Patriots coach Bill Belichick is "blaming recently instituted NFL rules shortening offseason practice time for what he claims to be an increasing number of player injuries," according to John Wawrow of the AP. Belichick said that players "are more vulnerable to being hurt because they're less prepared, and described the limits placed on offseason workouts -- including training camp -- as being counterproductive." He said, "I think that's taking the wrong approach. You have a gap between preparation and competition level. And I think that's where you see a lot of injuries occurring. We get a lot of breakdowns. We get a lot of situations that players just aren't as prepared as they were in previous years, in my experience anyway.'' Wawrow noted new rules negotiated into the CBA signed in '11 prevent teams "from holding two-a-day practices during training camp." Limits also were "placed on how many times players practiced in pads throughout the year." In the spring, offseason team activity time "was reduced from 14 to nine weeks (10 if the team changed head coaches)." Belichick did not cite specific numbers, but he indicated that he was citing ''a matter of record not opinion,'' in saying injuries league-wide have been on the rise over the past three years. NFL VP/Football Communications Michael Signora "disputed Belichick's assertions." Signora: ''We carefully monitor player injuries. There is no evidence that the new work rules have had an adverse effect on the injury rate or that injuries have in fact increased" (AP, 12/25).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The NBA may send a proposal to owners sometime next year that would "eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a system in which each of the 30 teams would pick in a specific first-round draft slot once -- and exactly once -- every 30 years," according to sources cited by Zach Lowe of GRANTLAND. Each team under the proposal would "simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year." Teams would "know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle." Every team under the "wheel system" would "be guaranteed one top-six pick every five seasons, and at least one top-12 pick in every four-year span." The system is "designed to eliminate the link between being very bad and getting a high draft pick," as there "is no benefit at all to being bad under a wheel system like this." However, sources said that some top NBA officials have "expressed early opposition to the proposal." Lowe reported the proposal "would not kick in until all current draft-based trades have been executed, so there would be a nearly decade-long preparation process" (GRANTLAND.com, 12/23). In Boston, Steve Bulpett noted that the wheel system is "the creation" of Celtics Assistant GM Mike Zarren. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said of the proposal, "That would make sense to me. It would put an onus on management to manage their team and their draft picks. They would be able to just play and not worry about maneuvering to get a draft pick." He added, "Maybe owners won’t ever agree to it because, they like the fact that if they’re not winning they can sell their fans on the hope that there might be something good around the corner in the draft. But maybe teams wouldn’t be falling so far out of it if there was a better system" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/25).
SHOULD SPARK CONVERSATION: In Akron, Jason Lloyd wrote there is "plenty left to consider and resolve before this ever becomes a reality, but it will certainly spark conversations in front offices around the league if the idea begins to gain traction." The proposal right now is "nothing more than a conversation starter," but there "have always been factions around the league trying to eliminate the lottery since it was first created." The system is "still years from becoming a reality, but it’s at least a step in that direction" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 12/25). In DC, Cindy Boren noted the system "isn’t foolproof," as nothing would keep a "great player from staying in school until a team he wanted to play for came up on the wheel." Boren: "But it would be a big step toward eliminating the awful practice of losing deliberately" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/23).
The IndyCar Series has "filed a lawsuit against Radio e Televisao Bandeirantes Ltda., the promoter of an IndyCar race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, seeking to recover a seven-figure sanctioning fee that was due this summer," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Despite "troubles with the promoter, IndyCar officials haven’t given up on returning the series to Brazil." Though the lawsuit "doesn’t reveal how much IndyCar is seeking and series officials are not commenting, a source familiar with the sanctioning agreement said IndyCar is seeking" just under $10M for the annual sanctioning fee. The Sao Paulo race brings in about $2M in "annual profit" for IndyCar and would be a "painful loss for the open-wheel circuit, which hasn’t yet turned a profit in its 18-year existence." A source said that the Sao Paulo race is the "second-most-profitable event" for IndyCar, behind only the Indianapolis 500. Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles is "still holding out hope the event can be held" in '15 if not in '14 (IBJ.com, 12/21).
The National Lacrosse League "hopes to be well placed for growth in the coming years," and the "biggest step toward that goal during the just concluded offseason was the signing" of a new CBA through '20, according to Budd Bailey of the BUFFALO NEWS. The league is hoping that the changes "will soon translate to a better financial picture," as NLL franchises often have been "fragile over the years." The latest move "came earlier this year when the Washington Stealth moved to Vancouver." Fiscal stability "could help the nine-team league’s chances of expanding in the near future." One of the "most obvious changes this season will be a revised playoff format." Three teams from the East and West will make the playoffs, "reducing the number of franchises in the postseason from eight to six." The season is "going from 16 to 18 games, which is a reason why the first games in the league this year will be held before Jan. 1 instead of after." Meanwhile, the league "opted out of a television deal with the CBS Sports Network." That channel "had rights to games in the United States and Canada, but the outlet was not available through most systems in Western Canada -- the home of three teams." Games will "continue to be shown on YouTube, and there may be other announcements about broadcasting rights in the near future" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/26). The NLL on Monday announced an agreement with TSN to broadcast eight regular-season games in '14, primarily on TSN2, all live across Canada. In addition, those same eight broadcasts will be available in the U.S. on ESPN3 and on RDS2 in Quebec. The NLL also announced a renewal of its partnership with YouTube, which will broadcast 73 regular-season games live (THE DAILY).