Posted on: May 7, 2011 10:31 pm

Madden 12 getting serious graphical upgrades

Posted by Will Brinson

As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a Madden junkie. I reviewed Madden 11 before it dropped last year, and look forward to doing so with Madden 12 this year again, especially after reading this post from Mike Young, Art Director of Madden 12 over at EA Sports' website about the "major graphical upgrades" they're putting in place for the newest rendition. 

For starters, pregame introductions are getting what appears to be a serious overhaul -- pregame is a facet that's been improved in recent years (Can you even remember what the "pregame" looked like five or six years ago? Guh.), it's still an area where the team at EA can find some improvement. They look to have done that this year, not only with the giant flags in the middle of the field (great graphical detail, woo America!, etc.) but with the team introductions as well.

As you can see below, the Bears look pretty sweet coming out of the tunnel.

Now, we just need them to figure out a way to have Ray Lewis do his dance in 3-D so we can get people really pumped up and scare the crap out of kids.

Speaking of scaring kids, the images of Michael Vick below (I kid, I kid) are pretty indicative of how EA's providing an upgrade for player detail and lighting within the game. They've moved to what's called "Linear Lighting," something that was used in NCAA 11 in order to achieve more realistic colors. In Madden 11, you're pretty clearly playing on a virtual world, even as real as the stadium, field, etc., look.

The improvement in player detail should be obvious, albeit subtle -- check the shadows, padding and creases on Vick's jersey, as well as the flak jacket that he's rocking in the right photos. In addition, Young points out that they've got a brand new "head and neck scaling system" in place that will make dudes like Brandon Jacobs and Darren Sproles -- people with weird body types -- not look as cartoonish as they might have in 11. 

One of the most dope things I've seen from this set of upgrades, though, is the 3-D grass that Madden 12 will have, in addition to the "flying turf" you'll see below.

Unlike previous years, you can actually, you know, see the grass a) standing up on the field when it the camera gets close and b) see turf flying. The latter is particularly sensical, because as we've seen from the aforementioned Soldier Field (except in real life), conditions aren't always perfect for football. 

So, yeah, very cool stuff all around. And, sure it may seem uber-nerdy -- and it is! -- but for those of us that play the game, it's a welcome bonus. Besides, it might be the only football we get in 2011!

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Posted on: May 4, 2011 10:31 pm
Edited on: May 4, 2011 10:53 pm

8th Circuit Court could not rule on lockout stay

Posted by Will Brinson

Many an NFL scribe spent much of Wednesday waiting to find out if the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis would rule -- one way or the other -- on the NFL's request for a permanent stay of Judge Susan Richard Nelson's lockout injunction.

Currently, a temporary stay is keeping the lockout in place. However, Clerk of Court Michael Gans said on Wednesday that the court might not rule at all.
NFL Labor

"I don't have any indication whether there is going to be any further ruling on the motion for a stay," clerk of the court Michael Gans said Wednesday, per Gary Mihoces of USA Today.

Gans referred to the matter as "still pending" and said the court "court may rule and the court may not [rule]" with regard to the permanent stay.

A "non-ruling" would be pretty shocking, and, frankly, even though Gans said that, I can't imagine that the Court will simply choose to leave the temporary stay in place until June, July, or whenever the 8th Circuit finally rules on the June 3rd hearing that's currently scheduled.

Waiting until after the ruling would have the players' side pretty riled up, I'd think. If the court plans on ruling to remove the stay, it seems kind of like that might be something they'd be interested in. And if the court plans on ruling in favor of a permanent stay ... why not rule?

That being said, the court can do what it wants in this case, and if it thinks that a ruling either way could result in utter chaos that's detrimental to the legal business at hand, then it's not necessarily required.

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Posted on: May 4, 2011 10:38 am
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Posted on: May 3, 2011 4:51 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 6:11 pm

8th Circuit grants NFL expedited appeal

Posted by Will Brinson

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the NFL's request for an expedited appeal, and will hear arguments from the two sides on Friday, June 3, 2011 at 10 a.m. CDT. No, this does not mean the lockout is lifted or -- ahem -- locked in.
NFL Labor

It simply means that the Court of Appeals is willing to handle this appeal in a "typically" (as Clerk of Court Gans has previously told us) speedy fashion. The ruling on the temporary stay will likely come before this Friday, when the Court of Appeals will decide whether or not players will remain locked out between then and the date of the ruling on the June 3 hearing.

The league wants the court of appeals to overturn Judge Susan Richard Nelson's ruling in Minnesota District Court. The players, obviously, want the opposite.

There are some other scheduling notes along with the Judge's Order for the expedited appeal: Friday May 9 is the deadline for the NFL's Opening Brief to be filed; Friday, May 20 is the deadline for the players' Response Brief; and Thursday, May 26 is the deadline for the NFL's Reply Brief.

The Judges hearing the case -- Bye, Colloton, and Benton -- will then hear 30 minutes of oral arguments from each side on June 3 and rule some time (shortly, one would presume, though the complexity of the case could delay that as much as several months) thereafter.

Absolutely worth noting is that Judge Bye was the dissenting judge in the ruling that put the lockout back in place. The Court of Appeals will rule soon on the issue of a permanent stay.

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Posted on: May 2, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 2:55 pm

NFL files appeal to keep lockout, players respond

Posted by Will Brinson

With the NFL Draft now over, it's back to the exciting labor chatter: on Monday, the NFL filed a brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing for the lockout to remain permanently in place until the two sides sort out their differences.

In the middle of the Draft on Friday, we reported that the lockout was back on, thanks to a temporary stay granted by the Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The NFL's brief on Monday wants to keep the lockout going until the two sides can sort out their differences.

The two primary points of the NFL's brief are jurisdiction and the damages that would result in not having a lockout in place.

The NFL cited the Norris-LaGuardia Act in arguing that a federal court "may not interfere -- on either side -- in cases involving or growing out of a labor dispute." In other words, they don't want Nelson affecting the way the labor negotiations play out.

The NFL believes that the lockout would not, as Nelson ruled, cause the "the players no material, and certainly no irreparable harm."

The NFL also stated that, thanks to an expedited appeal, the issues between the two parties "could readily be resolved during the offseason."
NFL Labor

"The absence of a stay would irreparably harm the NFL by undercutting its labor law rights and irreversibly scrambling the eggs of player-club transactions," the NFL attorneys wrote. "Absent a stay, there will be trades, player signings, players cut under existing contracts, and a host of other changes in employment relationships" between hundreds of players and the 32 NFL teams.

The players responded with their own letter to the Court of Appeals on Monday afternoon, written "to correct a misstatement by the NFL Defendants in their reply brief."

The players' attorneys cite both "sworn declarations from their agents, who have more than 165 years of collective experience negotiating NFL players' contracts and have first-hand knowledge of the market for NFL players" and "multiple declarations from Richard A. Berthelsen -- an attorney for the NFLPA for almost 40 years who has witnessed previous occasions when the NFL Defendants operated without a collective bargaining agreement and suffered no harm."

In other words, the issue at hand in deciding whether or not the lockout stays or goes is who's being harmed the most right now.

The players argued that they are harmed irreparably in the immediate sense and Nelson agreed with them, lifting the lockout.

The NFL said that's an exaggerated claim. Players, the league said, would not lose their opportunity to play for the team of their choice once the league year begins, even if that's in late June or early July instead of early May. That process usually starts in early March.

The NFL complained that Nelson ignored evidence that many players, including two of the 10 plaintiffs, Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins, skip team-organized workouts in the offseason. Jackson and Mankins both held out well into the start of the 2010 season, the league noted, "indicating that missing time in the offseason is not irreparable harm."

The NFL also cited comments by players Ray Lewis and Wes Walker about their appreciation of extra free time now with the lockout in place and no mandatory minicamps or other offseason activities allowed to take place.

Welker said, "Let's do a lockout every year," according to the league's court filing.

Those comments don't help the players' case of course, but it may not matter -- the Court of Appeals must find that Nelson (essentially) abused her judicial power if they overturn her ruling.

It's not simply enough to disagree with her decision or to find the players' comments about the lockout pithy enough to make them worth flipping a legal ruling.

Certainly the Court of Appeals could find that the NFL is more at risk for immediate irreparable harm, though, and that could result in the lockout remaining until a final ruling is made.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 7:03 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 7:09 pm

Court gives NFL stay, the lockout is back on

Posted by Will Brinson

NEW YORK -- In the middle of the second round of the NFL Draft, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals announced they'd granted the NFL's motion for a stay. Yes, that means the lockout is back on.

Interestingly, however, the Order -- a copy of which CBSSports.com has obtained -- announcing the return of the lockout also contains a dissenting judge; one of the judges did not believe that the the clubs' situations are ones that "truly qualify as emergencies."
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Additionally, the judge refuted the claim of the NFL that their operations are a "complex process that requires time to coordinate." That claim, the judge wrote in the Order, "is severely undermined by the fact that the NFL had, within a day of the district court's order ... already planned post-injunction operations."

This dissenting judge is especially notable because, while the lockout may be "on" once again, the NFL didn't get the clean sweep from the Appellate Court that many folks believed they would.

It appears, as of this writing, that the fans present at the Draft haven't received word about the return of the lockout -- the booing hasn't reached the vitriolic proportions of the first round.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: April 29, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:38 pm

Clerk whistles 'false start' on lockout report

Posted by Will Brinson

NEW YORK -- The lockout is NOT back, despite a number of reports that began circulating around lunch time on Friday (those reporters owe me half a sandwich, by the way).

CBSSports.com spoke with Michael Gans, Clerk of Court for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and he informed us that there was an erroneous reading of online court documents that caused the report to appear on ESPN. (The document read "Appellees' motion to file an overlength brief in response to appellants' motion for stay is hereby granted." This means that the court said it would hear the players' response.)

The network retracted the report at the top of the next hour although they have not, as yet, acknowledged the change in report.

This prompted my favorite comment from a member of the court ever: Mr. Gans joked that someone should be "penalized for a false start."

There's still a good chance that the court will rule on Friday. And there's still a good chance that the lockout returns.

In fact, many observers (myself included) expect it to happen.

For now, though, the lockout only lurks.

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Category: NFL
Tags: Lockout, NFL
Posted on: April 28, 2011 6:17 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 6:23 pm

Hillis on Madden 12 cover: 'This is not about me'

Posted by Will Brinson

NEW YORK -- For years, the player chosen to be on the cover of the Madden video game was cP. Hilliselebrated for their individual accolades. And Peyton Hillis, the man chosen for the Madden 12 cover which was shot (see: right) during an EA Sports event in Time Square, succeeded in 2010, but he's giving it all to the fans when it comes to his selection this year.

"It's just a blessing," Hillis said. "I feel like people see what I do to my body and what I do on the field and they appreciate that and they respect that. And all I can do is hope I can give back to them, whether it's Cleveland or Arkansas or my fans back in Denver, how many ever that is.

"And it's just a blessing that I can actually be here and do this right now for them."

Hillis also understands that the city of Cleveland hasn't exactly had the best run when it comes to sports-related success recently, and that a city who got firmly behind it's newest star is reveling in the success.

"Well, it's huge," Hillis said. "They really haven't had a winner in a while, ever since they left to go to Baltimore. In my mind, this is not about myself, this is not about me, this is about what can I give back to the team and community and hopefully that's a winner."

Hillis did admit that he's not an insanely avid Madden player (he buys the game every year, but "just because I'm in the NFL and I love beating my brother at it," which, coincidentally is the same reason I buy it every year).

But, he also said he was cool with the way that Madden portrayed him ... except he thinks they made him too skinny.
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"The thing about it is the [low speed rating] doesn't really hurt me," Hillis said. "I ran a 4.5 in college -- that's adequate speed at best.

But I look at the game, I look skinny and I know I'm definitely not skinny. So I'd like to that to be changed, but other than that, I think it's pretty good."

Not the toughest life for Hillis, huh? But the dude deserves it -- he's got a superb attitude, he cares about the fans and remains humble despite the fact that the worst thing in his life right now is that the virtual reincarnation of himself is too skinny.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com