Suspended Dolphins G Richie Incognito on Thursday "filed a non-football injury grievance against the team, seeking to collect the paychecks he stands to lose" as a result of his involvement in the alleged bullying of OT Jonathan Martin, according to Barry Jackson of the MIAMI HERALD. A player "suspended for detrimental conduct" under the CBA "can be docked pay for a maximum of four games, plus an additional game check." Incognito is "seeking an expedited hearing for the case, which will be heard by an independent arbitrator." The Dolphins "have not said how long his suspension will run, but a team source has said he will not play for the Dolphins again." The Dolphins under NFL rules "would be required to release or reinstate Incognito following the team’s Dec. 1 game against the Jets" (MIAMI HERALD, 11/15). In N.Y., Ben Shpigel notes, "All expedited hearings, as Incognito has requested, must be held within seven days of when the grievance was filed." League rules also state the league and the NFLPA "will engage in good-faith efforts" to schedule the grievance before the team’s next game. The Dolphins host the Chargers on Sunday, so it "seems more likely the grievance will be heard next week," before the Dolphins' Nov. 24 game against the Panthers" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/15).
PENDING RAMIFICATIONS: USA TODAY's Tom Pelissero writes, "Jobs and a lot of money are at stake for many involved" in the scandal, "from Incognito and Martin to coach Joe Philbin and his assistants, general manager Jeff Ireland and other team staffers." Future litigation "could be costly for owner Stephen Ross, who asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for help." The NFL, "under more scrutiny than ever over player safety issues and just one year removed from suspensions in the controversial" Saints bounty case, "could make an example of Incognito just as it did" to Saints coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and LB Jonathan Vilma. The resolution of the Dolphins' situation "might be more complicated than imposing a hard-line hazing ban, which could have unintended consequences." Schepisi & McLaughlin Managing Partner Silvana Raso, whose law firm handles school and workplace bullying cases, said that the Dolphins franchise "could be held accountable not only for what it knew about illegal discrimination, but what it should have known." Philbin has publicly said that the team was "unaware of the alleged abuse until Nov. 3, when Martin's representatives turned over evidence that led to Incognito's suspension that night." The Martin case "could be to hazing what the Saints scandal was to bounties." The NFL's investigation into the Dolphins at a minimum "figures to lend some teeth to team and league policies on workplace harassment" (USA TODAY, 11/15).
A CALL FOR TRANSPARENCY: In San Jose, Mark Purdy writes of Incognito's filing of a grievance claim, "Let's make certain that the NFL Network televises every moment of the hearing, with Martin and Incognito and every other relevant person testifying." Then we will "finally get a complete picture of how weird" the Dolphins' locker room culture "was -- and perhaps still is." This incident "should provide a visual textbook for how not to conduct business in major league sports" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 11/15).
The Astros, who had "the lowest payroll in the majors last season, plan to spend on their roster this offseason, adding as much as $30 million in payroll," a number which "seems to have room to grow, but only" if a deal for CSN Houston is worked out, according to Evan Drellich of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Astros Owner Jim Crane said, "We're not going to spend money we don't have. But if that comes in, we could easily move it up." Regardless of the network resolution, the Astros "aren't likely to commit to long-term deals with players because of the number of promising minor leaguers who should rise to the top this season or next." MLB Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday said that he has "been kept in the loop" about CSN Houston after Comcast/NBC Universal in September "filed an involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition" against the net. Crane said that a status hearing is "scheduled for next week." The judge's order in the case "remains in place until another hearing scheduled for Dec. 12, giving Crane and the Astros at least four more weeks to make headway." Crane said that a "weekly update for the involved parties has come via conference call, including one Thursday." In perhaps a "worst-case scenario where some deal is not reached, the Astros are prepared to investigate whether an alternate means of broadcasting games is viable." Crane: "We've gone out and said that we would be hopeful that we'd be able to come up with some other type of streaming, or some other mechanism, where the fans could see the games. Once we get past this stage, if we don't get something resolved, then we'll be working on that. We haven't really put a plan together on that" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/15).
MLB owners on Thursday during their quarterly meetings approved Rangers co-Chair Ray Davis as the team's “control person," according to Evan Grant of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The role "does not denote primary ownership, but rather a person who is accountable to MLB for the operation of the club and compliance with MLB’s rules." In "practical application, Davis becomes the person that MLB commissioner Bud Selig will call if there are any issues with the Rangers." The "importance of the move is that Davis is now eligible to be placed on significant ownership committees" (DALLASNEWS.com, 11/14). In Ft. Worth, Jeff Wilson notes the Rangers will "continue to operate as they have the past eight months" since the front-office hierarchy was reorganized. President of Baseball Operations & GM Jon Daniels and Exec VP/Ballpark Operations Rob Matwick, "who will be taking over the business side, will report directly to ownership when needed." Daniels said, "It shouldn't change much. It's the same decision-making process. Obviously, major decisions we'll make as an organization and up through ownership" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/15).
The Sabres are "in the market" for a new GM after firing Darcy Regier on Wednesday, and "most of the discussion has centered" on Canadiens Assistant GM Rick Dudley, according to Craig Custance of ESPN.com. He would be a "natural fit" as he coached the Sabres in '91-92 and played for them from '72-75. Dudley would give new President of Hockey Operations Pat LaFontaine "exactly the experience he is looking for when it comes to the GM position." What might "make this job appealing to Dudley, besides being in Buffalo, is that LaFontaine's presence means he could keep a low profile, which he prefers." If they "opt not to hire Dudley, the Sabres can go out and hire one of the smartest, CBA-memorizing, contract-negotiating and player-evaluating assistant GMs in the league." Custance notes candidates fitting that description include Maple Leafs VP & Assistant GM Claude Loiselle, Penguins Assistant GM Jason Botterill, Canucks VP/Hockey Operations & Assistant GM Laurence Gilman, Coyotes VP/Hockey Operations & Assistant GM Brad Treliving and Predators Assistant GM Paul Fenton (ESPN.com, 11/14).
THE LONG GOODBYE: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington notes Sabres President Ted Black on Thursday revealed on WGR-AM that Nolan and LaFontaine "were at his home watching Tuesday’s shootout win" over the Kings on TV. They were "later joined by owner Terry Pegula, and Pegula and Black then headed downtown after the game to dismiss Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston" (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/15). NESN's Billy Jaffe said of Regier not being let go sooner, "It seemed like Darcy Regier got in with the new owner, with Terry Pegula. He was smart, he saved his job. In fact he got an extension, so he got a few years parachute for him as well there. Listen, that's part of the business, sometimes it's figuring out how to stay involved with the owner." Jaffe added he hoped the Sabres "get better soon." Jaffe: "They are an important team for this league. It's a small market, but it's a big hockey market and they have a great fan base" ("The Instigators," NESN, 11/14).
GOOD VIBRATIONS: ESPN.com's Greg Sukiennik wrote LaFontaine is "regarded as the long-term cure" for the Sabres. He remains "wildly popular in Buffalo," and is one of the "greatest U.S.-born players in the game's history." That reputation "alone with open the doors to front office candidates and free agents who would have never previously considered America's North Coast" (ESPN.com, 11/14). In Buffalo, Donn Esmonde writes Pegula on Wednesday "put people in high places who will ... allow this area to start feeling good again about its hockey team." What matters to most people is "having a team that we can be proud of" (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/15).