The NFL often acts with a hint of arrogance, and some might argue they have earned it.
But it still doesn’t feel right to hear the league constantly trumpet how much it cares about the health and safety of players, but then advocates for an 18-game schedule and has a game virtually every Thursday during the season.
Which brings us to the seemingly never-ending story of the Saints’ pay-for-performance program that has been in the news for eight months.
There has been mis-step after mis-step, with the latest being commissioner Roger Goodell’s attempt to have his former boss and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue be the arbitrator going forward in the case. The hearing is currently scheduled for Oct. 30.
When it was originally announced that Goodell was stepping aside, it appeared to be a good thing. Then, as the press release was read, and Tagliabue’s name was revealed, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Did Goodell actually think there wouldn’t be push-back from the NFLPA on that? Did he actually believe anyone would think that Tagliabue would be an impartial arbitrator? Couldn’t Tagliabue figure out what the reaction would be when he was asked? It is almost comical in its arrogance.
So, now, within five days of the announcement, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (who has a personal claim of defamation against Goodell) and the NFLPA each asked Judge Helen Berrigan to remove Tagliabue. The NFLPA wants the arbitrator to be agreed to by both sides.
There’s more to the disagreement than just the simple fact that Tagliabue was once NFL commissioner. He currently is employed by law firm Covington & Burling, which is representing the league in the bounty lawsuits. In 2010 (the last year on record), Covington & Burling received $3.8 million in fees from the NFL. In addition, Tagliabue was paid $1 million in base compensation by the NFL in 2010, plus nearly $7.6 million in deferred compensation and retirement benefits.
Peter Ginsberg, who is Vilma’s attorney, wrote to the court, “In appointing Tagliabue, Goodell has shown beyond any doubt that he simply cannot be allowed to appoint the arbitrator to adjudicate this matter … and the time has come for the Court to appoint a person who can fairly and impartially resolve the instant dispute according to the standards demanded by federal law.”
“Tagliabue cannot serve as an impartial arbitrator without compromising Covington & Burling’s and his representation of Goodell and the NFL. Any arbitration award short of a total affirmation of Goodell’s punishment conflicts, ostensibly at least, with what is the NFL’s best interests. Likewise, any arbitration award challenging or rejecting Goodell’s conduct in this matter could jeopardize Goodell’s position in the pending defamation case. If Tagliabue finds – as he should – that Goodell imposed discipline without basis, it follows that Goodell’s comments concerning the purported Bounty Program were reckless or in disregard of the truth. Tagliabue thus would be in a position of issuing an award that exposes his client to liability for defamation.”
NFLPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler wrote, “It is difficult to imagine a choice that would more obviously fail the evident partiality test. First and foremost, Mr. Tagliabue has a fiduciary and ethical duty to serve the interests of his and his law firm’s clients: the NFL and Commissioner Goodell. Nonetheless, the NFL once again maintains that it is immune from any and all legal requirements and can conduct its arbitrations in any biased or unfair manner that it wishes. This is not the law.”
No Home-Field Advantage for Cowboys
The Cowboys play the Giants at home Sunday, their first game in the palace that is Cowboys Stadium since an Oct. 1 Monday night game against Chicago at which Bears fans seemed to outnumber Cowboys fans. If they didn’t in actual people, they sure did in noise.
Entering the game against the Giants, the Cowboys are only 14-12 since the new stadium opened in 2009. That’s a winning percentage of 53.8 compared to 68.1 in all the years of Texas Stadium.
Some Bears players reacted after that game four weeks ago. On Twitter, wide receiver Brandon Marshall wrote, “Big ups to all the Chicago fans in Dallas. Felt like a home game.” Cornerback Charles Tillman chimed in with, “Cowboys Stadium felt like Soldier Field with all the Bear fans.”
So, what do the Cowboys think about their “home-field advantage?”
Said defensive end Jason Hatcher, “No comment. I got to tell the truth, but no comment. … We just have to go out there and play football. Whether they’re loud or not, whether we have a 12th man or not, it doesn’t mean nothing. We just have to go out there and play Cowboy football. Whether you come in there and you can hear a cricket farting, we just got to go in there and do what we got to do.”
However, former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said it’s more about the fans than the stadium.
Aikman told KTCK Radio in Dallas, “I think for a large part – and the fans don’t want to hear this – a lot of the people that attend sports in this town, they’re there because it’s kind of just a place to be seen. I’ve always said Dallas isn’t so much a sports town as it is a winner’s town. And that’s not that unique. Most towns are like that. There are very few towns like Chicago where you can go out there and go 4-12 and they’re stilling selling out stadiums. That’s pretty unique.”
The kicker is that Aikman, who played 12 seasons in Dallas, believes the fans have never been very loud, at least compared to the Cowboys’ NFC East counterparts.
“I don’t think Dallas has ever really had a great home-field advantage,” he said. “What I’ve heard is that, ‘Wow, they really lost home-field advantage when they left Texas Stadium.’ Texas Stadium really wasn’t that different. Having played playoff games in Texas Stadium, that stadium was rocking, it was great. … But when we would play in Philadelphia, New York and walk out of the tunnel, I would have to be yelling at the top of my lungs for guys to hear me.
“And you get on the plane for the flight home and your head would be pounding, you wouldn’t have a voice, and that’s just the way that it was. There was no way you could go down there near the goal line and use a hard count in an opposing stadium. And yet in Texas Stadium, teams did it all the time.”
A Better Deal
After offensive lineman Chris Williams was released by the Rams on Oct. 16, he told the Chicago Tribune, “Now, I will get an opportunity to go play somewhere, and I’m excited about that. The Bears are a good team, they will do well and I will miss the guys. It sucks being released and that type of thing. But sitting on the bench here for the whole year wasn’t going to help me in free agency. Now, I’ll get a chance somewhere else.”
Williams was right, at least about the opportunity. And, it turns out he’ll actually be paid more with his new team (the Rams) than he was making with the Bears. Cut on a Tuesday, by Saturday, he had tryouts with Philadelphia and Arizona, and visited St. Louis the day before the Rams played Green Bay and two days before the team was leaving for their game in London.
When a contract was agreed to with the Rams, Williams wasn’t sure if he would be traveling to London until he was asked if he had a passport. He did, and he was off to London.
As for the contract, the Rams went the extra mile to sign Williams. His base salary of $1.25 million is actually higher than the $1 million salary he was playing for with the Bears. The Rams also paid Williams a signing bonus of $73,529 (equal to one week’s salary) and a $200,000 OATSB (outstanding amount treated as signing bonus).
Thus, If Williams remains with the Rams for the rest of the season, he will make $1.009 million (10 prorated weeks of his base salary plus the bonuses), more than he would have made being with the Bears all season. For the six games he was with the Bears, he made $352,941 of his base salary.
No Twitter for Cam
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has taken some heat for the things he’s said as well as his demeanor in press conferences. But Newton has managed to do one smart thing: avoid Twitter.
It’s estimated that nearly 40 Panthers players are on Twitter, but Newton explained why he isn’t. he said, “One wrong tweet to the wrong person can lead into so much. Out of 10 tweets, if you do nine amazing tweets, they still don’t outweigh the one bad tweet a person makes.
“I think the bad thing, the most corrupt thing that the social media world has turned into is they want to hear about the Steve Smith, the Jonathan Stewart drunk on North Tyron Street, rather than he’s on North Tyron giving away turkeys.”
What Will Jimmy Do?
Most everyone believes new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will make sweeping changes in the organization after the season with former Eagles executive Joe Banner calling the shots. Browns general manager Tom Heckert worked in personnel with the Eagles before going to the Browns, and decided to recently tell the world why he believes he should keep his job.
“We all want to be here to see this thing through,” Heckert said. “It’s untapped just how good this team can be, and we’re on our way. Joe is super-smart and I think he’ll see that.”
He added, “I want to be here and I want to finish this thing. I love our team. (Coach) Pat (Shurmur) will say the same thing. This may or may not be the most talented team around, but it’s probably the best team I’ve been around. We have a nice mixture of veterans and young guys. We have solid character guys that are also talented.”
Arizona running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, all 67 inches of him, weighed in recently at 184, which he was happy about because he usually has difficulty staying at that weight during the season. He’s listed at 185 on the roster. The news that he was glad to be at 184 brought this response from Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein: “Oh, nice.