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SBD/March 27, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
Saints coach Sean Payton addressed the media today at the NFL annual meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., saying he “hasn’t decided” whether to appeal his year-long suspension that came from the team's bounty scandal. Payton said, "By the end of this month, we’ll make a decision on that.” Payton noted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “has done a great job communicating with us throughout this process,” and Goodell has "made it clear ... we’ve got such a good product right now that just the idea of something with this magnitude is an important issue he wanted to address.” Payton said in the two trips he made to the NFL’s N.Y. office to answer questions during the investigation, “I made sure to do everything in my power to answer the questions honestly.” Payton did not attend the meetings yesterday, saying that from a "planning standpoint, it was going to be hard for me to be down here for four days with everything that we’re talking about having to get done." Payton: "Coming in for one day, it made sense that today’s meetings are the head coach, general manager and owners’ meetings. I thought that was the important meeting I needed to be at. We’ll leave here this afternoon and … continue on with the checklist we talked about.” Payton added, “To stay away, I didn’t consider as an option." He also touched on the report he has reached out to former NFL coach and exec Bill Parcells to replace him for the '12 season, saying that is a "little ahead of ourselves." Payton, who served as an assistant under Parcells when he coached the Cowboys, said he "speaks with him pretty regularly." Payton added his “conversations with Bill to date really have just been about the uniqueness of this situation” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/27).
BENSON ADDRESSES OWNERS: Goodell said that Saints Owner Tom Benson "addressed the situation" around the team with the league’s other owners yesterday. Goodell said of Benson, “He was very open with the clubs. He expressed his disappointment that this occurred and this was not what he’s all about and he expects to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again" (ESPN.com, 3/26). In New Orleans, James Varney notes aside from Payton, the Saints were at the meetings yesterday “in something approximating full strength." Benson, GM Mickey Loomis, Exec VP & CFO Dennis Lauscha and co-Owner & Exec VP Rita Benson LeBlanc were “on hand.” It still remains “unclear just what steps may have been taken behind the scenes Monday.” From the moment Goodell announced his punishment on March 21, Saints officials had “vowed Loomis and Payton would appeal but thus far that step does not appear to have been taken.” Goodell said that should Payton “file an appeal before his April 2 deadline the suspension would not take effect until he rules on the appeal, a process Goodell stressed would be expedited” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/27). Goodell said if Payton “decides to appeal, I probably will allow him to continue and I would expedite the hearing and I would expedite my decision.” Payton’s agent, Donald Yee, said “no decisions have been made about an appeal” by his client (AP, 3/27).
TUNA CASSEROLE: Parcells yesterday said of the possibility of him taking over for Payton this year, “I think everything is hypothetical at this point. It would be hard to be interested in something I don't know exists yet." On Long Island, Glauber & Lennon note if the Saints “hired Parcells -- even on an interim basis -- they first would have to comply with the NFL's Rooney Rule by interviewing a minority candidate.” Also “complicating matters is the possibility that Payton will appeal his suspension and possibly have it reduced.” But he “might not have much luck because Goodell would hear the appeal” (NEWSDAY, 3/27). SI.com’s Peter King wrote this is “such a unique situation that it's hard to rule Parcells out totally.” It is “likely that Payton has conversed with Parcells more than anyone outside the organization since being handed” the suspension. King wrote it is possible Parcells “would view this as a once-in-a-lifetime 10-month adventure, after which he could slide back into his semi-retirement” (SI.com, 3/26). But CBSSPORTS.com’s Clark Judge asked, “What part of this is New Orleans owner Tom Benson missing?” Judge: “Payton just disgraced your club by incurring one of the worst penalties in NFL history. So now you're going to trust him to name his own replacement? Someone tell me that Benson isn't that stupid, naïve or both” (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/26). The Boston Globe’s Shalize Manza Young said the “thing to me that is really crazy” is that Benson would allow Payton “to dictate who would replace him this year when, obviously, he's made some really bad decisions in the weeks past that led to them being in this situation in the first place” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 3/26). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jen Floyd Engel writes what “began as a way to punish New Orleans -- and more importantly send a legal message -- has instead become a possible tactical advantage for the Saints.” Floyd Engel: “There is no bigger non-verbal insult than this” (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/27). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said of Payton, "I’m waiting to see the repentant nature of a guy who’s been suspended for a year” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/26).
DIVERSION TACTIC BY SAINTS? NBC Sports Network’s Rob Simmelkjaer noted the Saints "had sort of become almost another 'America’s Team' for a few years after Katrina, after what they did to bring that city back." Simmelkjaer: "Now we’re talking about them in this light. What does this all do to the Saints just as a brand and organization?” NBC Sports Network’s Ross Tucker: “It's been terrible. I really thought they would try to stem the PR tide by signing Drew Brees, the face of the franchise, to a long-term contract extension. They weren't able to do that, which is why I actually think they want to bring in Parcells. If they bring in Parcells, we're all talking about Parcells. We're not talking about the bounties anymore, we’re talking about, ‘Oh my god, Bill Parcells is the head coach! Can you believe it?’” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 3/26).
STEPS TAKEN: Goodell said that he sent NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash and NFL Chief of Security Jeff Miller “to New Orleans to meet with” Benson the day before the team’s first-round playoff game against the Lions in January. Goodell: "The point was to make it clear to him that we had new and credible information that a bounty program may exist, and that he should make it extremely clear, beginning with the game the next day, that there should be no bounty system in place while our investigation continues. We do not want to put our players at risk, and that was the message.” He added, "Our point was, if there is one, you'd better make sure it's not in effect" (L.A. TIMES, 3/27). Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said, “I'm really not privy to all the details, so I trust that the commissioner made the penalties that he felt were appropriate. I don't hear New Orleans bitching about it. I'm sure they were shocked and certainly hoping for less. But they seem to be taking it in stride.” He said of the bounty scandal, “I was shocked that it existed in the NFL. It's so silly when you think about it” (Baltimore SUN, 3/27).
MORE TO COME: Goodell yesterday said that the league “has not stopped investigating allegations” that the Redskins and other teams besides the Saints had bounty programs when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams coached for them. Goodell: “We haven’t closed an investigation. We have not stopped investigating. If we get information, we follow up on it” (WASHINGTON POST, 3/27). CBSSPORTS.com’s Will Brinson noted Goodell also “made it clear that ‘non-contract bonus payments’ have been more prevalent than the NFL would like, even if those bonuses didn't completely escalate to the level of a ‘bounty’ in each scenario.” And he “sounded concerned about that aspect.” Goodell said in the event that bounties, or even just non-contract bonus payments, are getting out of hand or being reported, the league would "aggressively pursue" any violations (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/26). Goodell noted he expected to talk to NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith by the end of the week about any punishment Saints players might receive for the bounty scandal (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). Goodell “won’t mete out punishment for 22 to 27 Saints players until he meets with the player’s union, possibly by week’s end” (USA TODAY, 3/27).
I NEVER REVEAL MY SOURCES: ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas noted Goodell yesterday was asked about the situation with NFL Network’s Warren Sapp accusing free agent TE Jeremy Shockey of being “the snitch” in the case. Goodell: “I think I would say to NFL Network staff as well as anyone else, you better be sure of your information before you report it. I didn’t see (Sapp’s) comment. But he’s inaccurate. I’ll stop at that.” He added, “First off, you’re assuming it was a player? We had several sources on this. We’re not disclosing our sources” (ESPN.com, 3/27).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he has spoken with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig about the possibility of Rams Owner Stan Kroenke purchasing the Dodgers. The NFL considers L.A. its territory, so Kroenke's purchase of the Dodgers would run afoul of the league's cross-ownership rules. The rules prevent NFL owners from buying a team in another league in an NFL market. Goodell said that he assured Selig if Kroenke won the team at auction, the NFL would move quickly to decide how to handle the purchase (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). In St. Louis, Jim Thomas notes the NFL and Kroenke were "able to reach an accommodation on cross-ownership" with respect to the Avalanche and the Nuggets when Kroenke assumed controlling interest of the Rams nearly two years ago. It is "possible the same thing could happen if Kroenke is successful in his Dodgers bid" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 3/27). In L.A., Sam Farmer notes Kroenke "would need an owner-approved waiver" from the NFL to own the Rams and the Dodgers. Goodell said of the potential for an NFL stadium to be built on the land surrounding Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine, "We've often said that that's an extraordinary stadium site up at Dodger Stadium, and it's something that we were interested in going back into the '90s" (L.A. TIMES, 3/27).
Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross in a news conference at the NFL owners meetings yesterday said that he felt the attack the team "has been under the past few weeks from the national and local media, and the fan base has been unfair," according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Ross said of the two calls he made to season-ticket holders who participated in a fan protest last week, "You listen to it. That's why I engaged the fans. That's why I made the phone calls. I think it's unfair. But winning resolves all issues." Ross added, "I haven't lost in many things, and I'm not going to lose here" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/27). Ross asserted that "any perception of his organization as a floundering franchise that cannot land its preferred choice of players or coaches is an 'unfair' and undeserved one, and in fact, insisted the team is in better shape than when he bought it" from Wayne Huizenga in January '09. Ross said, "Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have a fine nucleus. I’m excited where we’re going" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/27). Ross yesterday said, "We probably have the best organization that the Dolphins have had in a long time." Discussing how much he has learned in his time owning the Dolphins, Ross said, "I've had more owners come up to me and say hey, I didn't know what was going on for four or five years once you step in there. This is a different business. You can succeed in business." On whether he considered trading for QB Tim Tebow when he was made available, Ross said, "He didn't really fit our system and you're not going to bring someone in just to sell seats." Ross also said, "Money will never be an issue for us becoming a winning football team that I can tell you right now." Discussing players' comments about the Dolphins, Ross said, "This is probably the best place in the NFL to play football and it will never stop us from getting another player in this organization. Players will want to play for this organization" (LOCAL10.com, 3/26).
NOT GIVING UP: In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino notes when a reporter asked what Ross learned after failing to land coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher, as well as QB Peyton Manning, Ross responded, "Know what? I'll do it again and again. I'm going to be bold. And you don't lose for trying. ... And, you, know, if I can find the right guy, I'm going to be bold in getting him and I can't worry about losing. Because nothing ventured is nothing gained." Berardino writes, "Ross was more emphatic than I've ever seen him. Passionate, you might say. Clearly frustrated, as well." Ross said, "One thing I've learned is this is one (heck) of a complex business. ... It's a real experience" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/27).
STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION? WPLG-ABC's Will Manso wrote the Dolphins organization "took a big step Monday in trying to reach out to the fans and media." Manso: "Trust me, it's just a small step, but I must give credit where credit is due." Some of the highlights include both Ross and GM Jeff Ireland "understanding they need to be more open with the fans, and in turn the media." They also both "defended the direction the franchise is taking" (LOCAL10.com, 3/26). The SUN-SENTINEL's Berardino wrote Ross "got a little ticked off near the end" of yesterday's 20-minute media session (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 3/26). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin notes Ross is "kind of stuck right now." Of course, he "wants his Dolphins to be 'bold' and win more games and sign the best players in the NFL," but he "can't just snap his fingers and make it happen" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 3/26). In Miami, Armando Salguero writes the Dolphins are a "little sensitive these days because they have been taking a solid bruising for weeks." Salguero: "They probably won't get it all corrected next season. But to suggest they will get most everything wrong? That's not fair. Things aren't quite that bad" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/27).
Despite currently having the fifth-best record in the NBA Eastern Conference this season to date, the success “hasn't manifested itself yet in fannies in those seats” at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, according to Bob Kravitz of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Coming into last night, the Pacers' TV and radio ratings “are up,” but the team “had the second-worst attendance in the league,” behind only the Nets. And that is “in a city that professes to love basketball in all its myriad forms.” Kravitz: “If you're not sold on this team, now 29-19 and eighth best in the NBA ... there's no hope for this franchise.” They are “selling more tickets per game in places where abominable teams play.” Pacers F Danny Granger said, "Sometimes, yeah, I look up in the stands and think, 'Man, we play in other buildings where teams aren't nearly as good as us, and they have more fans.' It's a little confusing sometimes. But it's not something we can worry about.” Pacers G George Hill “rolled his eyes when it was mentioned the Pacers were averaging 13,734 coming into a Heat game when they fell just short of a sellout.” Hill said, “Sometimes, it seems like there are more like 6,000-7,000 people. But I understand. We haven't done anything yet. We have to keep winning on a consistent basis. We have to do more than just get to the playoffs” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/27).
HOLD THE PRESSES: Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Wells & Wilson reported Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird “is denying a New York Post story saying he has decided to step down at the end of the season.” Bird said, "No decision has been made. End of story.” Pacers Owner Herb Simon said Friday, “I talk to Larry every day. He has not said anything to me about leaving. He can stay here as long as he wants" (INDYSTAR.com, 3/24).
Steelers Chair Emeritus and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney appeared at the NFL's annual meetings yesterday "for the first time since 2009." Rooney "said not to read anything into it, but he has been active, even speaking out on an issue during the first meeting of owners" yesterday morning. Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie said, "It's great to have him back. He has such a sense of history of the league, he puts things in perspective. I'm just happy to see him." Rooney said, "I'm not back. Don't say that. I'm not back. I don't even have a date that I'm going to be back" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/27). Rooney added, "It's great to be here, but my job is in Ireland. I take it very seriously" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/27). It was reported in January that Rooney was set to leave his post as Ambassador "some time this year" (THE DAILY).
POWER PLAY: In L.A., Sam Farmer cited NFL sources as saying that Eagles coach Andy Reid was "ready to walk away from the Eagles if he didn't get more personnel control, and now he has it" (L.A. TIMES, 3/22). In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan noted Reid was "given full control of player personnel" in '01, when Lurie and Eagles President Joe Banner gave him the additional title of Exec VP/Football Operations, replacing Tom Modrak. The names "have changed over the years, from Modrak to [former GM] Tom Heckert to [GM] Howie Roseman, but the bottom line has not." Sheridan: "Reid has final say over personnel decisions. Period" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/26). Also in Philadelphia, Les Bowen wrote the Eagles' front office hierarchy is "anything but transparent." Reid reportedly "ceded some control to Banner and Roseman back when he took that sabbatical to deal with his sons' legal problems in 2007, and the landscape was permanently changed." It also "needs to be said that while Roseman and Reid have been in the spotlight, and Banner has kept an extremely low public profile lately, Reid has given no hint of dissatisfaction with anything" (PHILLY.com, 3/26).
TAPPED OUT: In San Diego, Nick Canepa wrote Chargers Chair & President Dean Spanos is “cash-flow poor.” Spanos said, “We just spent a lot of money in free agency ($21.7 million in cap space). I have enough to cover it.” He added, “We spend at the cap every year. We were one of two teams (Houston being the other) with no money left over to transfer to this year.” Spanos continued, “At some point in time we’ll reach the end of the line. Economics will drive it more than anything. Can we generate enough revenue (to compete)?” Canepa wrote Spanos “takes advantage of the fans and his season ticket sales are tobogganing.” But Spanos said, “We haven’t raised season ticket prices for five years. How’s that? And we’re still spending as much or more to be competitive. I’d say our season ticket sales are pretty much the same, maybe off a little bit” (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRUBUNE, 3/25).
BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said he has “never talked” to Orioles Owner Peter Angelos about potentially purchasing the MLB team. Bisciotti added that he has also “never expressed" interest to Baseball HOFer Cal Ripken Jr. in joining an investor group toward the same end. Bisciotti: “I certainly would love to help that happen, but I have my hands full as far as how much interest and time and money I have dedicated to sport already.” He said of speculation that Angelos is ready to sell the Orioles: “I have not heard from him that there is any intention. From what I understand, his sons are as involved in the organization as they ever have” (Baltimore SUN, 3/27).
In Tampa, Marc Topkin noted the Rays' "increase in payroll from last season looks to come in at just about 50 percent, a dramatic hike for any team, but especially one that ranked near the bottom in attendance." The increase is "a good sign" for MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner. After Friday's annual meeting with the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., Weiner said, "The Rays have been a very successful team on the field, and they also are successfully running a business." He added, "We follow (the attendance issue) because they have a very competitive team with some very engaging players, guys that have been with the organization and been with the fans for a long time, and you'd like to see more success. I know the TV ratings, the local TV ratings for the Rays are very good" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/24).
BREWING VALUE: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted since purchasing the Brewers in '05, Mark Attanasio's ownership group has been "able to increase the value of the Brewers the old-fashioned way: He's put money back into the club." Team officials have said that this year's payroll is more than $100M, a "team record and a significant increase over past years." But Attanasio also has "put money into Miller Park, with assistance from taxpayers who pay the Miller Park sales tax." The Brewers have "put up a pricey scoreboard, redone the suites, and added party areas and team stores, all in the name of enhancing the fan experience." This season, the Brewers are "expecting big attendance numbers." Ticket sales are "running 10% ahead of this point last year" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/23).
MAINTAINING STABILITY: CBSSPORTS.com's Jon Heyman wrote whoever eventually purchases the Padres "needs to bring stability to the front office by keeping general manager Josh Byrnes and his front office intact." Vice Chair Jeff Moorad "surely managed to make a few enemies, but that doesn't mean all his decisions were wrong." He has been "left to finalize the new lucrative TV deal the Padres need," but XEPRS-AM reported that Moorad's office "has indeed been cleaned out." The decision to hire Byrnes "was one of the smarter moves Moorad made in his three weird years in San Diego." Byrnes' contract with the Padres runs through '16 (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/26).
HOLES IN THE SOX? In Boston, Nick Cafardo noted Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine yesterday addressed reports of a rift with GM Ben Cherington, saying the two communicate "a few times a day." Valentine said of the reports, "It was a clever journalist. ... It comes with the territory" (BOSTON.com, 3/26). The BOSTON GLOBE's Christopher Gasper had reported a "wedge appears to be forming" between Valentine and Cherington. Valentine was "foisted upon" Cherington by Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino after ownership was "underwhelmed by Cherington’s choice of onetime Sox third base coach Dale Sveum." When former Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was with the Red Sox, it was "clear the team worshiped at the altar of the GM's office." But Valentine is "not that type of manager." Gasper wrote, "Disagreement isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as there is compromise. Hopefully Valentine and Cherington can bridge the gap better than Valentine" did when serving as Mets manager under former GM Steve Phillips (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/25). Meanwhile, the BOSTON GLOBE's Cafardo noted a survey from Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling of 936 Massachusetts voters from March 16-18 indicated that 81% "consider themselves Red Sox fans" and 19% do not. The firm "considers that an amazing percentage" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/25).