensions could be prolonged for a week. The same applies to Loomis if a bye is scheduled in the first eight games.

Last season the Saints’ bye did not come until Week 11.

ROGER GOODELL: ‘We all need to move forward’ from Saints’ scandal

Roger Goodell - NFL Commish - The Boys Are Back blogNEW YORK — This is the week in the New Orleans Saints "bounty" affair during which all parties will have what could be their final chances to be heard before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And Goodell hopes that all will have rested their case by the end of the week.

With an Monday afternoon meeting with the NFLPA looming, and four appeals on his docket for later in the week, Goodell spoke of pursuing a conclusion in the Saints scandal as he made a promotional appearance at the league’s new pop-up store in midtown Manhattan.

"I think we all need to move forward," Goodell said. "I think it’s important for all of us to be open about what we’ve been able to find. We’ve released it publicly. We’ve given the NFLPA two of our confidential reports, which we’ve shared with our clubs — they’ve gotten the same report. And we’ll have the meeting today, hopefully they’ll get some more information, we’ll get a recommendation from them."

The union position has been that it’s not the NFLPA’s place to make a recommendation on the severity of sanctions set to hit a number of its members, some percentage of the 22-27 Saints cited in the league’s 50,000-page report. Rather, according to sources, the NFLPA’s legal team that arrives in New York Monday was coming to gather further clarity on the scope of evidence against players in the case.

That, according to Goodell, will not be a problem.

"For the last month, we’ve made it clear that we’d be happy to share the information," the commissioner said. "I’ve said from the first moment I told De about this information that I’d be happy to share it with him, and make sure he understood what happened."

The league already has levied punishments against the club itself, general manager Mickey Loomis, coach Sean Payton, assistant Joe Vitt and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. All but Williams have filed appeals, and all will be heard by the end of the week, with the expectation that decisions will come quickly.

Goodell was asked if Payton and Loomis will meet with him Tuesday, and answered, "I don’t know yet. I believe it’s later this week."

But the commissioner was very clear about his feeling on why stringent discipline was needed.

"This has been going on for three years," Goodell said. "We’ve been investigating this, we’ve met with various personnel with the Saints. And for three years, they denied this was going on. It’s clear it was going on, and that’s one of the reasons the punishment is harsh. I think, from our standpoint, we want to find out (during the appeal) if there’s information that we’re not aware of and take that into consideration, and we’ll deal with it from there."

When asked why the investigation took so long, Goodell said, "Because they denied it — they denied it repeatedly. And eventually, we were able to get a credible source that came up late last year that gave us information that made it clear that it was going on."

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and the union’s legal team met with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Will Smith, and ex-Saints linebacker Scott Fujita at the organization’s player rep meeting in March in Marco Island, Fla., to gather more information.

The union has also hired outside counsel to handle the case, and has told players that criminal charges are possible, but a very remote possibility. Asked about the possibility of criminal charges against the team, executives, coaches or players, Goodell said, "I don’t know. That’s up to the lawyers. We have to focus on our part of the process, which is to evaluate all the information and make determinations."

In the meantime, Payton has acknowledged talking with Bill Parcells about taking his place on an interim basis. Some have criticized the idea, saying Payton shouldn’t be able to pick his successor, but Goodell saw it differently.

"I don’t agree with that," Goodell said. "At the end of the day, these are management decisions that (owner) Tom Benson has to sign off on. He’ll get recommendations, from Sean and Mickey, I’m sure, and others, and make his determination. If it ends up being Parcells, and they’ve gone through the full process, that’s their decision. They need to make those decision."

As for the possibility of a Parcells return, Goodell said, "Bill’s a great coach, and he will add a lot of personality and intrigue, and he’s as competitive as they get. I’m sure he’ll do a great job."

Also brought to Goodell’s attention was the "Save Sean Payton" rally held in New Orleans over the weekend. The backlash in New Orleans wasn’t among his concerns.

"We have 32 clubs. We have rules in the league. And when rules are violated for three consecutive years and they deny it, there are gonna be consequences," Goodell said, noting he’d talked to "dozens" of players in the last few weeks. "That’s the way it works. We have fans in 31 other markets that want to make sure the game is played the right way. I know the fans in New Orleans get frustrated by what happened, and I understand that, but they also want the game played the right way, and we’re going to ensure that."

BOUNTYGATE: NFLPA, NFL will meet about case

Saints coach Sean Payton The NFL Players Association has agreed to meet with the NFL in New York this week to review and discuss the findings in two confidential reports the league provided the union on the New Orleans Saints "bounty" scandal, according to

A source told’s Steve Wyche on Friday that the league had contacted the NFLPA to let the union know it was willing to share additional details from its investigation.

Regardless of the information in those reports, however, the union still might not recommend specific discipline for the players who allegedly participated in the "bounty" program, a source familiar with the situation told on Saturday.

"We haven’t ruled out anything," George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director for external affairs, told the website. "Right now, we are focused on obtaining the right information and making sure players have a fair due process."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell already has suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games.

RELATED: NFL expects to hear Payton, Saints appeal this week

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFL expects any appeals to punishments levied in the "bounty" case — against the New Orleans Saints, general manager Mickey Loomis, coach Sean Payton and assistant coach Joe Vitt — to be heard this week, league spokesman Greg Aiello said Sunday.

The news that Payton planned to file an appeal of his season-long suspension broke Friday, and it later came out that Loomis also would appeal his own suspension. Currently, Loomis is suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 regular season. The Saints were fined $500,000 and docked two second-round draft picks, and Vitt was suspended for six games.

All appeals are expected to be expedited, but the real urgency is with Payton’s case. His suspension was scheduled to start Sunday, and the league wants to prevent any sort of stalling. The team’s appeal has some urgency, too, since a decision will need to be made on the second-round pick they were docked in April’s draft, while Vitt and Loomis’ suspensions don’t begin until after the final preseason game.

St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who ran the "bounty" program when he was on Payton’s Saints staff from 2009 through 2011, decided not to appeal his indefinite suspension after mulling his options and discussing it with confidants, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora. Williams’ status will be reviewed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the end of the 2012 season.

Payton is expected to seek guidance on the amount of time he will have to prepare his appeal, and will attempt to obtain the full reports from NFL security regarding the bounty evidence against him.

NEW CBA CHANGES: Cowboys off-season schedule coming into focus

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett touched briefly on the new rules of engagement for the off season program under the new collective bargaining agreement which is decidedly more player friendly.

The off season program has been reduced from 12 to nine weeks and will begin on April 16.  For the first two weeks the coaches are not allowed to be on the field with the players at all.

All throwing and team sessions will be run by the players during that time.

Garrett said the Cowboys will conduct a rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft and then begin 10 days of organized team activities around Memorial Day leading up to a mandatory veteran minicamp.

The Cowboys have yet to decide the dates for camp, which will be held in Oxnard, Ca. But Garrett said he plans to begin 15 days prior to the first preseason game, which has yet to be scheduled.

The Cowboys are considering holding a five-day rookie camp for first year players, quarterbacks and injured players before the veterans are scheduled to report. But he has not yet made a final decision he doesn’t want to make camp too long.

Pre-Draft Visits

The Cowboys will start bringing in players for the 30 national pre-draft visits in April 2, 3 and 4. They will then conduct Dallas-day visits for local prospects who went to college or high school in area on April 5-6.

GIANT GAFFE: I’m not sure John Mara should be talking

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to New York Giants owner John Mara for stopping Sunday afternoon in the Breakers lobby to talk to a few of us about the salary cap penalties against the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. He didn’t hold back, and as you can see if you scroll through this blog’s timeline, we got plenty of good material out of it.

But in the grand scheme of things, when we sit down to talk about the right and the wrong of this whole situation, there’s very little right and a whole big pile of wrong, and the defiant stance Mara took Sunday afternoon made that pile much bigger.

The aggrieved parties in this instance are the Redskins and the Cowboys, and they’re keeping quiet on the whole thing. Sure, they filed a grievance against the NFL and the NFLPA on Sunday, seeking to get some relief from the combined $46 million in salary cap room they’ve been docked over the next two offseasons. But they declined several opportunities Sunday to add to the rhetoric

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John MaraEd Mulholland/US PresswireGiants owner John Mara has openly criticized the Redskins and the Cowboys for their spending during the 2010 uncapped season.

Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ director of player personnel: "Within the confines of our collective bargaining agreement, we are trying to have a voice and a hearing in terms of our cap situation."

Bruce Allen, the Redskins’ general manager: "I have nothing to say on that. We’ll let the league speak to it."

Mike Shanahan, the Redskins’ head coach: "I’ll let the commissioner speak about that."

We tried egging these guys on. I read Jones the quote from Mara in which he said the Redskins and Cowboys were lucky they didn’t lose draft picks for this, and all Jones said was, "That’s John’s opinion. Not my opinion."

But Mara came out guns-a-blazin’. And if there are people out there who believe (as I do) that the NFL has acted with irresponsible, petty arrogance in this case and imposed unjustified penalties against teams that broke no actual rules, Mara’s stance isn’t likely to change their minds.

There was no salary cap in 2010. This is a fact. Mara repeatedly brushed that aside during questioning Sunday, irritated at the fact’s mere existence. "We’ve had a cap for 29 of the last 30 years," he said more than once, and he explained rather clearly that teams were told, more than once, to watch the way they spent money and structured contracts during the uncapped 2010 season. He basically admitted to what, in any other business, would be collusion and grounds for an antitrust lawsuit. But he bristled at the mention of that word, too, saying, "This has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences."
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NFLPA reaffirms DeMaurice Smith as executive director through 2015

The NFL Players Association has unanimously re-affirmed DeMaurice Smith as its executive director for the next three years.

Formal elections are not scheduled at the player rep meeting until Sunday, but after Thursday’s vote, that should be a formality.

Per player sources, after his opening remarks at this morning’s session, NFLPA president Kevin Mawae told the assembled group that he believed Smith had delivered during his first three-year term, and that Smith was the man to lead the union going forward. He asked if anyone wanted to re-affirm Smith as executive director for another term.

One player motioned to do it. Two others seconded. And then they took the vote, which Smith carried unanimously.

Smith’s new term will run through 2015.

The NFLPA also announced Thursday Richard Berthelsen will step down as NFLPA General Counsel on May 15 and will assume a senior consulting role with the organization.

NFL adds concussion-specific trainers to each team

As a direct result of the Cleveland Browns’ failure to test quarterback Colt McCoy for a concussion on the sideline during a game, the NFL will alert all 32 teams that, effective this week, an independently certified athletics trainer will be assigned to monitor all suspected concussion-related injuries, a league official confirmed Tuesday.

The independent trainers will be paid by the NFL and approved by the NFL Players Association, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello.

The trainer’s sole purpose will be to oversee the treatment of any possible concussions and ensure that the medical staffs on each sideline are following proper league protocol and testing for any head trauma. During the game, the trainers will be situated in an upstairs booth with direct communication access to each team’s sideline.

McCoy remains sidelined with the concussion sustained Dec. 8 when he was laid out on an illegal helmet-to-face mask hit by Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. Although he was flattened by Harrison’s vicious hit, the second-year QB was not tested for a concussion and the Browns sent him back in the game after two plays.

McCoy has not yet been cleared to practice by Browns doctors. Coach Pat Shurmur said Seneca Wallace will "likely" make his second straight start for Cleveland on Saturday in Baltimore.

Shurmur refused to officially name Wallace his starter, but said, "At this point, more than likely he’ll be the starter, for sure."

In the aftermath of McCoy’s injury, which took place during a nationally televised game, the league sent a medical team to Cleveland last week to meet with the Browns. Commissioner Roger Goodell also took part in a four-hour conference call to discuss the team’s handling of McCoy’s injury, which revealed some gray areas in the league’s policy on handling concussions.

Players Association representatives were also involved in the discussions. The NFLPA may still file a grievance on McCoy’s behalf.

Team president Mike Holmgren explained that the Browns’ medical and training staff did not test McCoy for a concussion on the field or sideline because he did not display symptoms of a concussion and that trainers and doctors did not see Harrison’s devastating blow because they were attending to other injured players.

By adding an overseeing trainer, the league is hoping an extra set of eyes will help medical staffs on the sideline spot injuries and get injured players necessary care.

The Browns have had eight players sustain 11 concussions this season. Tight end Benjamin Watson was placed on injured reserve last week after getting his third concussion since July. Fullback Owen Marecic was just cleared to practice Tuesday after getting two concussions in four weeks.

Tight end Evan Moore was pleased to hear the league was considering changes to protect players.

"Unfortunately we have to be a little more reactive than proactive with this stuff because sometimes you just don’t know until something happens the best way to handle it," said Moore, who suffered a concussion during training camp. "But thank goodness all of our guys are OK, and if it leads to change in the system, then that’s good.

"It’s unfortunate, but if it leads to change for the better in how we protect players, then so be it."

LEGAL EAGLE: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hopes for HGH resolution

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Commissioner Roger Goodell is anxious for an agreement to allow human growth hormone testing in the NFL.

Goodell spoke with reporters after hosting a fan forum at Ford Field before Sunday’s game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings. The latest collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and union includes a provision to begin testing players for HGH — but it’s contingent on the union agreeing to the testing methods.

"We will hopefully get a resolution to that sooner rather than later. I’m disappointed we don’t have it in place right now," Goodell said. "There has to be a credible testing program for HGH. It is in the best interests of the players, from their safety standpoint and their health standpoint, but also for credibility and the integrity of the league."

The NFL Players Association has asked for more scientific data to prove the most popular test is reliable. In an email obtained Friday by The Associated Press, an NFL lobbyist asks congressional staffers to urge their bosses to sign a letter by two House Republicans urging the NFL and NFLPA to begin testing this season.

Goodell also discussed the Vikings and their hope for a new stadium. Their Metrodome lease is due to expire at the end of the season.

"We’re working with all the officials in support of getting something done there," Goodell said. "We’ve been concerned about it for some time. Identifying those solutions are not easy. It takes time. They’re complex projects, and they’re expensive projects, and they require a public-private partnership."

Surprisingly, Goodell wasn’t asked during the fan forum about suspended Detroit star Ndamukong Suh. The defensive tackle finished his two-game ban by sitting out Sunday’s game. He was disciplined for stepping on a Green Bay lineman in a Thanksgiving game.

Goodell talked a bit about Suh with the media afterward.

"I have great respect for Ndamukong. I think he’s a heck of a young man. I also think he’s a great football player," Goodell said. "I spoke to him about 10 days ago, and I think he wants to do what’s right for the game and he wants to do right for his teammates and what’s right for him."

Goodell’s office might have another big review on its hands next week after Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison‘s helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy on Thursday night. Goodell didn’t comment much when asked about Harrison.

"Our staff is going to be looking at that play along with every other play that happens this weekend, and they’ll make their decisions," Goodell said.

CBA: NFL players balk at starting HGH testing

NEW YORK (AP) – The NFL players’ union has told the league to hold off collecting blood for HGH testing.

“We informed the NFL (Tuesday) that absent a collective agreement on several critical issues, blood collection is not ready to be implemented on Monday,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement released Wednesday. “We have advised the players.”

The league was preparing to draw the blood samples beginning Monday, although full testing for HGH was not yet scheduled.

The NFL and the players agreed to begin blood testing for HGH as part of their new collective bargaining agreement reached in late July — but only if the union agreed to the methods. The union has delayed implementing the test, asking for more scientific data to prove it is reliable.

One of the key items the NFLPA is seeking is a population study of the test — the data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test. The union wants to compare that data to a population study on football players; the union believes players could have naturally higher HGH levels above those of other athletes.

Earlier this month, nearly two dozen scientists and lab directors from around the world signed a letter sent to the NFL and the union stating the current test for HGH is safe, scientifically reliable and appropriate for use in professional sports leagues.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, was dated Oct. 3 and sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

Terrelle Pryor plans to appeal NFL suspension

Terrelle Pryor will appeal his NFL suspension after all.

Thursday, the former Ohio State QB earned a spot in the NFL’s supplemental draft, but was handed a five-game suspension, one that his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said they wouldn’t appeal.

If Terrelle Pryor had stayed at Ohio State, he would have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.
By Barry Reeger, AP

But Pryor’s lawyer, David Cornwell, told ESPN Radio Friday that they planned to appeal the ban, incurred as a result of
Pryor admitting to receiving illegal benefits as a collegiate player.

Cornwell said, “Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that we have the right to appeal within three days after Terrelle signs an NFL contract, and given some of the developments — both in reaching the decision and comments out of the (NFL Players Association) regarding the decision — I think it’s likely that we will file an appeal, and give the Players Association an opportunity to make its objections to this on the record,”

Rosenhaus, who backed the deal, said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was involved in the decision with Goodell. The NFLPA planned to fight any suspension for Pryor relating to his time as an amateur, according to the NFL Network’s Albert Breer.

The NFL issued the ban as part of an effort to discourage college athletes using the league as an escape from amateur violations.

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