Posted on: January 31, 2011 9:18 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 11:45 pm

Steelers dispel notion they don't have Ben's back

Posted by Will Brinson

UPDATE 11:37 p.m. EST: Peter King has issued a clarification on Goodell's lightning quote about how not one of "two dozen" Steeler players came to Roethlisberger's defense. Goodell was referring to two dozen NFL players in general, not two dozen Steelers.


FORT WORTH, TX -- Following Ben Roethlisberger's suspension to start the season, there was plenty of speculation that he wasn't the most popular person in the Steelers locker room.

On Monday, Peter King of Sports Illustrated posted in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column a quote from Roger Goodell that emphasized just how little the Steelers had Ben's back.

"Not one, not a single player, went to his defense," Goodell said after revealing he talked to "two dozen" Steelers players. "It wasn't personal in a sense, but all kinds of stories like, 'He won't sign my jersey.'"

Roethlisberger, asked Monday about the report, didn't necessarily dispel the notion.

"I'm not sure," Roethlisberger said. "I wasn't there. I don't know exactly what was said, so it's hard to say."

The report obviously stings for Ben, but it's far more indicative of how Steelers players perceive their quarterback, making their responses far more interesting.

However, most of the players asked seemed to indicate they felt differently than King reported, including wideout Hines Ward.

Ward wasn't the only one, though.

"I was highly upset by this whole situation," linebacker James Farrior said. "When Roger Goodell came to us in teh preseason, I think I was the guy who asked him a lot of the questions about Ben. I was pretty upset about it.

I really didn't get any answers from him that I was looking for, but I was definitely disappointed in what the verdict was and how they proceeded."

Brett Keisel, he of the most amazing beard in the world, was even more emphatic with his defense of Roethlisberger.

"I've always had Ben's back," Keisel said. "Even when everything was going on, Ben and I have had a very good relationship.

We're close friends on and off the field. I think everyone was behind him. Everyone just didn't know how to respond to all the questions and all the scrutiny."

So maybe that's the answer -- no one knew how to respond. And that's logical, too, because of the situation with which they were approached.

Goodell was asking them to provide input on a player in a very sticky situation, involving an alleged act that was so squeamish it wasn't easy to broach in the media, much less in a one-on-one conversation with the man in charge of disciplining the entire NFL.

Or maybe the members of the Steelers didn't have Ben's back when they were asked before the season. That's acceptable, even if it's a little awkward.

Because at the end of the day, he's helped the team get a shot at their third Super Bowl ring since he took over as quarterback. And that means that -- all issues of personal redemption aside -- he's rehabilitated himself as a teammate and member of the Steelers workforce.

For a team charged with winning football games, there's not much more they can really hope to expect.

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Posted on: January 31, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 5:31 pm

NFL and NFLPA intensify negotiations in Dallas

Posted by Will Brinson

DALLAS -- The only thing more ominous than the weather in Dallas is the looming threat of an NFL lockout -- there's a little sliver of light on the horizon though, because the NFL and NFLPA announced on Monday afternoon their intention to ramp up negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith released a joint statement Monday after meeting in New York earlier in the day.

"As part of a process to intensify negotiations, they agreed to hold a formal bargaining session w\both negotiating teams Sat in Dallas," the statement from spokesman Greg Aiello read. "They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions & smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March."

The skeptic could ask: "What took so long?"

And while much of the discussion heretofore has been pointless public rhetoric aimed at swinging the PR pendulum in the favor of one side or the other, a private meeting between Goodell and Smith, followed by a joint statement means good things for fans of football.

Does it mean that a labor deal will be done by the Super Bowl? Um, no.

Does it mean that a labor deal will be done by the early March deadline? That's optimistic, but it's certainly a possibility.

The reality is, there's no precise timetable for when the labor deal will get done and things could still come down to the wire. But right now, that's beside the point, because the NFL and the NFLPA are doing the most important thing here by sitting down at the table and talking.

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Posted on: January 31, 2011 4:42 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 4:44 pm

Pro Bowl most-watched 'all-star game' since 2009

Posted by Will Brinson

The Pro Bowl aired on Sunday to much criticism -- baseball writers were screaming about how awesome their version was, casual fans were complaining, and even NFL heads were bitter at the dismal performance. (In fact, it was so bad, it inspired our "10 ways to improve the Pro Bowl" post.)

But here's some surprising news: it was still really, really popular.

According to an NFL press release, the 2011 Pro Bowl was the "most watched all-star game for any sport since 2009."

Put that in your syringe and shoot it, Bud Selig!

But, no, really: 13.4 million viewers, which is the highest number of Pro Bowl viewers since the 1997 rendition, tuned into watch the NFC spank the AFC in a glorified version of beach volleyball.

While we can't be sure they were hanging around for the thrilling conclusion (Alex Mack's touchdown run), that's still a big number.

In fact, it's the largest number of folks who tuned into an all-star game since MLB's 2009 All-Star Game, which was aided slightly by this guy named Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch.

Pro Bowl viewership was up nine percent from 2010 and up a whopping 53 percent from 2009's game. The lesson, as always? People love the NFL.

Or maybe people just know that with a lockout looming, they need to maximize their chance to watch the sport on live television.

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Posted on: January 26, 2011 3:43 pm

DeMaurice Smith also willing to take a salary cut

Posted by Will Brinson

Earlier Wednesday, Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL owners indicating that he (and a number of other NFL employees) would take a serious salary cut if there was a work stoppage.

DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, has one-upped him.

"NFL executives reducing salaries in the event of a lockout? If we have a deal by Super Bowl, I'll go down to 68 cents," Smith tweeted Wednesday.

Of course, it's much, much more likely that there's no "work stoppage" (ah, vague rhetoric) than it is that there's a labor deal in place within the next 10 days.

So Smith's salary is pretty safe. But that probably wasn't his point -- what he likely was implying is that, in the big scheme of things, "salary cuts" are pointless PR manipulations designed to curry favor with the fans.

None of that will matter, of course, if there's no football for fans to watch in 2011.

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Posted on: January 26, 2011 9:56 am
Edited on: January 26, 2011 9:57 am

Goodell to take $1 salary if work stoppage occurs

Posted by Will Brinson

According to a letter that Roger Goodell sent to the NFL owners, there are major financial changes coming to the league office should a work stoppage occur.

Most prominently, according to the NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora, is Roger Goodell's salary being reduced to $1 (that's right: one dollar) in the event of a work stoppage.

Additionally, Jeff Pash, the chief negotiator for the league, will have his salary reduced to $1 if there's a work stoppage, upon his personal request.

VP's in the league office, according to the letter, will hold back 10 percent of their bonuses, Senior VP's will hold back 25 percent of their bonuses and Executive VP's will hold back 35 percent of their bonuses -- the amounts won't be paid until a new CBA is reached.

And, finally, annual bonuses for league office staff won't be paid until April.

But what does this all mean? Well, for starters, the lockout is getting close -- you can tell because the PR spinning has gotten ramped up in anticipation of the world's football media being all in one place over the next two weeks (Dallas for the Super Bowl, obviously).

And the word "work stoppage" is very interesting -- does that mean that Goodell's salary will become $1 as soon as the current CBA expires at the beginning of March? Or does that mean "if there's no football in 2011, the Commish only gets paid $1?"

Either way, there's a clear-cut emphasis by the league office to make it known that they too will suffer financially if there's a work stoppage. They just won't suffer as much as the players, who'll get $0 if that happens. Of course, on the bright side, every hard-working, NFL-watching fan will see a significant bump in salary without having to shell out for season tickets, Sunday Ticket, team jerseys, and all the other NFL-related amenities that come with being a fan of the sport.

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Posted on: January 18, 2011 5:07 pm

'Trash-talk' rule changes coming in 2011?

Posted by Will Brinson

The first order of business for the 2011 season is actually making sure it happens (it's not going well, by the way). There might also be some changes with the whole trash-talking "problem" in the NFL that emerged over the past couple of weeks, as well.

Or, at least, Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated as much in his press conference following the owners' meeting on Tuesday "There's got to be respect among people who play the game," Goodell said. "And I want to make sure it's respected throughout the league and it's something we're going to talk about in the offseason."

Asked whether there could be fines, Goodell said no but emphasized he wanted to see "respect for the game."

"I understand the approach of different teams and I think that's great," Goodell said. "I think that's healthy with their different approaches.

"There is also a line you don't want to cross, and we need to make sure we define that and we don't cross that."

The league clearly doesn't care for excessive smack-talking, particularly to the point where it becomes violent and/or threatening in nature.

Oddly enough, there was a significant amount of online discourse before the league commented on the Jets and Patriots comments as to how refreshing the NFL's hands-off approach was, at least compared to the NBA's.

More than likely, Goodell is fine with players keeping things spicy, but he doesn't want a situation in place where something violent actually does emerge from the trash-talking, because that would put an absolutely horrible spin on the league's public image.

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Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:44 pm

Hot Routes 01.18.11: Celebration motivation

Posted by Will Brinson

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • If you want to see George Atallah and Kevin Mawae discuss the labor situation live on the internets, you can do so here.
  • CBSSports.com's Bryan D. Fischer talks to the NCAA's Julie Roe Lach about compliance and agents. If you don't think this affects the NFL, you're not thinking.
  • And because I think you should really, really read this, I'm linking another CBSSports.com article. Deal with it. (But, no seriously, if you haven't read Gregg Doyel's take on the Aaron Rodgers saga, you need to do so right now.)
Posted on: January 15, 2011 9:29 am

Report: NFL issued warning on trash-talking

Posted by Will Brinson

The trash-talking that's taken place between the Patriots and Jets this week has been pretty epic. It began when Rex Ryan called the matchup a "personal" battle between he and Rex Ryan. Then it escalated when Antonio Cromartie called Tom Brady a bunch of names that journalists can't print. Then Wes Welker made like 50 foot references during a press conference. (Which may have only been topped in hysterical cleverness by Nick Mangold tweeting that "If we don't keep a Spy on [Welker], he could really open the Gate.")

The league apparently had enough (at some point) and, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, NFL VP of Operations Ray Anderson contacted all eight playoff teams late last week and issued a warning about trash-talking, while telling them to "respect the game."

The premise of Anderson reaching out is simple: some of the trash-talking crossed the line -- and possibly the rule book -- and the NFL doesn't want to see to a situation that evolves from verbal barbs in the media to danger on the football field, especially Sunday night.

And, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Anderson told the teams that if any illegal actions occurred on the field, "past comments will be considered in evaluating discipline."

All of that's to say, if Bart Scott lays into Welker in a manner that makes his days in a uniform "numbered" (which is what Scott said to Rod Boone of Newsday yesterday) and it's not a legal hit, he'll be a lot lighter in the wallet come next week.

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