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NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday said that the union "could attempt to block" the NFL's effort to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams as "part of its campaign against worker's compensation legislation in Louisiana that would affect" players, according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. Texans Owner Bob McNair said of the NFLPA, "It's hard to get things done with them. But at some point, it should be, 'What can we do together to increase our revenues?' because the players will get more than half of that." Bell notes players would "receive 55% of revenues generated by the two extra playoff games." Considering that ESPN will pay $100M per year for "finally getting into the playoff loop, the additional revenue for two extra playoff games figures to be something north" of $200M per year. Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently "didn't seem worried about getting the union to sign off" on expanded playoffs. But it is "apparent that the union sees the playoff plan as a bargaining chip." Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy: "That's to be expected. But when you step back, this is good for players" (USA TODAY, 5/21). Goodell yesterday at the NFL meetings in Atlanta said that he "anticipates the league expanding the postseason field" from 12 to 14 in '15. He added that the "biggest reason why membership was reluctant to vote on playoff expansion this season" was the rollout of CBS' Thursday NFL package and "fear of oversaturation" (USA TODAY, 5/21). Goodell said of playoff expansion, "This is something that I’ve had numerous conversations with DeMaurice about. I just spoke to him about it two weeks ago. And I think there’s a lot of benefits to the players. That’s something they’ll have to evaluate. But they’re our partners and I’ve said on many occasions before we’re going to continue to have dialogue with all of our partners to make sure that it can be done the right way" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/20).
WHEN IS IT COMING? ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "I don't think it's a 'if it's going to happen,' it's a 'when it's going to happen.' They just want to make sure that everything is in order. They have to make sure the NFLPA is signed off on this." He added, "If you expand the postseason, you can probably reduce the preseason and I think the two may go together" ("NFL Insiders," ESPN, 5/20). NFL Network’s Mark Kriegel said, “The NFL has held on as long as it can without watering down the product. If you look at the other sports, the sign posts are all there: More games, more teams, more exposure, more nights. At least with football you have a sense that each game does matter a lot” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 5/21)
NEW YORK STATE OF MINDS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Clark writes while "powerful owners" such as the Cowboys' Jerry Jones "remain in favor of adding more teams to the NFL postseason picture, one man stands firmly against it" in Giants President & CEO John Mara. Mara yesterday "strongly opposed the expansion," arguing more playoff teams will "dilute" the product. Mara: "I've always been against it." But Clark notes there still is "enough support among the league's 30 owners for the proposal to pass" in time for '15. However, Mara said that there are "logistical issues that need fixing." For instance, one proposal "features an extra game to be played on a Monday night, which would create a short week for one of the teams" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/21). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes the Giants and Jets "agree on nothing -- it’s astounding they were able to co-host Super Bowl XLVIII." So it was "totally in character" yesterday when Mara stood out against expanding the playoffs while Jets Owner Woody Johnson said that he "supports it." Johnson said, "It will make it more interesting for the fans. From the players I talk to, they think it’s a great idea for them." Johnson said the playoff system is "working really beautifully now," and added expanding is a "tweak, not a major change" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/21).
STUDY SESSION: In DC, Mark Maske reported the league is "appointing a committee to study the future" of the NFL Draft. Mara said, "One of the issues is where is it going to be next year. ... And there are a lot of factors that go into that, including Radio City’s availability and some other issues.” Maske noted reaction yesterday to the May date for the '14 Draft "was mixed." Mara: “If I were king of the world, I’d put it right back to where it was. But that’s probably not realistic. I certainly don’t think it ought to be on Mother’s Day weekend. But we’ll see.” He added, "I can’t argue with the numbers that the draft did this year. So I think there’s a good likelihood that it’s gonna move again. But when that is, I don’t know" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/20). Goodell said that he would "wait until the end of the month to hear from officials at Radio City Music Hall for the availability," and added that he has "not discussed the draft location" with N.Y. Mayor Bill de Blasio. Meanwhile, Johnson said that he "understands why the NFL might want to move the draft to another city," but he "carries a biased opinion." Johnson said of N.Y. as host, "There's a reason it's been there 50 years. I think it makes it a lot easier for a lot of the journalists, who are in New York. A lot of networks are in New York. It's pretty convenient." But he added, "It's not the end of the world if it moves. New York is the center of the universe, as far as I'm concerned. If it's in Chicago, that's not too bad. If it's in L.A., Dallas or wherever, that's fine, too" (ESPN.com, 5/20). SPORTS ON EARTH's Dan Pompei writes the Draft "used to be a way to build teams," but now has "become a way to build the NFL." The Draft "cannot stay the same," which is the "first thing we all need to understand." The "issue is not if it should change," but is "how much it should change" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 5/21).
A group of retired NFLers has opened "another legal attack" on the league over the long-term health of its athletes, accusing the NFL of "cynically supplying them with powerful painkillers and other drugs that kept them in the game but led to serious complications later in life," according to Ben Nuckols of the AP. The case comes less than a year after the NFL agreed to pay $765M to "settle lawsuits from thousands of retired players who accused it of concealing the risks of concussions." The new suit, filed yesterday in federal court in S.F., names eight players as plaintiffs, including Jim McMahon, Richard Dent and Keith Van Horne. Lawyers, who are "seeking class-action status for the case," said that "more than 500 other former players have signed on." The lawsuit alleges that as a result of "masking their pain with drugs, players developed heart, lung and nerve ailments; kidney failure; and chronic injuries to muscles, bones and ligaments." It states that players were "routinely given drugs that included narcotic painkillers Percodan, Percocet and Vicodin, anti-inflammatories such as Toradol, and sleep aids such as Ambien" (AP, 5/20). In Chicago, Dan Wiederer notes the lawsuit seeks "an injunction creating a testing and monitoring program that would be funded by the NFL to help prevent addiction, injuries and disabilities related to painkiller use." It also seeks "unspecified financial damages." McMahon in the suit contends that he "received 'hundreds if not thousands' of shots from doctors plus high volumes of pills from trainers without any warnings from the NFL on possible side effects." He also said in the suit that he "ultimately developed a harmful painkiller dependency" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/21).
HARD TO HANDLE: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes this lawsuit is "the one thing that could bring ruin to the NFL," but it is "too soon to say what its prospects for success are or how costly it could be" to the league. NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello said that the league "hasn't seen the lawsuit yet," and added that its attorneys "haven't had an opportunity to review it." But Armour notes there are "enough similarities to claims made in the concussion lawsuit to warrant a closer look." The eight players in the suit paint a picture of a league that "recklessly and negligently created and maintained a culture of drug misuse, substituting players' health for profit." Attorney Steve Silverman said team doctors and trainers "were handing out drugs like it was Halloween candy to mask these injuries to get these guys out on the field, to their detriment." The players said that "not once were they warned about the potential dangers." The players added that there was "a general disregard for their health." Armour writes this "won't be as easy a case as the concussion lawsuit" (USA TODAY, 5/21). SPORTSNET's Jordan Heath-Rawlings wrote, "The league can't really afford another loss. Not on this topic. Not now." This new suit is "something of a well-timed body blow." The league has "not yet officially settled the last one, and with the NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, there’s a small window in which the national football media horde will have nothing substantial to talk about." This suit gives them the "chance to resurrect and put into print all the worst things they’ve suspected about how the game is really played" (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/20).
THE SURVEY SAYS...: In DC, Rick Maese notes drugs aimed at treating pain have "long been a part of the NFL." As part of a "five-part series examining medicine in the NFL last year," the Washington Post surveyed "more than 500 former players and one in four said he felt pressure from team doctors to take medication he was uncomfortable with." Nearly nine in 10 reported "playing games while hurt, and an overwhelming number -- 68 percent -- said they did not feel like they had a choice but to take the field" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/21).
MEDIA MONITOR: The new lawsuit was the second report on this morning's editions of ABC's "GMA" and NBC's "Today," while CBS' "This Morning" led with the lawsuit. Last night's editions of ABC's "World News," CBS' "Evening News" and NBC's "Nightly News" all led with the lawsuit (THE DAILY). ABC's Robin Roberts called it a "bombshell lawsuit against the NFL." ABC's Jim Avila spoke live with the show's co-hosts, then aired a taped report. ABC legal analyst Dan Abrams then discussed the suit live in-studio, noting this lawsuit is "theoretically more dangerous to the league than the concussion case because it could encompass a lot more retired players" ("GMA," ABC, 5/21). CBS' Jim Axelrod was live in-studio and said the lawsuit "paints quite the ugly picture of an alleged drug culture inside the NFL" ("CBS This Morning," 5/21). NBC's Matt Lauer said it is a "troubling new lawsuit facing" the NFL, with NBC's Ron Mott reporting live from Foxboro ("Today," NBC, 5/21). Paul Silverman, one of the attorneys for the former players, appeared on NBC and said, "What you have in the NFL is a bunch of anesthetized gladiators … and the NFL is simply putting profit before players" ("Nightly News," NBC, 5/20).
In N.Y., Bill Madden wondered how the MLBPA ever deemed Roc Nation Sports Owner Jay Z "worthy of certification as an agent." And how much longer is the MLBPA "going to turn its back on what other agents are contending have been blatant violations of union regulations?" Though Desiree Perez is "not listed as an employee, officer or agent" of Roc Nation Sports, she "apparently was very much front and center in the negotiations" between the Mariners and 2B Robinson Cano. An MLB source said that there have been "ongoing discussions with the union about Jay Z, discussions that have heated up considerably in light of all the Desiree Perez revelations" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/20).
SPLIT DECISION: MMA JUNKIE's Fowlkes & Downes discussed Bellator's first PPV event, which aired last Saturday. Downes wrote, "They didn’t deviate from their usual formula too much. They delivered what I expected. I would watch it again, but content is king." He added, "I’m not sure Bellator’s roster is deep enough to put on pay-per-view cards with regularity." Fowlkes wrote it "felt way more like MMA without a net than your standard UFC event does." Downes noted the event "improved Bellator's status." However, Bellator Chair & CEO Bjorn Rebney "sidestepped questions about the initial gate," and that is "probably not a good sign" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 5/18).
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY: In Indianapolis, Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute President John Ketzenberger wrote in a special feature that recovery for open-wheel racing in the U.S. "resembles the economy" during the recession: "low and slow." Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar "aren't standing still, and their marketing departments are charging ahead." New events such as the Rev party and the Verizon Indycar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis "show imagination and promise" (INDYSTAR.com, 5/17).