Archive for Pre Season
Roger Goodell heard the boos loud and clear, and couldn’t blame the fans.
Goodell spoke to about 5,200 New York Jets season-ticket holders for nearly 35 minutes, the latest in a round of conference calls the commissioner has held during the labor dispute. The first day of the draft was held a day after a federal judge again ordered the NFL to lift the lockout, and hours after the league said players could report to team headquarters beginning Friday.
Goodell says the league will hold a conference call later Friday to address player transaction rules. The guidelines for free agency, trades and other roster moves have been uncertain in the absence of a collective bargaining agreement.
The commissioner was asked how the legal wrangling could ultimately help the average fan. Of course, fans also wanted to know if there is a point of no return, when games will have to be canceled.
“Right now our focus is entirely on the negotiations or, in the case that we’re forced to do it, defending litigation,” Goodell said. “We have not set any drop-dead date on cancellation of games. I certainly hope that that will not be the case and that we can prevent getting even close to that situation.”
On Thursday night, fans didn’t ease up until Goodell asked for a moment of silence to remember the hundreds of people killed by the tornadoes that tore through the South this week, along with the thousands of others affected.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the commissioner and the league expected the fans’ frustration.
Before signing off on the decision to draft Cam Newton No. 1 overall, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson invited the former Auburn quarterback to his home and pulled out a letter from a fan. A day after the Panthers gambled that Newton does have the drive to be a franchise quarterback, Newton stood at a podium on Friday in a crisp gray suit and blue tie and vowed not to be outworked.
Sporting a wide smile and oozing confidence, Newton met with reporters at his new place of employment Friday as he embarks on a quest to shed negative labels and overcome intense scrutiny to lead the Panthers out of the NFL’s basement.
That was certainly the case as Newton paraded around Bank of America Stadium as the highest draft pick and likely the riskiest in the Panthers’ 17 seasons.
The questions surround his off-field problems at Florida, his father’s alleged pay-for-play scheme during his recruitment and how he’ll adapt from a spread offense at Auburn to a pro-style system where reading defenses is more difficult.
The 6-foot-5, 248-pound Heisman Trophy winner certainly did that at Auburn. He threw 30 touchdown passes and rushed for 20 more in the Tigers’ 14-0 national championship season. In comparison, the Panthers scored 16 offensive touchdowns in two more games in 2010.
The league announced the move late Friday, hours after a key courtroom victory. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told The Associated Press that teams “have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately.” So it means that the NFL lockout is back.
Earlier, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted the NFL’s request for a temporary stay of the injunction that lifted the 45-day lockout. Arguments will be heard as early as next week on whether that order from a federal judge in Minnesota should be overturned altogether.
The NFL’s announcement came during the NFL draft, not long after the third round wrapped up, and on the very day players were allowed to return to their teams’ facilities for the first time since March. Dozens if not hundreds of players happily met with coaches, worked out and got a peek at their playbooks.
The 2-1 decision from a panel of the 8th Circuit was issued by Judges Steven Colloton, Kermit Bye and Duane Benton. It included a lengthy dissent from Bye, who suggested temporary stays should be issued only in emergencies.
The ruling was the first victory for the NFL in the bitter labor fight. It came in a venue considered more conservative and favorable to businesses than the federal courts in Minnesota, where the collective bargaining system was established in the early 1990s and judges have generally favored players over the NFL.
Jim Quinn, the lead attorney for the players, downplayed Friday’s order.
At least for now, the NFL has told its teams and players to get back to football.
The league assured teams and players they could resume some of the normal day to day football operations beginning Friday, including voluntary workouts at team facilities, meetings with coaches and going over playbooks as told twice in three days by a federal judge that its 45-day lockout was illegal.
The league also promised to distribute detailed procedures for signing free agents, making trades and other roster moves. That memo, the league said, will likely come Friday and spell out the timing for the start of the league year.
The guidelines were released a few hours before the NFL draft, where teams were still allowed only to swap picks, not players. New players in particular will benefit from the new guidelines.
Things are far from normal, however. On a day members of the Tennessee Titans showed up to find two armed guards at their locked-up facility, the NFL pressed forward with the legal fight in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
The league wants a temporary stay of Nelson’s decision to lift the lockout so it can argue that it should be overturned altogether. The players were told to respond to the league’s motion for a stay by 1 p.m. ET on Friday, and the NFL’s reply to that is due Monday morning.
Regarding his opinion of Tim Tebow’s potential as the team’s starting quarterback, the Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway has been strangely vague until now. During a half-hour conversation at the Broncos’ facility the day before the NFL draft, Elway, who as a rookie quarterback once mistakenly lined up behind the offensive guard to take a snap, recognized the organization will need to be committed and patient for Tebow to succeed.
Elway, who won two Super Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, said he scrutinized Tebow’s three games last season as a starter with the Broncos and came away impressed with his unique mobility and intangible qualities. Elway recognizes Tebow must improve his accuracy.
The labor dispute that threatens to wipe out the entire offseason and potentially delay the start of the regular season is a significant setback for Tebow. He is missing offseason repetitions with Denver teammates and coaches who might refine his throwing mechanics.
Although Tebow has worked out on his own, it’s not the same as working with the Broncos’ coaches. But that will change Friday, per the NFL’s memo that players under contract can report to team facilities pending the league’s request to a federal appeals court to issue a temporary stay on a lower court ruling lifting the lockout.
The Broncos informed players Thursday they can meet with new coach John Fox and his staff Friday and begin using the weight and meeting rooms. The Broncos plan to begin organized team activities next week. Tebow said he’s traveling to Denver and expects to participate Friday.
Elway remains confident that Tebow eventually can be the kind of quarterback who is successful within the pocket. However, he’s unsure when that transformation will be made.
Over the future of the $9 billion business the NFL is falling behind in its court fight with the players. The federal judge who lifted the NFL lockout two days ago dealt another blow to the league late Wednesday, denying its request to put her ruling on hold pending appeals and guaranteeing more limbo for the 32 teams, thousands of players and millions of fans.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson wrote that the NFL “has not met its burden for a stay pending appeal, expedited or otherwise.” She dismissed the NFL’s argument that she didn’t have jurisdiction and that it is facing irreparable harm because of her decision to end the 45-day lockout.
The judge acknowledged that her decision will be appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis and the NFL has promised that step.
The ruling means the league has no rules in place, shelved since the collective bargaining agreement ended on March 11 and the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987 was imposed shortly afterward. But Nelson said that needn’t be the case.
Whether that includes free agency or other rules drawn up even as the draft gets under way Thursday was anyone’s guess. There was no immediate word from the league after Nelson’s decision.
The NFL had argued that Nelson had no jurisdiction and that she shouldn’t make a decision while a complaint of bad-faith negotiation against the players was still pending with the National Labor Relations Board. The league also argued that it shouldn’t be subject to some of the antitrust claims leveled by the players with the collective bargaining deal barely expired.
The judge shot all of those down.
The league’s plea to Nelson for the stay was also based on a purported fear that an immediate lifting of the lockout would result in a free agency free-for-all that could create a mess that would be difficult to undo should a new collective bargaining agreement lead to different rules.
Nelson called that an “incorrect premise.” She insisted that her order was simply an end to the lockout, not a prohibition of the player constraints like franchise and transition tags that help the league maintain competitive balance.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, during an earlier predraft event in New York, said he wasn’t worried about the state of confusion tarnishing the league’s image but stressed his desire to “remove” the uncertainty.
DeMaurice Smith said Tuesday he’s happy a federal judge lifted the NFL’s lockout, but he’s upset the league has created a state of turmoil by allowing players to show up at team facilities, but not use their weight rooms. He said he’s been told that some teams gave their strength and conditioning coaches the day off Tuesday, a move he called “petty.”
When asked if players should be allowed to work out, Smith said, “It’s really a question of what’s the law of the land and whether the NFL will comply with it.”
The Chicago Bears told kicker Robbie Gould that he “could not work out until clarification comes from the judge’s ruling.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said any player who shows up at team facilities will be allowed in and “treated courteously and with respect.”
There was an exception Tuesday afternoon, however, as Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty worked out in the team’s weight room and spoke to head coach Tom Coughlin and other staff members.
Jets players said they were granted access to the facility, but they described it as a scene from “The Shining” — closed doors and empty hallways. Players said they saw no coaches and were told they couldn’t work out because there was no supervision.
Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who has a league-high $750,000 workout bonus, said his appearance should count toward the bonus even though he couldn’t work out.
Chris Canty made the most out of his first post-lockout visit back to the New York Giants practice facility. While other teams in the NFL did not allow players to do much in their practice facilities, the Giants opened their doors and let the defensive tackle into the weight room to get a workout in. As one of three Giants who visited the team’s Timex Performance Center, Canty worked out and met with coaches.
However, after letting Canty use the weight room on Tuesday, the Giants announced later in the evening that it will not allow players to work out at the facility on Wednesday should they show up. Players will still be allowed in the facility and can talk to staff members but they will not be allowed to discuss football or football-related business talk.
Running back Brandon Jacobs and wide receiver Mario Manningham were the other two Giants who stopped by the facility. Those two did not work out but they did talk to coaches and staff members. Jacobs said he even interrupted an offensive coaches staff meeting to say hello and spent time chatting with head coach Tom Coughlin about family, the lockout and last year’s poor finish for the Giants, who missed the playoffs for a second straight year.
It felt great to be back.
“I got a good workout, and felt pretty good,” Canty said after spending about two and a half hours at the facility. “Got a chance to meet with the coaches, it was great. We are excited to get back to business as usual.”
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson on Monday granted the players’ request for an injunction to lift the lockout, halting the NFL’s work stoppage. The league filed an appeal and the NFL issued a statement indicating players would not be allowed to work out.
Small groups of players showed up at team facilities Tuesday, just one day after a federal judge ended a 45-day lockout, let inside but told they would not be allowed to work out on the same day the judge who lifted the lockout said she will take at least until Wednesday to consider whether she should put her order on hold.
There was an exception Tuesday afternoon, however, as Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty worked out in the team’s weight room and spoke to head Coach Tom Coughlin and other staff members. The coaches told Canty to return Wednesday, but the Giants announced later on Tuesday that it will not allow players to work out at the facility on Wednesday should they show up.
Most players weren’t as fortunate and left in a matter of minutes after arriving on a strange day with more questions than answers.
The league issued a statement that called for players to be “treated with courtesy and respect” if they show up. But the NFL said it needs “a few days to sort this out” before “football activities” can take place.
League operations were left in limbo for at least another day, too. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said she wouldn’t rule on the NFL’s request for a stay of her order until at least Wednesday, so she can hear from players — even as attorneys for the players asked her for clarification of her order.
The players are asking Nelson to clarify what it means when she says the lockout is enjoined, according to the judge’s docket. The NFLPA is trying to force the league to impose working rules or get the year started without rules. Nelson ordered the owners to respond by 6 p.m. ET Wednesday.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the NFL is ultimately hurting the fans by not letting players get full use of their team’s facilities.
Seven weeks into the NFL lockout, players have an early triumph over the owners in court. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered an immediate end to the lockout Monday, siding with the players in their bitter fight with the owners over how to divide the $9 billion business.
The fate of the 2011 season remained in limbo: The NFL responded by filing a notice of appeal questioning whether Nelson exceeded her jurisdiction, seeking relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Hours later, the league filed a motion for an expedited stay, meaning it wants Nelson to freeze her ruling to let the appeals process play out.
What will happen in the next few days is murky, too.
Players may very well show up at team facilities on Tuesday and it appears they’ll be allowed to enter the building, if they so choose.
The players’ organization which is now a trade association and not a union have emailed players late Monday night, advising them they are legally entitled to show up at team facilities Tuesday and that teams are not allowed to block their access.
Bills safety George Wilson confirmed late Monday that the NFLPA emailed players suggesting they report to work Tuesday. He said players were told they should be granted access under normal circumstances and if they are denied access the teams would be in violation of the judge’s ruling. Wilson had not heard from any Bills players who said they would report to the facility Tuesday.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the NFL Network that any player who shows up to team facilities will be allowed in.
However, two league sources told that the NFL Management Council gave all 32 teams certain stipulations for allowing players into their buildings tomorrow.
The sources said teams were told not to open their weight rooms nor engage in any contract discussions, but to let their players in the building. The league also intends to get security in place for players to come in to avoid any potential confrontations or photo opportunities for the media. The NFL intends to debrief teams again in the morning with further instructions.
Nelson’s ruling was a stern rebuke of the NFL’s case, hardly a surprise given the court’s history with the league and her pattern of questioning during a hearing here three weeks ago in St. Paul, Minn.
In a room packed with lawyers, players and league officials, Nelson politely but persistently questioned NFL lawyer David Boies about his repeated argument that she shouldn’t have jurisdiction over a labor dispute with an unfair negotiation charge against the players pending with the National Labor Relations Board.
In her ruling, Nelson rejected that contention. She recognized the NFL Players Association’s decision to “de-unionize” as legitimate because it has “serious consequences” for the players.
Nelson even referenced her colleague, U.S. District Judge David Doty, who has frequently ruled for the players in the past. Not only did she declare that players are likely to suffer harm by the lockout, a legal requirement for granting the injunction, Nelson wrote that they’re already feeling the hurt now.
She cited their short careers, arguing that monetary damages wouldn’t be enough relief.