SBD/July 13, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 124: Steelers' Harrison Blasts Goodell As A "Crook," "Devil"

Steelers LB James Harrison calls NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a "'crook' and a 'devil,' among other insults," in the August issue of Men's Health, according to the AP. Harrison also says of Goodell in the magazine, which hits newstands Friday, "If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him." Harrison's other descriptions of Goodell "include an anti-gay slur, 'stupid,' 'puppet' and 'dictator'" (AP, 7/13). ESPN’s Adam Schefter said, “They’re very strong comments. We’ve seen strong comments about Roger Goodell in the past. We saw Derrick Mason visit here and have some choice words for the commissioner. … It’s fair to say he’s universally disliked around the league right now by a lot of players. But there’s also a time and a place for comments like this, when negotiations are at a critical point as they are right now. These comments were given I’m sure weeks if not months ago, to Men’s Health. They’ve only been published right now and come to light right now, but they come out and it shines a spotlight, I think, on how some of the players perceive Roger Goodell and the circumstances surrounding this lockout.” With the status of league’s personal conduct policy in the air due to the lockout, Schefter noted, “I don’t know that James Harrison did anything wrong by saying some of the things he did. Where he may have a problem is with the anti-gay slur. That is an issue that could be something that the league addresses or the Pittsburgh Steelers address. … It also could come down to the fact that Roger Goodell wants to move on from anything that happened with comments about him during the lockout” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/13). Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick said, "That’s a helmet-to-helmet hit with the commissioner. ... His lockout may last a little bit longer than everybody else, I would imagine” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 7/13).

REPAIR WORK NEEDED: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote Goodell "will have to repair his image with a significant portion of his player base." Freeman: "It will be Goodell's most important post-lockout mission. He wasn't liked before the lockout by a number of players, who thought his disciplinary actions were far too draconian and his stances inflexible. Such opinions have only hardened." However, there are "1,900 players and a few expressing anger at Goodell doesn't mean that all are infuriated with the commissioner." Freeman: "It also has to be noted that in many ways Goodell has been extremely player-friendly during his tenure" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/12). ESPN’s Cris Carter said of Harrison's comments, "If you really slow him down and listen to it, he does say some things that are very, very important. I mean there is a double standard in the National Football League if you look at the owners and the commissioner trying to increase the length of the season to 18 games. Now that is not in the best interest of the National Football League or the health of the players. As far as his other comments, be very, very careful. You play in the National Football League right now, you are at the height of your career and you’re at the height of your earning potential" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/13).

BACK TO THE GRIND: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reports the “key players in the NFL labor dispute resume negotiations today with the parameters of a deal in place but still no headway on the primary lingering issue -- rookie salaries.” The NFL season “appears to hinge now on the sides coming to an agreement on how to structure a much-needed overhaul of the rookie pay scale.” The owners “want the top pick to get a maximum of $25 million over a five-year deal, while also stipulating that first-round picks can be signed for that long.” But sources said that the players “want all rookie contracts to be as little as three years with the possibility of a team option for a fourth season for high picks” (N.Y. POST, 7/13). ESPN's Schefter reported players are looking "beyond just the rookie wage scale as part of the total revenue package." Schefter: "Even though the two sides are in agreement on that right now, if the owners come back to the players with a different number on the rookie wage scale, that would affect the overall revenue and that’s why there is a dispute.” He added, "Both sides believe they’ve given in to the other side on all other major points and both sides feel like they don’t want to go any further, thus the standoff we have right now” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 7/12). Meanwhile, NFL.com's Albert Breer reported legal teams and officials for NFL owners and players yesterday "met for a second consecutive day at a Manhattan law firm, setting the stage for the Wednesday arrival of the principals in the league's labor dispute." Sessions yesterday and Monday "were productive, as the parties worked to close out language for necessary elements of a potential deal to end the lockout." There were 12 participants, "including NFL outside counsel Bob Batterman and NFL Players Association outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler, in Tuesday's nine-hour-plus session" (NFL.com, 7/12).

SETTING THE STAGE: NFL.com's Steve Wyche cited officials from several teams as saying that they are "anticipating the near-immediate arrival of players at team facilities within hours of a new collective bargaining agreement being reached." It is "unknown if teams will be able to stage any type of minicamps or formal on-field workouts before training camps start," but teams are "prepared for players' arrivals." They want to "administer physicals as soon as possible, especially to players that have had offseason procedures performed by surgeons other than team physicians" (NFL.com, 7/12). However, YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole reported the cancellation of the Aug. 7 Bears-Rams Pro Football HOF Game is "looking more and more likely." A coach from one of the two teams said, "You get past a certain point and you can't play that game ... the way things are going right now, I don't think we're going to have the time to travel for an extra game." HOF VP/Communications & Exhibits Joe Horrigan said that there is "no way to change the date of the enshrinement festivities," which are scheduled to begin Aug. 6. He added, "The game, although no one has suggested it, could at least in theory be rescheduled, it just wouldn't be a part of the Enshrinement Festival per se. Again, there would be the issue of ticket sales -- refunding or offering the same tickets at a different date, etc. -- but at least in theory, I guess in the strictest sense [it] could be possible" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/12).
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