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While the NFL has been "quiet publicly" about a string of player arrests recently, privately, Commissioner Roger Goodell "has been working with the union to solve the mess," according to Mike Freeman of CBSSPORTS.com. Goodell last week met with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, and the meeting "was kept mostly quiet but it could be one of the most important of both men's tenure." Goodell said, "We are going to do some things to combat this problem because some of the numbers on DUIs and domestic violence are going up and that disturbs me. When there's a pattern of mistakes, something has got to change." Player arrests in recent years "are rising, going from 42 in 2010, 44 in 2011 and 48 so far this year." Goodell said that he wants to "strengthen already existing policies." Freeman noted the NFL also may "add some new ones, assuming they can work out something with the union." Both sides have "pledged to keep the substance of their talks private." Freeman: "There is the sense that something will indeed get done and I also get the feeling that changes won't be cosmetic." Goodell also "addressed what has been criticism from players including union leader" and Saints QB Drew Brees. Goodell said, "I have no issues with Drew. ... Taking criticism is part of the job. There are 32 teams and 2,000 players. Not everyone is going to like you. But in the end what you have to do as commissioner is what's best for the league" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/1). Brees said, "I was asked direct questions (by Sports Illustrated's Peter King) about how the players felt and I gave a very honest and direct answer. It was blown out of proportion a little bit when people said I was bashing the commissioner. That was not the case. That was all I said and I really have nothing else to say about it" (AP, 8/2).
EVERYBODY'S A CRITIC: In Chicago, Joe Cowley writes NFL players "clearly have issues with their controversial commissioner." After a "contentious couple of years, it's safe to say many players don't believe in Goodell." At Bears training camp yesterday, CB D.J. Moore said of the growing divide between the players and commissioner, "Things are bad. It's like dictators, you know. You know, in America, we really don't believe in them." Cowley writes from his "heavy-hand handling of player discipline to the rule changes that are turning the defensive side of the game into flag football, players want to see Goodell climb off his throne and install a third party with no allegiance to ownership or the players." Moore said, "He needs at least two, three or more to make a panel, create some democracy for the league. If not, pretty much if he doesn't feel a certain way about a certain thing, he can suspend you for the whole year." Goodell "doesn't seem inclined to change his own game." Goodell said, "When there are things that are going to impact on the integrity of the league and are going to violate very core principals, including player safety, I will be involved" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/2). Goodell said that he "expected such responses, but they wouldn't change how he oversees the league." Goodell: "I've been in the league 30 years. When you do things you know that certain players, teams don't really approve of, there are people who do. What you have to do is do what's right to keep the integrity of the sport" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/1).
SOCIAL MEDIA SCHOOLING: ESPN CHICAGO's Melissa Isaacson noted in '09, the NFL "amended its policy for use of Twitter and other social media platforms by players, coaches and other team personnel on game days, prohibiting its use starting 90 minutes before a game until postgame media interviews conclude." Goodell yesterday said, "I think we've tried to encourage our players to (use Twitter) but do it responsibly. One thing about technology is you have to be accountable for it. It's clear, there's evidence, so I hope players are starting to understand. It's a great technology and it's great for you and it's great for the fans, but you better do it wisely." Bears RB Matt Forte said, "It is a tool. When the media puts out a lot of articles about you, nobody can tell people that it's right or wrong except yourself. So if they're going to put a story out there saying my knee is bad, I'm going to show the truth." Moore said, "We have the media relations people show us videos and talk [to] us about tweets and camera phones and stuff, so we get warned." Once you give your opinion on something real big, it can have a big backlash, so I leave that to the people on TV. I might have an opinion in my head, I just keep it to myself" (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 8/1).
NOT QUITE YET: The NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST's Brad Biggs noted former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was suspended from the league for his role in the bounty scandal, "has expressed a desire to return to the NFL and Goodell has said his situation will be evaluated in the future." Goodell: "Our staff has talked to him a couple of times. He wants to be helpful in making sure people understand that bounties aren't a part of football and that is not what he is about. He is going to be active in doing that this season" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 8/1).
NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said that negotiations with referees “were ongoing but that the league has replacement officials ready to go" for Sunday’s Pro Football HOF game. Anderson on an earlier NFL Network broadcast said, “The officials we are going to put on the field have substantial experience. All of whom have some college experience. We're very comfortable that they will be very credible and do a very, very fine job for us.” Anderson said the league “rigorously evaluated our 136 officials and we feel very good about them going out and doing a credible job, and we have spent a lot of time focusing and training them over the course of the last two months, specifically with regard to the player safety rules being vigorous about those enforcements and we feel very confident that they will do a good job” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 8/1). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said, “They’re tried to jumpstart talks in the past week. They haven’t gone anywhere. … It may be Week Three of the regular season before we settle this thing" (NFL Live," ESPN, 8/1).
ROGER THAT: ESPN.com’s Mike Sando noted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday “gave the only response he could logically provide” when asked about the possibility of using replacement refs during the preseason. He said that there is “no heightened risk to players.” Goodell said safety is "such a focus for us" that replacement crews have been "training on that basis." Sando wrote “precedent suggests the NFL and its officials will settle their dispute right around Week 1, and this impasse will be forgotten, just like the others” (ESPN.com, 8/1). In Green Bay, Weston Hodkiewicz notes Goodell “defended the league’s current offer, which he said includes raises of 5 percent to 11 percent per official.” The NFL dispatched its partial crew of officials Wednesday at Nitschke Field to "work a pair of practices prior to the Packers’ annual Family Night scrimmage, which takes place Friday at Lambeau Field.” Goodell said, “Hopefully we’ll have more discussions with them in the near future. But as you can see, we're preparing for the season and we will have officials on the field” (GREEN BAY PRESS GAZETTE, 8/2). Goodell said of negotiations, "Clearly, there are some economic differences.” Goodell: “There’s some changes that we would like to make to make sure that we have the best officials and we’re not going to agree to anything until we get those and the economic issues resolved (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 8/1).
STARS & STRIPES: In Milwaukee, Tom Silverstein notes players “seem to have a degree of solidarity with the league's officials.” But if you ask some of the players “if they're concerned about a bunch of indoor league and Division II college officials working their games when the season starts, they seem unfazed.” Packers C Jeff Saturday said, "These guys have already started being trained. It's not like these guys are off the street and haven't reffed any games before. They have professional or college experience" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 8/2).
The NHL and NHLPA split into small group meetings during collective bargaining talks yesterday to “discuss players' pensions and benefits, as well as health and safety issues, although a counterproposal from the NHLPA does not appear imminent,” according to Katie Strang of ESPN N.Y. The NHLPA “still has not received all the financial documentation -- primarily the independently audited information for the league's clubs -- requested from the NHL and has no intent to submit a proposal until that information is received and then analyzed.” NHLPA Special Assistant to Exec Dir Don Fehr and former NHLer Mathieu Schneider said, “They're asking for huge concessions ... $450 million from players. We certainly feel the audited statements are very important to what will eventually be our alternate proposal." Strang noted NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman “seemed to express frustration after Tuesday's meeting when he questioned whether the union's requests were ‘relevant.’” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the league’s “frustration stems from the implication there was a discrepancy between the information readily available to the Players' Association and the supplementary documentation requested.” Daly: “I think it was more a frustration with the perception that somehow the information is different or new than what the Players' Association has access to already and had access to for a long time. I don't think there's a real mystery, at least vis-a-vis the Players' Association, with respect to the financial condition of our clubs.” He added that the NHLPA has “four requests outstanding while the league has two requests pending” (ESPNNY.com, 8/1).
ESCROW AN ISSUE TO WATCH? The GLOBE & MAIL’s David Shoalts writes under the header, “Escrow A Nasty Word To NHL Players.” When the NHLPA makes its first counterproposal to the owners, it will “likely want changes to the escrow system along with greater revenue sharing among the teams” (GLOBE & MAIL, 8/2).
KEEP IT SIMPLE: YAHOO SPORTS’ Ryan Lambert wrote of potential NHL lockout, "I honestly don't think there will even be one. And if there is one, I'm okay with it, because anyone is stupid enough to let it last for more than a few weeks.” Of the forthcoming NHLPA proposal, Lambert noted the “simplest proposal is pretty clear: Stick with this basic CBA, at least for a little while.” That is an option that “some have hinted at being possible, and would give everyone a significant amount of time to work toward a more workable long-term solution” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/1).
A shorter PGA Tour season next year “will mean slightly larger fields for as many as nine tournaments,” according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. The move is “designed to help players who earn their cards through Q-school or the Web.com Tour.” PGA Tour Exec VP & COO Andy Pazder said the change in the schedule will result in "four fewer tournaments, and that puts a strain on playing opportunities.” Ferguson reports the PGA Tour’s policy board is asking certain tournaments “to expand their fields for only 2013.” Tournaments in March and April “typically have 144 players because of earlier sunsets,” but now some of them “are being asked to expand those fields to 156 players.” The Arnold Palmer Invitational, AT&T National and Crowne Plaza Invitational “are likely to go from 120 players to 132 players.” The Memorial was “spared from the list” as it recently “agreed to ramp up its field from 105 players to 120 players.” Tournaments typically have “eight sponsor exemptions -- two designated for tour members not eligible (such as John Daly), two for Q-school and Web.com graduates and four unrestricted.” The formula for next year will be “only two unrestricted exemptions, and four exemptions set aside for Q-school and Web.com grads.” The PGA Tour also is “doing away with the commissioner’s exemption for foreign players” (AP, 7/31).
MINI GOLF: GOLFWEEK’s Gene Yasuda wrote a “newly created team version of golf -- endorsed by the PGA of America -- not only may raise the sport’s profile, but could be the long-awaited catalyst the golf industry has been seeking to spark interest among youth and their parents.” Industry leaders hope the PGA Junior League Golf "will be golf’s answer to Little League Baseball.” The PGA Junior League features teams with “as many as 14 players on a roster -- all adorned in team jerseys (with uniform numbers on their backs)." Head-to-head matches against other teams “are conducted as two-person scrambles.” Coaches are “allowed to substitute players every three holes” (GOLFWEEK.com, 7/30).