THE BOYS ARE BACK ON TRACK: Both Dallas Cowboys player suspensions resolved | Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain to return in week 5 | 2015 Dallas Cowboys
After weeks of inactivity at Valley Ranch due to offseason vacation breaks … there is news to report today.
The NFL announced that Greg Hardy‘s suspension was reduced from 10 games to four games this afternoon. Continue reading →
GREG HARDY WILL BE LATE TO THE PARTY: Controversy entrenched bad ‘boy benched | NFL Commissioner sacks Dallas Cowboys DE for 10 games
IRVING, Texas – The NFL announced its disciplinary action for Greg Hardy this afternoon, suspending the newly-signed Dallas Cowboys defensive end for the first 10 games of the 2015 season. Continue reading →
AMERICA’S TEAM CROSSING POND: Dallas Cowboys headed to London for 2014 matchup with Jacksonville
IRVING, Texas – For the majority of 54 seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed the moniker of being America’s Team.
Now, they’re going to officially take the show to England.
For the first time in franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys will play a regular-season game overseas. In 2014, Dallas will participate in one of the NFL’s three scheduled games in London for the 2014 International Series. The Cowboys will play the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are giving up their home game, to play America’s Team at Wembley Stadium.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced the move this week in London, revealing all three matchups. Along with the Cowboys and Jaguars, the Falcons will host the Lions and Oakland will host the Dolphins.
While the dates have the game will be announced at a later time, the Cowboys and Jaguars are expected to have their bye week following their matchup in London.
For years, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said his team could play in the London game, but always as the road team. With AT&T Stadium drawing anywhere from 80,000 fans to as much as 105,000, the Cowboys would never agree to give up one of their eight home games.
However, the crowds in London have been rather respectable over the years. Since the NFL first started playing regular season games in London in 2007, the games are averaging 82,443 in seven games. From 2007-2012, the NFL has played just one game per season in London. This year, two games are scheduled and next year the league is bumping the number up to three.
“Our fans in the UK continue to demonstrate their passion for more football,” Goodell said. “Next year for the first time we will play three regular-season games in London. We have scheduled three attractive games with four teams playing in their first International Series game. The growing enthusiasm for the NFL internationally is exciting and we look forward to continuing to respond to this interest in our game.”
The International Series has increased NFL fan interest in the UK, with a current fan base of more than 12 million, including 2.5 million avid fans, a 30 percent increase in avid fans in the past two years.
Television ratings have shown substantial growth in the UK since 2006 – with Sunday viewership of NFL games almost doubling and the Super Bowl audience having increased 75 percent. The league also has developed new and stronger business partnerships.
Participation in amateur football in the UK has risen since the start of the International Series, growing by approximately 15 percent per year since 2007.
The Cowboys’ opponent next year might garner a few fans in London by next year’s game. Not only are the Jaguars playing the 49ers this week, but Jacksonville has agreed to play in the UK every year through the 2016 season.
The Dallas Cowboys played in the first American Bowl in 1986, when they met Chicago at Wembley Stadium. Dallas also played Detroit in London in the 1993 preseason.
The Dallas Cowboys have also played preseason games in Tokyo, Toronto, Mexico City and Monterrey.
But unlike all of the other meetings, next year’s game will actually count in the standings.
Editor comments: This website can vouch for the NFL’s claim about significant interest coming from the UK. Our website hits from the United Kingdom are ranked fourth behind the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Fans following the Dallas Cowboys (and NFL) on this website have originated from 152 countries around the world. The European nations, when combined, are ranked #2.
WHAT THE–HAIL TO THE CHIEF: President Barack Obama open to Washington Redskins name change
President Barack Obama says he would “think about changing” the Washington Redskins’ name if he owned the football team as he waded into the controversy involving a word that many consider offensive to Native Americans.
Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press, said team names such as the Redskins offend “a sizable group of people.” He said that while fans get attached to the names, nostalgia might not be a good enough reason to keep them in place.
“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he said in the interview, which was conducted Friday.
An avid sports fan, Obama said he doesn’t think Washington football fans are purposely trying to offend American Indians. “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so,” he said.
But the president appeared to come down on the side of those who have sharply criticized the football team’s name, noting that Indians “feel pretty strongly” about mascots and team names that depict negative stereotypes about their heritage.
Other professional sports teams have Indian names, including football’s Kansas City Chiefs and baseball’s Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians.
Numerous colleges and universities have changed names that reference Native Americans. St. John’s changed its mascot from the Redmen to the Red Storm, Marquette is now the Golden Eagles instead of the Warriors and Stanford switched from the Indians to the Cardinal.
The Redskins’ name has attracted a fresh round of controversy in recent months, with local leaders in Washington calling for a name change and some media outlets refraining from using the name. The name is the subject of a long-running legal challenge from a group of American Indians seeking to block the team from having federal trademark protection.
Congressional lawmakers have introduced a bill seeking the same goal, though it appears unlikely to pass.
Opponents of the Redskins name plan to hold a protest Monday outside the NFL’s fall meeting in Washington.
Team owner Dan Snyder has vowed to never abandon the name. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month that the league should pay attention to those offended by the name — a subtle change in position for Goodell, who had more strongly supported the name in his previous statements this year.
Despite the controversy, an AP-GfK poll conducted in April showed that nationally, “Redskins” still enjoys wide support. Nearly 4 in 5 Americans don’t think the team should change its name, the survey found. Only 11 percent think it should be changed, while 8 percent weren’t sure and 2 percent didn’t answer.
TEAM RESPONSE: The Washington Redskins released a statement through their attorney in response to President Obama’s comments:
“As a supporter of President Obama, I am sure the President is not aware that in the highly respected independent Annenberg Institute poll (taken in 2004) with a national sample of Native Americans, 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the name the ‘Washington Redskins.’ The President made these comments to the Associated Press, but he was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that 8 out of 10 of all Americans in a national sample don’t think the Washington Redskins’ name should be changed.
“The Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s hometown), the fans love their team and its name and, like those fans, they do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group. The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old – its history and legacy and tradition. The Redskins’ fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday as an expression of honor, not disparagement.”
HGH TESTING STALLED: NFLPA and NFL agreement stuck over appeals process
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.
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.
THE BIG BANG THEORY: Cowboys safety Micah Pellerin draws a fine for hit against Cardinals
Defensive back Micah Pellerin said he was fined $15,750 by the NFL for a hit against Cardinals punt returner Charles Hawkins that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty last week, but he declined to talk about whether he would appeal it.
He smiled and was ready to say something, then thought better of it.
“No comment,” he said.
But earlier in the week, he said it was a bang-bang play.
“It’s just one of those plays that, being such a bang-bang play that without seeing a replay, you kind of just anticipate a flag,” Pellerin said. “He’s a shorter guy. He ducked. I’m taller, so you know. I didn’t mean to.”
Pellerin, a first-year player from Hampton, caught the Cowboys’ eye with physical play in training camp, and he is gaining confidence.
“I feel like I’m doing well,” he said. “Just been moving up defense, and special teams I’ve been moving up this week. I’m just excited moving up.”
TENTATIVE AGREEMENT ON HGH: NFLPA memo tells NFL players that testing is closer
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:
NFL LEGENDS PROGRAM: New platform launched for reaching out to former players
The National Football League today launched its Legends Program, the newest step in a series of programs designed to help former NFL players connect with each other, their former teams and the NFL.
Nineteen former players, including two Hall of Famers, form the first class of NFL Legends who will participate in this multi-faceted program developed by NFL Player Engagement and the league’s Marketing Department. The Legends will develop, foster and manage national and local alumni relations to deepen the relationship and communication between the league office, teams and former players. They also will participate in the league’s calendar events and fan platforms as additional ways to remain connected to the game.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Senior Vice President of Player Engagement Troy Vincent kicked off the program on Monday, the first of two days of training at the NFL office in New York City.
“Based on our peer-to-peer model, the Legends Program will reach out to our former players, and let them know that their contribution to the game we love is appreciated and their voice is welcome,” said Vincent. “We are a brotherhood, a family. We need to strengthen our relationships across the generations of our alumni, stay connected, and continue to contribute to this game and to each other.”
The Legends Program is built on a peer-to-peer model used in other NFL Player Engagement programs, fostering deeper relationships between generations of NFL players. Legends commit to a three-year term during which they will work to connect the 32 teams and the league with more former players. Legends will work closely with existing club-designated alumni directors, communicate with groups representing former players, and help develop and participate in team and league events.
The 19 former players participating in the Legends Program are:
|Lavar Arrington||Chad Pennington||Mark Bruener||John Randle|
|Mark Brunell||Ed Reynolds||Donovin Darius||Ron Rice|
|Warrick Dunn||Mike Rucker||Keith Elias||Will Shields|
|Rocket Ismail||Leonard Wheeler||Patrick Kerney||Aeneas Williams|
|Hardy Nickerson||Rod Woodson||Jay Novacek|
The NFL Legends Program is an extension of NFL Player Engagement programs designed for former players. The NFL Ambassadors program involves former players who are committed in the development of high school, college, and professional (both current and former) players and facilitate life skills and professional development seminars. In addition, the Transition Coaches program trains and certifies former players to help both current and former players in the areas of mental and behavioral health. The Legends will be the latest group of former players to continue the tradition of representing their teams at annual league events such as the NFL Draft and NFL Kickoff.
Sam Dana, a running back for the NFL’s 1928 New York Yankees team
SHIFTING PRIORITIES: Josh Brent announces retirement
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent announced Thursday that he’s retiring from football to focus on his off-the-field issues.
“This is the right decision for me, and something that I have given a lot of thought to,” Brent explained in a statement released by the Cowboys. “I am at a point where my main focus is all about getting the priorities in my life in order. Those priorities are more important than football. Doing the right things in life are more important than football. I love the game very much. I love my teammates, but this is the right thing for me to do.”
Brent is awaiting trial on an intoxication manslaughter charge in connection with the December 8 car accident that killed practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown Jr.
“I promised Jerry’s mother that we would support Josh in every way we could,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, via The Associated Press. “That’s been our only thought since the accident is to support him and support our team in their support of him.”
The NFL was expected to make a decision on Brent’s playing status before the start of training camp next week. The Cowboys had been hesitant to release Brent, reportedly hoping to retain his rights in the event of a long suspension. A source told NFL.com’s Albert Breer, however, that the idea of returning to football someday “isn’t even a part of (Brent’s) thinking right now.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said on Thursday that “it’s premature” to discuss the possibility of Brent returning to the Cowboys should he come out of retirement. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello stated that “any request for reinstatement by (a) retired player must be reviewed and approved by the league.”
Brent played three seasons for the Cowboys, recording 44 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 39 career games.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: 2014 NFL Draft moved to May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall
The NFL draft is moving two weeks later than usual, at least for 2014.
The league announced today (Tuesday) that the 2014 NFL Draft will be held May 8 to 10 at Radio City Music Hall. The league also was considering moving the draft to May 15 to 17 because of scheduling issues at Radio City Music Hall, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed last week at the NFL Spring Meeting.
“The decision was made after discussions with club personnel and key NFL business partners. No decision has been made regarding the dates of the NFL Draft in 2015 and beyond. A variety of alternatives are being explored, teams were told, including holding the draft at Radio City or at other locations, either in the New York area or in other cities,” the league said in a statement Tuesday.
There have been discussions about dramatically changing the offseason calendar including the dates of the NFL Scouting Combine and the start of free agency, but those possible changes won’t happen until 2015 at the earliest. The NFL announced the 2014 dates of those events, which are at the same time as previous years.
The National Combine in Indianapolis will be held from February 18 to 25. The new league year and free agency will begin March 11, 2014. The NFL Annual Meeting will be held in Orlando, Fla., on March 23 to 26.
The NFL’s original preference was for the combine to happen in March, with the league year beginning in April and the NFL draft in May. However, no (required) agreement was reached with the NFL Players Association on changing the start of the league year.
The NFL’s release pointed out that the change in the date of the draft won’t have any effect on when rookies will be able to report to their clubs or the length of the offseason program in 2014. They also don’t plan to reduce the number of practice days for 2015.
This looks like a “trial” year for the draft in May. If it goes well, we can expect the already-long “draft season” to add a few more mock drafts.
NFL SOFT KNOCKS: National Football League looking at ways to improve player cutdown process
The NFL draft provides football fans with a peek into the exhilaration that comes with entering the league. Far less publicized is a player’s exit from the game, which carries its own emotional weight.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the NFL Spring Meeting in Boston that he had met with league officials about ways to better service players when their careers are over. Those talks Tuesday included discussions with NFL senior vice president Troy Vincent, Goodell said.
“We look at our players from a total wellness standpoint,” Goodell said. “It’s not just a physical wellness, it’s a mental wellness. And what can we do to try and make sure that we’re helping our players make the transitions through life and to make sure they’re getting the kind of help they need at any point.”
Goodell added: “And today one of the focuses was the cutdown process as an example. How do we make the process more dignified? It is in some cases the last experience a player has with a team or any team in the NFL. So we have to do a better job of doing that in a humane way and a way that will make sure they understand the respect we have for them and the pride we have in what they accomplished.
“Make sure they understand what they’ll be experiencing as they separate from an NFL team and make sure they have the services that are available to them, which we provide and we think can be incredibly valuable to them.”
If you’ve ever watched HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” you know the process of cutting players gives that series some of its most heart-wrenching moments. It’s a traumatic time for any player, and exploring ways to help them through that process makes sense for the NFL.
Dan Hanzus | NFL Around the League Writer
SPRING LEAGUE MEETING: NFL, NFLPA working on deal to move 2014 draft to May
The NFL’s effort to change its offseason calendar is starting to make some progress.
The NFL and NFL Players Association are working toward a deal to move the 2014 NFL Draft to May. It likely would start as a one-year trial before deciding if the May move makes sense.
The likely target start date for the 2014 draft is May 15. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sets the date of the draft, provided it’s within the agreed-upon window. May 15 would be.
It’s likely happening in 2014 because of a scheduling conflict. The Radio City Rockettes show, “The Spring Spectacular,” is scheduled to be held at Radio City Music Hall in late April, when the draft usually is held.
“We’re actually getting bumped by the Easter Bunny. They’re going to have an Easter show. We’ll be prepared for that,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last month on “The Rich Eisen Podcast.”
No other league calendar changes are yet agreed upon or imminent.”None of that has been decided,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Around The League in an email Monday. The league also has considered moving the date of the NFL Scouting Combine and the start of the league year.
Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith have had some communication on possible calendar changes. The NFL can move events like the draft without union approval, but it cannot change the start of the league year.
SALARY CAP COMPLICATION: Josh Brent’s Sept 23 trial date a setback for Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys’ hopes of using defensive tackle Josh Brent’s salary to help free up salary cap room took a hit when Brent’s trial for intoxication manslaughter was set for Sept. 23. A Dallas County grand jury in December indicted the defensive lineman in the wake of a Dec. 8 crash in the Dallas suburb of Irving that killed teammate Jerry Brown.
There is little chance Brent plays again for the Cowboys. But his $630,000 is still on the books for next season. The Cowboys put him on the reserve non football injury list at the end of last season and can do the same in 2013.
Any hopes of the salary-cap strapped Cowboys have of using his salary to clear space this year so they can sign some free agents now rest with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The Cowboys need Brent to be suspended under the NFL’s Personal Conduct policy so they can get the salary cap room back. But last week NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Goodell wouldn’t rule on Brent’s status until his case was resolved with the courts. If the Cowboys hope to get money back to use in free agency they need Goodell to rule on Brent’s case earlier.
SUPER BOWL PARTY: Six types of football fans
The Super Bowl party has become one of the biggest social events on the calendar. A party up there in stature and anticipation like parties for New Year’s Eve, Halloween and WrestleMania.
And since many of you don’t bother to read this far and just skip to the list, much like how you will make a b-line to the beer fridge at the party, let’s just get to it.
This is the ideal The Boys Are Back reader. Just because this guy’s team was eliminated is no reason for him not to say why these two teams are terrible. You know, the two teams playing in the Super Bowl. Get ready for three hours of why his team will be playing in the game next year. Just nod your head and say, “Yeah, it sure does sound like next year is going to be the year for the Cowboys.” “No way it goes bad for Tony Romo again.”
Every time Colin Kaepernick does something great, this guy will be quick to tell you he picked up the young signal caller on the waiver wire last year and rode him to fantasy victory! Or drone on about how Mark Sanchez’s fumble sealed his title. What’s worse, this guy will likely show up with his fantasy football trophy and make you pose with him.
I’m just here for the commercials
At least one party guest will take great pride in the fact he doesn’t watch football and revel in his ignorance. And why he’s at a Super Bowl party, we have no idea. He’s also the (expletive) who becomes annoyed if you talk during the commercials (it’s the best part!) and can’t understand why you went outside to smoke during the halftime show. He’s guaranteed to root for the team you don’t want to win, too.
The misguided know it all
This fan is the opposite of the well informed The Boys Are Back reader! You can’t miss this guy because he’s going to talk louder than the TV, no matter how many times you continue to increase the volume. Best of all, most of his statements will be wrong. He’ll say things like, “I loved Coopernick (sic) when he played at UNLV.” Sure you did. He’ll often feel like he has to talk down to the women folk, most of whom has a better understanding of the NFL and will gleefully point out KAEPERNICK played at Nevada, not UNLV. That moment will probably be the highlight of your day.
Look who just got a brand new T-shirt from NFL Shop! But you can tell he isn’t a real hardcore fan by the surprise on their face when you say former Raiders receiver Jerry Rice actually started his career with the 49ers. Get ready to be stunned, but this is also likely a fan of the Yankees, Celtics and the Empire in “Star Wars.”. He does not know who Paul Tagliabue is or was, but the name sounds familiar. He insists he’s been pulling for SF or Baltimore for years! Testing this ‘fan’ is always interesting and entertaining.
This person loves the team, or at least that’s the conclusion we can draw from the back tattoo. So why and the hell are they here? Hardcore fans are no fun because if their team loses, we all lose. Most of us just want to sit around, enjoy the game and maybe crack a few jokes. You can’t do that if you have one hardcore fan there. You have to root for their team, or your life is miserable. And if there are hardcore fans from both teams, it’s even worse.
So don’t worry diehard fan, we’ll smooth things out with your spouse (who is likely making you go). You just sit home and enjoy the game.
Ok. Did we forget anyone? What kind of fan category do you fall into?
MAN OF THE YEAR FINALIST: Jason Witten listed for Walter Payton Man of the Year Award
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year for the second time in his career. Witten also was a finalist in 2007 when Jason Taylor won.
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Browns tackle Joe Thomas are the other finalists, announced at halftime of the AFC Championship. The NFL will announce the winner Feb. 2, the night before Super Bowl XLVII, during its NFL Honors prime-time special.
Witten is involved in a number of charities, but his passion is The Jason Witten SCORE Foundation. SCORE, which stands for Support, Community, Overcome, Rebuild, Educate, supports families affected by domestic violence.
He has funded several building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee, and the SCOREkeepers program is a unique initiative placing full-time, trained male mentors in battered women’s shelters throughout Texas. The mentors demonstrate positive male behavior to the children in these shelters in an effort to break the cycle of violence that plagues families affected by abuse. JWSF has placed SCOREkeepers in six shelters across Texas, and Witten hosts children from these shelters for special events throughout the year. The foundation’s newest domestic violence prevention program, “Coaching Boys Into Men,” trains high school coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
Witten set two NFL records this season for most catches by a tight end in a game (18) and most catches by a tight end in a season (110).
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is based on a player’s community service as well as excellence on the field, is given annually. The Cowboys have had two winners in the 43-year history of the award: Roger Staubach won it in 1978 and Troy Aikman in 1997.
The Man of the Year’s designated charity receives a $20,000 donation in his name. Charities selected by the other 31 team finalists each receive a $1,000 donation. The three finalists for the award also receive an additional $5,000 each.
RELATED: Payton Award finalists: Fitzgerald, Thomas, Witten
NEW YORK (AP) – Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns and Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys are finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
The award will be presented in New Orleans, when The Associated Press announces the winners of its annual NFL honors, including Most Valuable Player, in a two-hour prime-time special on Super Bowl eve.
The show, “NFL Honors,” will be broadcast on CBS on Feb. 2 at 9 p.m.
The only league award that recognizes a player’s community service as well as his playing excellence, the Walter Payton winner will have a $20,000 donation made in his name to his favorite charity.
Fitzgerald, Thomas and Witten were chosen from among the 32 team nominees, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name.
The selection panel includes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Connie Payton, widow of the Hall of Fame running back.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Jason Hatcher not fined for QB hit
IRVING, Texas – DE Jason Hatcher’s roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter of Dallas’ loss at Washington was costly on the field. The NFL chose not to impose a fine.
After the game, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the penalty was questionable, but replays showed Hatcher hitting Redskins QB Robert Griffin III in the helmet with 2:35 to play. The penalty negated a third-down stop by Dallas’ defense and allowed Washington to score a touchdown with 1:09 to play.
If there hadn’t been a penalty, the Cowboys would have forced the Redskins to kick a field goal for a six-point lead with more than two minutes to play. Hatcher did not speak after the game or on Monday.
Dallas LB Kyle Wilber was fined $21,000 for a blindside block on a punt return by Dwayne Harris, but Wilber was not called for a penalty in the game. With a $390,000 base salary, Wilber made roughly $22,941 per week.
SAINTS GO MARCHING IN VICTORY: Paul Tagliabue overturns suspensions
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.
NFL OFFICIALS VOTE: Veteran officials approve deal, ready to ref
IRVING, Texas (AP) — NFL referees are ready to go unnoticed again, just as they prefer.
The refs approved a new eight-year contract with the league by a 112-5 vote Saturday, officially ending a lockout that led to three weeks of increasingly chaotic games run by replacement officials.
After a few hours of final preparations with league officials, the next stop for the referees will be the airport. Most will be heading straight to their Sunday game sites.
"It was pretty much ‘Come on in and vote,’" said Scott Green, president of the referees’ association. "We’re going to talk football now. We’re going to stop talking about CBAs and lockouts and now we’re going to talk about rules and video and getting ourselves ready to work football games."
They may get ovations similar to the one bestowed on the crew that worked Thursday’s Cleveland-Baltimore game with the tentative deal in place. Before long, they expect to go back to being mostly anonymous and sometimes hated. They’re OK with both.
"The last Super Bowl that I worked, when we got in the locker room, I said, ‘You know, the best thing about this game, nobody will remember who refereed this game,’" Green said. "That’s how we like to work."
The referees met for about an hour and a half Friday night to go over the contract, then gathered for another 30 minutes Saturday morning before approving the contract.
"We are obviously pleased to hear it," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email to The Associated Press on Saturday.
Because they were aware of the financial parameters, most of the discussion by the referees involved non-economic issues such as year-round work and developmental squads, said Tim Millis, the association’s executive director.
The deal came quickly this week after an increasing chorus of complaints became impossible to ignore when a disputed touchdown call on the final play gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the Green Bay Packers on national television Monday night. Many thought the ruling of a Seattle touchdown instead of a Green Bay interception was botched, and the labor dispute drew public comments.
By late Wednesday, the sides had a contract calling for refs’ salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019. The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season or until the official earns 20 years’ service.
The defined benefit plan will then be frozen. Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution.
Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials to work year-round. The NFL also can retain additional officials for training and development and assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league.
The officials that worked Thursday’s Ravens-Browns game were cheered from the moment they walked onto the field. The difference between the regular crew and replacements was clear. The officials kept the game in control, curtailing the chippy play and choppy pace that had marred the first three weeks of the regular season.
"I think the thing we’re most proud of is the lesson that we all learned," Green said. "If you’re going to be in a professional league, you’ve got top-notch coaches, you need professional officials as well."
Courtesy: Associated Press
13 FOR ’13: Pro Football Hall of Fame announces nominees for new class
CANTON, Ohio — John Lynch, Michael Strahan, Steve McNair and Morten Andersen are among 13 first-year eligible players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame .
Safety Lynch, defensive end Strahan, quarterback McNair and kicker Andersen join offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and 121 other total nominees for induction. The list will be whittled to 25 semifinalists in late November.
Fifteen finalists from the modern era will be announced in early January, with elections taking place Feb. 2, 2013, the day before the Super Bowl.
Between four and seven new members will be selected, with inductions next August.
Other first-time nominees are running back Priest Holmes, wide receiver Keenan McCardell, center Tom Nalen, defensive tackles Sam Adams and Ted Washington and defensive end Bryant Young.
Among the contributors nominated are former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and longtime team owners Bud Adams of the Tennessee Titans and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots . Former Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell, who died this month, also is a nominee.
Other holdover nominees include receivers Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, guard Will Shields, defensive end Charles Haley, linebacker Kevin Greene and defensive back Aeneas Williams, all finalists for the 2012 class.
RANDY GALLOWAY: Roger Goodell takes a stand and the games are suffering
The dominant color for all NFL games in Week 3 will be yellow.
As in yellow hankies littering the field.
A flag-fest in a football game has absolutely no appeal to anyone, including those of us attending the Cowboys home opener at the Big Yard, but it’s a predictable counterattack by the Goodell Gang-bangers on Park Avenue in New York.
With its replacement officiating crews — "scabs," if you want to get unionized about it — the NFL took a PR beating across the land last weekend. This was a dramatic one-eighty from Week 1, when we all had to agree the league won the PR battle against the locked out regular officials.
A friend who draws a paycheck from the NFL didn’t exactly agree with me on the difference between Week 1 and Week 2. On Thursday, he said, "The league won Week 1, and last week, I’d call it a Mexican standoff."
I didn’t see the Mexican standoff. I saw the replacements seriously lose a battle over control and respect, which was predictable. Sooner or later, or as long as the replacements are working at a job they aren’t qualified to do, the players and coaches would take advantage of these newbies.
The abuse flowed across the league in Week 2.
Which brings us back to what people with knowledge of the situation are predicting for Sunday. That being, the league has ordered the replacements to fight back with their yellow hankies, including an emphasis on unsportsmanlike conduct calls.
Yes, the replacements have missed calls, or thrown phantom flags, or have had issues with rules interpretation. But over the years, how many times have we seen the regulars miss calls, or throw phantom flags?
In fact, the league now issues positive "talking points" on the officiating each week, but what missed the talking point and what hit Roger Goodell upside his hard head last weekend was a failure by the replacements to take control of games and keep the games moving. Plus, the verbal abuse was immense.
The lack of respect, and no fear of retaliation, empowered players and coaches to go far beyond where they would normally tread with the regulars.
Will a flurry of flags this week change that? No, of course not. Players and coaches smell blood. They will continue to go over the line of protocol when dealing with the replacements. There are games to be won, and there are jobs on the line for coaches and players.
What the combatants see are pigeons working as the "cops" of football. Human nature says the pigeons will be abused.
Meanwhile, I have no stance on which side is wrong in the financial battle between Goodell and the regular officials. Are the money demands of the regulars so far out of line the league had to take the lockout stance, or is the league squeezing the regulars and attempting to break their union?
Don’t know. But we all know the NFL is a massive business where the rich owners become richer because of the value of a league franchise. There is plenty of money to go around and make everyone happy, except those who have the money don’t want to give up the money.
Goodell, of course, has been on a power trip, starting with his overreaction and grandstanding in the case against the New Orleans Saints, a ruling that was more about evidence he could present in the pending lawsuits against the NFL by former players, who claim the league ignored player safety issues.
For an encore, the commissioner also decided to muscle the regular officials. And that has put the league in a position where the emphasis this season has been as much about the replacement officials as it is about the actual playing of the games.
And now, player safety is a central issue again, because with the lack of control by the replacements in Week 2, it put the league back on the defensive about that topic.
We all applauded Hall of Famer Steve Young for his powerful ESPN comments after the Monday night mess in Atlanta. Young said of the NFL:
"There is nothing they can do to hurt demand for the game. So the bottom line is they don’t care. Go ahead, gripe all you want. Let them eat cake."
Eat your cake. Goodell and the owners Do. Not. Care.
Another funny line on that Monday night mess came from former Cowboys front office executive Gil Brandt, who now writes a column for NFL.com., meaning he’s an employee of the NFL.
With a big fuss over how incompetent the replacements were when attempting to determine which team (Atlanta or Denver) recovered a fumble on Monday night, Brandt told me Thursday:
"Maybe [the replacements] got it wrong, but I also have one less Super Bowl ring and the Cowboys have one less Lombardi because an [regular] official blew a call on a fumble."
Gil has a long and bitter memory, and rightfully so. Official Jack Fette infamously melted down on such a call in the 1970 Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Colts.
According to several sources, the league answer on Sunday to what went on last week will be ordering the replacements to give us a flag-fest, instead of the league simply going back to the negotiating table with the regulars.
Oh, boy. More muscle from Roger Goodell, the commissioner who does not care.
We get that part of it, for sure.
Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.
NFL HITS SEAHAWK: Golden Tate fined $21,000 for block on Sean Lee
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
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.”
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.
RELATED POSTS: STEVE SABOL: 1942-2012
We are honored to link to an excerpt from "Ed Sabol’s Last Football Movie" (courtesy of NFL.com), the ultimate illustration of the master’s vision and passion for the game.
Sabol leaves lasting legacy – FOX Sports – Photographs – Through the Years – 9 images
Remembering Steve Sabol – Rich Eisen of the NFL Network
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Tyron Smith isn’t worried about the fine, vows to clean up false starts
Tyron Smith had four penalties in his first ever game at left tackle. Still, he earned an "attaboy" from the Dallas Cowboys, one of the weekly awards the team gives after victories.
Smith won it for his hustle in chasing down Giants linebacker Michael Boley after a second-quarter Tony Romo interception. Smith was docked $15,750 by the league for his horse-collar tackle on Boley, which saved a touchdown.
He will not, he smiled, pass the helmet around the locker room for his teammates to help pay his fine.
"It was a way to help my team out," Smith said. "If you care about the money that much, you’re playing for the money. I’m playing because I want to."
Smith, who gave up no sacks, was unforgiving about the tackle, calling it a last-ditch effort. He is more concerned about the league-leading three false starts. Doug Free and Jason Witten also had false starts, Dez Bryant had an illegal motion and the Cowboys had two delay of games.
Smith said it had more to do with the unfamiliarity of new center Ryan Cook, who arrived at Valley Ranch on Aug. 31 after a trade with the Dolphins, than being twitchy about facing Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
"It’s more just being on the same page as the center on the snap count," Smith said. "That’s why I was off-sides a few times. We’re more on the same page this week. It’ll help this week coming up."
Phil Costa reinjured his back after only three plays last week, forcing Cook into the lineup. Cook has practiced with the first-teamers this week and is expected to get the start with Costa’s back still bothering him.
“Everybody’s on more of the same page this week with the new center we have moving in,” Smith said. “He’s working hard and everybody’s working hard as a unit to get everything cleaned up.”
Smith will face his college coach, Pete Carroll, this week. Carroll is not surprised to see Smith at left tackle, though he played only the right side for Carroll. Smith, the No. 9 overall pick last year, also spent his rookie season at right tackle before he and Free switched sides this off-season.
"We always thought of him as that, that he could do that," Carroll said Wednesday. "He’s a fantastic athlete. He’s extraordinary in what he’s capable of doing. There’s nothing he can’t do. We’re not surprised at all. I see why they did it. They gave him a chance to be comfortable for the first year and then make the move and it looks like it’s working out great for them."
HORSE COLLAR DOLLARS: Tyron Smith fined $15,750 by NFL for game-changing tackle
Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith expected to be fined for a horse collar tackle against linebacker Michael Boley following an interception against the Giants.
The NFL didn’t disappoint, fining him $15,750 for the play.
That works out to $3937.50 per point …
It was money well spent considering that Smith’s tackle prevented Boley from scoring a touchdown as he knocked him out at the 2-yard line. The penalty moved the ball to the 1. The Cowboys defense rose up and forced a field goal.
It proved to be huge momentum-turning play in a game the Cowboys won 24-17.
None of it would have happened without Smith’s hustle and effort to chase down Boley _ penalty or not. Fine or not.
“It was a really big play in the game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said in the days after the game. “As coaches we always try to emphasize the ball, and the importance of the ball, and taking care of the ball, and quarterbacks making good decisions, holding it the right way in the pocket, anybody who’s carrying the football, make sure you carry it the right way, and we do drills every day. One of the things we talk about is when there is a turnover, going to get the ball back, going to make the tackle if there is an interception or the other team is running with the football.
“You can preach that till you’re blue in the face, but until that situation happens in the game, it’s hard to know the guys are going to respond the right way. But if you watch that play, like we have, you see a lot of guys running the football, trying to make the play, and sure enough, Tyron’s the guy who makes the play. And you said it. It’s a difference-making play in the ballgame, to force an offense to say, ok, you don’t have a touchdown, you’ve got to score from the 2-yard line, and the challenge that that presents to a defense. You always want to be in a situation where you’re trying to have a goal-line stand. And our guys stepped up. I thought our run defense was outstanding. We knocked them back on the first play, knocked them back on the next play, forced them into a passing situation, and defended well on third down to hold them to a field goal. None of that happens if Tyron doesn’t make that play. So his hustle, his determination, his will, did a great job of carrying over the practice emphasis to the game.”