Tag Archives: NFLPA

NEW NFL ALL-STAR GAME: Significant changes to the NFL Pro Bowl format designed to be fan-friendly

NFL Pro Bowl 2014 - New NFL All-Star game - New NFL Pro Bowl 2014 - 2014 NFL Pro Bowl Draft - NFL Pro Bowl logo - Team Sanders - Team Rice

The NFL is starting over with the Pro Bowl.

The NFL originally announced radical changes to the format of the All-Star game back in May, eliminating the traditional AFC vs. NFC matchup in favor of a fantasy draft-like roster selection.

Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will serve as alumni captains, choosing two rosters with the help of two NFL.com fantasy users.

The NFL and NFLPA distributed a joint press release, explaining that the changes are designed to make the Pro Bowl “the ultimate fan-friendly celebration of the game.”

“As players, we wanted to keep the Pro Bowl to honor excellence in individual performance and connect with the fans in a different environment,” said NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth, who proposed the changes to the game. “To do that, I worked with a group of players to map out new ideas.”

Under the new format, players will be selected without regard to conference in voting by fans, coaches and players.

Players will be assigned to teams through the Pro Bowl Draft, which will air (tonight) on Wednesday, Jan. 22, on NFL Network.

The 2014 Pro Bowl will be held on Sunday, Jan. 26, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

NFL Pro Bowl 2014 - New NFL Pro Bowl All-Star game - New NFL Pro Bowl 2014 uniforms on NFL Network - 2014 NFL Pro Bowl Draft - Team Sanders - Team Rice

The 2014 NFL Pro Bowl will feature new uniforms from Nike

  • Game within the Game: A two-minute warning will be added to the first and third quarters and the ball will change hands after each quarter. This will increase the opportunities for quarterbacks to direct “two-minute drills,” which are especially exciting for fans.
  • No Kickoffs: The coin toss will determine which team is awarded possession first. The ball will be placed on the 25-yard line at the start of each quarter and after scoring plays.
  • Rosters: The rosters will continue to consist of 43 players per squad. The kick return specialist will be replaced by an additional defensive back.
  • Cover Two and Press Coverage: The defense will be permitted to play “cover two” and “press” coverage. In previous years, only “man” coverage was permitted, except for goal-line situations.
  • Stopping of the Game Clock: Beginning at the two-minute mark of every quarter, if the offense does not gain at least one yard, the clock will stop as if the play were an incomplete pass. This rule will make the team with the ball attempt to gain yardage toward the end of each quarter.
  • Game Timing: The game clock will start after an incomplete pass on the signal of the referee, except inside the last two minutes of the first half and the last five minutes of the second half.
  • Play Clock: A 35-second/25-second play clock will be adopted instead of the typical 40-second/25-second clock.
  • Sacks: The game clock will not stop on quarterback sacks outside of the final two minutes of the game. Currently, the game clock stops in these situations outside of two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.

Button - NFL Pro Bowl Check out the new NFL Pro Bowl page for much more detailed information about the NFL’s All-Star game!


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.

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.

SPRING LEAGUE MEETING: NFL, NFLPA working on deal to move 2014 draft to May

Roger Goodell - NFL commissioner - NFL Spring League Meeting - The Boys Are Back blog

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.

VIOLENCE REDUCTION 2.0: President Obama unsure if he’d let son play football

football violence political - The Boys Are Back blog

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters. If they had a son, Obama isn’t sure that football would be an option for him.

“I’m a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I let him play football,” he said in an interview with the New Republic. “And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.

President Barack Obama throws a football at Soldier Field - The Boys Are Back blog

“In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much.

Obama isn’t asked what changes could be made, nor does he indicate if he’ll have a role in making changes happen. He believes a bigger concern for the sport comes from the college level, which acts as the NFL’s feeder system.

Obama - Football needs to change to lessen concussions - The Boys Are Back blog

“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they’re grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” he said. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”

President Obama jersey - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFL has taken steps to improve player safety, and Obama touches on the fine line the league must walk on this issue. The NFL has the responsibility of protecting the long-term health of its players while continuing to produce an exciting and profitable product. In a game with inherent violence and injury risk, that’s no easy task

Dan Hanzus | NFL Around the League Writer

Josh Brent at Cowboys facility; Garrett said team offers support; Cowboys considering SafeKey device

With Dallas nose tackle Josh Brent, who was charged with intoxicated manslaughter for his involvement in a car crash that killed teammate Jerry Brown on Saturday, out on bond, he visited the Cowboys facility yesterday (Monday).

Brent was at Valley Ranch getting treatment and meeting with coach Jason Garrett, who let him know that, “We all love him and we’re going to be here for him.”

Brent was released from jail on Sunday after being arrested for suspicion of intoxication manslaughter. The car he was driving flipped and crashed Saturday night, killing the passenger, practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown.

Dallas Cowboys NT Josh Brent posts bond - The Boys Are Back blog

Brent remains on the active roster. Garrett said he does not know anything about an NFL response to Brent’s arrest.

“We don’t know any specifics about that,” Garrett said. “What we want to do as an organization, as players, as coaches and this entire organization is let him know he should feel supported everywhere he turns. That’s what we want to express to him. It’s a very challenging situation for him. He and Jerry are best friends. They have known each other since college. They were very close in college, very close since they’ve been here together, and it’s a really, really difficult situation for him. We want to make him feel that there are people around him who can help him get through this thing day by day.”

Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent - Jerry Brown Jr. - Car wreck - The Boys Are Back blog

Garrett said he visited with Brent, and that Brent was “very distraught.”

Asked what Brent’s mindset was and if they talked about his football future, Garrett said, “This thing only happened a couple of days ago, so I’m sure you guys understand the situation he’s in and how he feels about the situation, and again, we’re trying to help him get through today. It’s a very, very difficult and challenging situation for him.”

Asked what was the best advice he gave Brent, Garrett said, “Just that we love him and we’re going to be here for him.”

RELATED: Cowboys consider requiring players to use SafeKey Breathalyzer device in cars

Dallas Cowboys considering use of Safekey device - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFL and the Dallas Cowboys are mulling their options and trying to figure out what they can do in the wake of Dallas defensive tackle Josh Brent being charged with manslaughter after killing teammate Jerry Brown in a Saturday morning car crash.

Brent was drunk behind the wheel after leaving Private nightclub, and wrecked his car on state highway 114 killing a teammate and changing so many lives forever.

The Dallas Cowboys and team consultant Calvin Hill are trying to figure out ways to prevent tragedies like this from happening again.

“Obviously, we do whatever we can do,” Hill said somberly before Sunday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium, alluding to the team’s educational programs. “I don’t know what more we can do. We’re always examining and going over things.”

Hill said the team is considering implementing a SafeKey device for all players cars, which would prevent them from driving and pulling off while impaired.

“We are considering that,” Hill said.

It remains unclear if the NFLPA would allow such a mandate to be passed by a team.  Hill said the league needs to do something to help its players, but understands those same players have to make smart choices.

“Everyone has free will and makes their own decisions,” Hill said. “You try to make them aware that every decision has a consequence and that they’re responsible. You hope they consider the potential consequences.”

RELATED: Cowboys considering use of impairment tests for players cars

Despite their come-from-behind victory over the Bengals on Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys, who mourned the passing of practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown, who was involved in a car crash with defensive tackle Josh Brent this weekend.

Brent survived, but faces intoxicated manslaughter charges. And the Cowboys are left to wonder what they can do to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future. One possible solution is the implementation of an impairment-testing device known as SafeKey on players cars.

"We are considering that," Cowboys consultant Calvin Hill.

Hill didn’t say that Dallas would utilize SafeKey, but said it’s a possibility. Additionally, Bell reports he hasn’t heard from the NFLPA on whether or not the union would oppose the implementation of the devices, though it wouldn’t be surprising as that’s a fairly large infringement on personal property.

Safekey, based on their website, isn’t a breathalyzer test: it’s an impairment test, described by the SafeKey corporation as "a bit like playing a 2.5-second video game."

"The anti-impairment function of the SafeKey is based upon the universal fact that one’s rate of reaction to stimuli drops as impairment increases," the website reads. "The increasing delayed reactions occur regardless of the reason for impairment: alcohol, drugs, sleep deprivation or advanced age. Thus, the SafeKey merely assesses a person’s stimulus-response time."

In other words, this isn’t the same thing as the sort of device installed after people are convicted of DUI; there’s no breathing required. However, there is one similarity: test scores are recorded and emailed.

That could pose a problem for the union, even if any players with a lengthy history of failing the SafeKey test could claim they’re really tired all the time. (This would be more and less difficult if the test was failed consistently at odd hours.)

The odds of SafeKey being implemented by an entire team — much less an entire league — seem extremely low. But even talking about it means that Cowboys, and others around the league, are interested in coming up with ways to avoid future tragic incidents involving NFL players, alcohol and cars. And that’s a good thing.

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 NFL.com), 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 NFL.com 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 NFL.com 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!

NFL widows will benefit from agreement over pensions

Sylvia Mackey’s months-long struggle to close a loophole that excluded 330 widows of NFL veteran players — including herself — from increased pension payments concluded Monday as the NFL and the NFL and NFL Players Association have reached an agreement to extend the collective bargaining agreement’s new Legacy benefits.

As part of the agreement, which both sides announced jointly, so-called legacy benefits will now be paid to the widows and other survivors of eligible pre-1993 players, the NFL and NFLPA said.

"I am ecstatic," Mackey told FOXSports.com. "I’m speechless. It’s been a year. A year too long, but you can’t un-spill the milk."

Widows of players who played in the NFL before 1993 and died before CBA’s ratification last August were exempted from the new $620 million legacy fund. (Widows are typically eligible for any pension increases.) The oversight cost about $14 million to rectify, but the NFL and NFLPA had been at odds on how to pay for it.

The NFL owners agreed in May to fund their 51 percent, although the NFLPA soon took issue with the fact the NFL would use fine money as part of its share. NFLPA officials also wanted a fuller accounting of fine money before moving forward with an agreement to fund the union’s 49% share of the benefits.

"The legacy fund is the first time in history that former player benefits have come from outside the salary cap,” Nolan Harrison, senior director of former player services for the NFLPA, told the group’s membership in a memo obtained in May by FOXSports.com. “Our entire player community fought for and won this landmark advancement. This new issue of taking care of former player families is about making sure we progress and hold management accountable for their commitment to those families."

The news release didn’t spell out the terms of the agreement. Messages left with the NFL and NFLPA by FOXSports.com were not immediately returned.

Monday’s agreement comes too late for at least one of the widows. Susan Copeland — whose husband, Jim Copeland, played eight seasons as an offensive lineman with the Cleveland Browns — passed away in May.

“That’s one person I wish who had been here to see this agreement,” Mackey said Monday. “She was very upset and hurt.”

Under the legacy fund, former players who played before the 1993 season (or their widows) would get at least $108 more per month for each credited season. That class of players would also be entitled to at least $600 per month in pension payments.

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.

SIGNING BONUS PLUS: Dallas Cowboys enticed undrafted free agent Ronald Leary with guarantees

Dallas Cowboys free agent guard G Ronald Leary - The Boys Are Back blog

How much does Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones like Ronald Leary? Enough to guarantee the undrafted free agent guard $214,000 in signing bonus and base salary in 2012, according to NFL Players Association figures.

It’s a staggering amount of money for a player with a knee condition that worried the Cowboys – and other teams – so much that he wasn’t selected. The Cowboys liked what Leary was able to do in the organized team activities and minicamp and gave him some snaps with the first-team offense at times.

The Cowboys paid Leary a $9,000 signing bonus and guaranteed $205,000 of his $390,000 rookie base salary. If Leary does not make the team, then he would still get his money. The Cowboys had to fend off at least one other team from signing Leary, who was projected as a mid- to late-round pick if not for the injury.

The guaranteed money falls in line with what Indianapolis’ Josh Chapman received as the top pick of the fifth round with a signing bonus of $215,512. Danny Coale, the Cowboys’ fifth rounder and No. 152 overall, received a signing bonus of $190,052.

Leary wasn’t the only undrafted free agent to receive a guaranteed portion of his base salary. The Cowboys will pay wide receiver Tim Benford $20,000 and long snapper Charley Hughlett $10,000. Wide receiver Saleem Hakim received the highest signing bonus among the college free agents at $10,000 and will also receive $7,500 in base salary.

Teams were limited in how much signing bonus they could give their undrafted free agents, which meant a number of teams also offered portions of guaranteed salary to entice players to sign.

COMPLAINT FILED: NFLPA files collusion suit against NFL over 2010 season

The NFL Players Association filed a collusion complaint against the NFL in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota on Wednesday, alleging the league imposed a secret $123 million salary cap during the uncapped year of 2010.

The NFLPA’s complaint points to the league’s punishment of the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders as proof that restraints were in place to suppress salaries during that year. The filing also alleges that internal NFL calculations showed that Washington was $102,833,047 in excess of the secret cap, Dallas was $52,938,774 over, Oakland was $41,914,060 over and New Orleans was $36,329,770 over.

On Tuesday, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld a league decision to take $36 million of cap space from the Redskins and $10 million of cap space from the Cowboys as a result of contracts that the league has said violated the spirit of competitive balance. The league, by owner vote, agreed to take that cap space and spread it among 28 other teams, excluding the Raiders and Saints as beneficiaries as a result of their 2010 actions.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith

"When the rules are broken in a way that hurts the game, we have an obligation to act," said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in a statement. "We cannot stand by when we now know that the owners conspired to collude."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to the players’ claims with a comment:

"The filing of these claims is prohibited by the collective bargaining agreement and separately by an agreement signed by the players’ attorneys last August. The claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed. On multiple occasions, the players and their representatives specifically dismissed all claims, known or unknown, whether pending or not, regarding alleged violations of the 2006 CBA and the related settlement agreement. We continue to look forward to focusing on the future of the game rather than grievances of a prior era that have already been resolved."

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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."

NFL Players Association says it wants concrete evidence against Saints players

NFL Players Association

The NFL Players Association is hoping to not only discover concrete evidence that New Orleans Saints players were directly tied to bounties, as the league has found, but also to get a basis to determine whether punishments meted out are specific to allegations, players’ association spokesman George Atallah said Monday.

The NFLPA will meet with the NFL on Monday — and maybe longer — to pour over evidence the NFL has offered to share regarding its lengthy investigation into the scandal that has led to lengthy suspension, fines and lost draft picks.

The 22-27 players cited in the scandal that occurred between 2009 and the 2011 seasons have not been disciplined because NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would like recommendations from the NFLPA, which very well might not happen, according to Atallah.

Goodell, by the league’s collectively bargained by-laws, does not have to seek counsel from the NFLPA before issuing discipline against players.

The players’ association might not recommend discipline because there is suspicion that it might not carry any weight in Goodell’s rulings. If players appeal, any NFLPA recommendations for discipline also could work against them.

"We want to get some sort of look at concrete evidence of player involvement and levels of player involvement," Atallah said. "That is why looking at the evidence is important to us. At least there is a correlation to where the punishment fits the crime, if you will."

Saints coach Sean Payton is appealing his season-long suspension; Loomis is appealing his eight-game suspension, assistant head coach Joe Vitt is appealing his six-game suspension and the team is appealing its $500,000 fine and loss of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. Those appeals will be heard — and likely ruled upon this week.

Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely, does not plan to appeal his punishment. The NFLPA has no jurisdiction over non-players.

The meeting with the NFL and NFLPA to review evidence stems from the NFL re-iterating Friday an offer that has stood for weeks for the NFLPA to look at the league’s gatherings. The NFL has shared two summaries with the NFLPA but the union has sought more information, such as video, email or other evidence to corroborate the current charges.

Besides interviewing Saints players Drew Brees and Will Smith as well as former Saints and current Browns linebacker Scott Fujita at the recent players association meetings, the NFLPA has interviewed numerous players with the Saints during the alleged time frame of the charges, Atallah said.

RELATED: NFLPA Union expects lawyers to gain access to "bounty’ evidence

NEW YORK — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he will meet with the NFL Players Association on Monday to discuss player involvement in the Saints’ "bounty" program.

The NFLPA has hired outside counsel to help it navigate the potential player sanctions related to the "bounty" case.

Goodell also said while appearing on CNBC on Monday, via The New York Times, that he expects to have a decision on the appeals of those already punished by the end of the week. The NFL expects to hear the appeals from coach Sean Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis and the team at some point this week.

The union’s contingent will be made up of lawyers. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith may or may not be a part of the group, but the source said the intention of the visit is clear — the union expects its lawyers to see the full scope of the evidence as it relates to player involvement in the case.

To this point, the NFLPA has seen the executive summary distributed to owners, which includes examples of the transgressions. But it has not seen video of incidents or hard evidence yet.

The union also warned players involved that criminal charges could be sought eventually against the perpetrators, but couched it as a very remote possibility.

In an attempt to investigate the case independently, Smith and the union’s lawyers also met individually with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Will Smith, as well as ex-Saints linebacker Scott Fujita at the NFLPA player rep meeting in Marco Island, Fla. in March.

NFLPA hires outside counsel for players in Saints’ ‘bounty’ case

The NFL Players Association has told players involved in the New Orleans Saints’ "bounty" case there’s a chance they could face criminal charges, and it hired outside counsel to represent them if needed.

While Commissioner Roger Goodell weighs how to discipline players the league says might be connected to the bounties, the NFLPA also has suggested that players have a lawyer and union representative present when they’re interviewed by NFL investigators.

The union plans to head to New York this week to meet with league security staff and review additional evidence, taking up the NFL on an offer it made more than once.

The latest steps were described to The Associated Press on Sunday by two people familiar with the case. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The NFL has said that 22 to 27 defensive players were part of the Saints’ pay-for-pain bounty pool, which awarded thousands of dollars of cash bonuses from 2009 to 2011 for hits that knocked targeted opponents out of games.

On March 21, Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for all of next season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games, assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for at least one season. Goodell also fined the Saints $500,000 and took away two second-round draft picks. The appeals process for those punishments is expected to begin this week.

When those punishments were announced, Goodell said he would wait for NFLPA input before determining how to discipline players who participated in the bounties.

The NFL has asked the union for contact information for players. The NFLPA, meanwhile, was told by the league it could try to speak to Payton, Loomis, Vitt and Williams.

The league has not given any timetable for when Goodell will decide on penalties for the players.

Gabe Feldman, a law professor and director of the Tulane Sports Law Program, said shortly after the NFL made its investigation public that he didn’t expect any criminal or civil legal action specifically tied to the bounties.

"They’re difficult cases to bring, because it’s hard to prove the injury was caused by a tackle with specific intent to injure, rather than a regular tackle," Feldman explained at the time. "We all know injuries are a part of football. There can’t be legal liability anytime there is an injury. Otherwise, you can’t have football."

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 SI.com.

A source told NFL.com’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 SI.com 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.

BOUNTYGATE: Saints, Payton, Loomis, Vitt appealing penalties (Video)

video - Sean Payton appeal

Payton appeals suspension (click on picture to watch video)


02:46 – Michael Lombardi has the latest on Sean Payton’s decision to appeal his one-year suspension for "bounty" violations.

BONUS VIDEO: To watch the Steve Wyche video version, click HERE

The New Orleans Saints and general manager Mickey Loomis followed head coach Sean Payton in appealing their penalties stemming from the "bounty" scandal that engulfed the franchise from 2009 through 2011.

The Saints, fined $500,000 and docked two second-round draft picks, and Loomis, suspended the first eight games of the 2012 season, are appealing their punishments separately to the league, Saints vice president of communications Greg Bensel said Friday. Bensel confirmed "that the team and Mickey Loomis albeit separately have respectfully filed an appeal with the league."

A league source said earlier in the day that Payton was appealing his season-long suspension.

Payton and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams were disciplined by the league for a "bounty" program that the team ran from 2009 to 2011. Williams, who was suspended indefinitely by the league, will not appeal, according to a league source. Assistant coach Joe Vitt, who received a six-game suspension, will appeal, according to a statement issued by his attorney, David Cornwell. Cornwell would not comment to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche on whether they are trying to get Vitt’s suspension overturned or reduced.

The deadline to appeal for all parties, including Payton, was April 2.

Williams reached his decision not to appeal after mulling his options and discussing it with confidants. His status will be reviewed by 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.

Williams and Payton have not seen the entirety of the voluminous reports outlining the league’s investigation of the Saints, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the case. However, extensive materials were made available to them when they met with NFL officials.

Payton spent several hours meeting with investigators and perused the evidence against him over a long period of time. Much of the 50,000 pages of documents in the case are extraneous; according to a source with knowledge of the case, Payton, Williams and Vitt were given the information that was most relevant to them in the letters initially sent to them by the commissioner.

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has not seen the full contents of the report either, but he has been given materials pertaining to player involvement, according to a source. Smith has yet to accept an open invitation from the league to come to the NFL offices and go over further documentation with investigators.

Payton’s suspension was set to begin April 1, but Payton and Williams both had until April 2 to appeal. Goodell made it clear in remarks to the media earlier this week that the appeals process will be expedited, though he said that Payton could continue to work through that process. Sources said the process is unlikely to last more than a week or so.

According to Wyche, the NFL will not comment on Payton’s appeal.

Payton’s suspension is for the 2012 season but is not a 12-month suspension, the NFL clarified to Wyche on Friday. Payton is eligible to return next February after the Super Bowl — which will be played in New Orleans.

According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, Smith and the NFLPA’s lawyers met individually with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and defensive end Will Smith and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita at a player rep meeting last week in Marco Island, Fla. Fujita is currently with the Cleveland Browns.

Union sources told Breer that the NFLPA has been frustrated with the lack of information available on the case.

Bill Parcells, who has been discussed as a possible candidate to be interim coach while Payton is out, has said he still has not formally received an offer from the Saints.

The league has also said up to 27 Saints players were involved in the program, but has yet to announce their punishments.

RULE CHANGES: Owners vote to adopt playoff OT rules in regular season

NFL owners voted Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., to change the regular-season overtime rules to match the playoff format and have turnovers automatically reviewed.

Each team will have an opportunity for a possession in overtime unless the team that receives the first kickoff scores a touchdown on its opening drive.

Teams will no longer need to challenge turnovers, as is the case with scoring plays.

Proposals that would have changed the injured reserve designation and pushed back the trade deadline were tabled, but NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported that many executives believe both changes will be approved at a later date.

Rich McKay, the co-chair of the competition committee, said some proposals would be revisited in May after their language was tweaked or they were reviewed by the NFL Players Association.

The owners did not pass a proposal by the Buffalo Bills to have all instant replays reviewed by the booth rather than by referees on the field.

Other rules changes: a team will lose a down for illegally kicking a loose ball; too many men on the field becomes a dead-ball foul; and a player receiving a crack back block is now considered a defenseless player and will result in a 15-yard penalty.

SHOCKER: NYG owner says cap fines are OK | NFL Statement | Owners vote | NFL imposes gag order

By hook or by crook, 28 NFL owners erased a combined $46 million in cap space belonging to the Cowboys and Redskins over the next two years and divvied up that money amongst themselves.

Shockingly, the owner of an NFC East rival approves.

John Mara, who owns the New York Giants, is also the head of the NFL Management Council, which ultimately approved the cap sanctions. In an item posted on NFL.com, he is quoted as saying the action against the Cowboys and Redskins was justified:

"I thought the penalties imposed were proper. What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They tried to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they’re lucky they didn’t lose draft picks."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones disagrees. On Sunday Dallas and Washington filed grievances against the league and its players association.

Courtesy: Josh Ellis

RELATED: NFL Statement On Cowboys’ Cap Issue

PALM BEACH, Fla. The NFL on Monday afternoon confirmed the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ arbitration proceedings over $46 million combined salary cap penalties issued on March 12:

“The Cowboys and Redskins have challenged the NFL’s recent agreement with the NFL Players Association to set the salary cap for 2012 and to reallocate certain salary cap room from Dallas and Washington to 28 other clubs.

“The reallocation aspect of the agreement is intended to address competitive issues arising from contract practices by those clubs in the 2010 League Year intended to avoid certain salary cap charges in 2011 and later years.

“Under the agreement with the NFLPA, the two clubs will be charged a total of $46 million in cap room in the 2012 and 2013 seasons ($18 million per year for Washington; $5 million per year for Dallas). That room, instead, will be reallocated to 28 other clubs in the 2012 or 2013 season as determined by the Club. (The New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders, which engaged in similar contract practices in 2010 at a far different level, will not receive any additional cap room. Those two clubs have not challenged the agreement with the NFLPA.)

"The agreement will promote competitive balance without reducing the salary cap or player spending on a league-wide basis.

"The arbitration will be heard by Professor Stephen Burbank of the University of Pennsylvania. No date has been set for a hearing. The clubs were advised of the status of the proceeding at today’s league meeting. The NFL and Clubs will have no further comment at this time."

Courtesy: Rob Phillips

RELATED: Owners vote to uphold salary-cap hits for Redskins, Cowboys

The NFL’s owners voted without opposition to move forward with the salary-cap adjustments negotiated by the league, the management council and the owners this morning, according to league sources.

The resolution ratifying the agreement passed 29-0, with one team abstaining, and means the league will proceed with penalties against the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Both teams have filed an arbitration case fighting the sanctions.

It was considered necessary to vote because of the Cowboys’ and Redskins’ opposition to their penalties. The league took $10 million and $36 million in cap space away from the clubs, respectively after the two NFC East clubs pushed spending into the uncapped year to save money under the cap in 2011 and ’12.

The money taken from Dallas and Washington will be put back into the league pool and distributed in cap space among the other clubs. Teams were warned not to spend into the uncapped year as a way of circumventing the salary cap in the future.

Courtesy: Albert Breer

RELATED: NFL imposes gag order on grievance filed by Cowboys, Redskins

The NFL issued a release before Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference Monday acknowledging the Cowboys and Redskins have filed a grievance over losing salary cap money over the next two seasons.

Next step: the arbitration will be heard by Professor Stephen Burbank of the University of Pennsylvania. No date has been set for that hearing.

The release said the NFL and its clubs will have no further comment at this time, which likely means Goodell will decline to answer all questions about this issue in his press conference and refer to the statement.

Courtesy: David Moore

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

[+] Enlarge
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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