The NFL owners meetings are underway at the Arizona Biltmore for the next few days, with the power brokers of the league coming together to talk about various topics and the league’s media stalking them on sidewalks and lobbies. From a Cardinals’ perspective, the last three owners meetings to come to town have coincided with two coach hires (Arians this year, Whisenhunt in 2007) and the splashy Emmitt Smith signing in 2003.
Comissioner Roger Goodell will have a press conference today, but we’ll see if there is more local news beyond that. I know the question keeps coming up — over and over — about Josh Cribbs, and there is again another report out of Cleveland today that Cribbs and the Cardinals are talking. To have it termed that he will “possibly” sign does leave the door wide open for nothing to go down. I don’t see the Cards taking on Cribbs unless it was totally on their terms. They don’t need a receiver per se, although I am sure they could fit Cribbs in in a role similar to LaRod Stephens-Howling if they wanted. At this point, when it’s done — if it’s done — is when it’s done.
And for those who still wonder, Rey Maualuga re-signed with the Bengals today. His door closed in Arizona once they signed Jasper Brinkley.
Tags: Josh Cribbs, owners meetings, Rey Maualuga, Roger Goodell
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With the Super Bowl a couple of weeks away, the NFL announced Sunday the finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, including Larry Fitzgerald. The other two finalists are Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. The NFL Man of the Year award is announced Feb. 2, the night before the Super Bowl, during a nationally televised awards show on CBS. We already knew Fitz was the Cards’ Man of the Year (with that award presented to him by team president Michael Bidwill, pictured below.)
The Cardinals’ Kurt Warner won it the year the Cardinals played in the Super Bowl. The award recognizes a player’s off-the-field community service as well his playing excellence. Finalists for the award received $5,000 for their charity of choice from NFL Charities. The winner receives a $25,000 donation.
The selection panel for the award is NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Walter Payton’s wife Connie, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk of the Ravens, and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.
Fitzgerald has increased his profile in charity work as his NFL career has progressed. The Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund provides funds for positive activities for kids during the summer and throughout the year, with programs in Arizona, Minneapolis (his home city) and Chicago (where his family is from). He works with the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund, established in honor of his late mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2003. That focuses on issues Fitz’s mother crusaded for, including HIV/AIDS education and the fight against breast cancer. Fitzgerald has also traveled the world extensively and often turned those trips in charity work, such as missions in Africa. In July, he flew to Uganda to assist President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea fit hearing aids for those in need.
Tags: Anthony Munoz, Frank Gifford, Joe Thomas, Joe Witten, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Birk, Paul Tagliabue, Roger Goodell, Walter Payton
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Born out of the constant discussion to make the NFL safer and prevent some of the dreaded concussions that have obviously become one of the league’s top topics, there has been talk about changing the kickoff rule again — this time, taking kickoffs out of the game altogether.
Certainly, that would be a drastic measure. The idea this time comes from first-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. Schiano, who watched one of his Rutgers players, Eric LeGrand, become paralyzed when he was hurt on a kickoff play, devised this idea: After Team A scores, instead of a kickoff, Team A would then have the ball on its own 30-yard line (just like a kickoff now) but would be handed, essentially, a 4th-and-15 play. The team could either punt from there or go for it (which replaces the possibility of an onside kick). Fail to gain a first down would give Team B the ball wherever it ended up, just as if it had been a normal fourth down situation.
Schiano first floated the idea back in 2011 when he was still at Rutgers. It has come up again, and now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has taken notice. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL’s competition committee (as is Ken Whisenhunt), said he thinks the kickoff situation will be addressed the next time the committee meets in the offseason.
There is a lot to consider with this, and changing the kickoff doesn’t necessarily mean going with Schiano’s drastic move. The league has talked often about how the most recent kickoff changes — moving the ball up, in particular, and other tweaks — have changed kickoff returns. Injuries are down, but so are electrifying returns. Touchbacks are way up.
Instituting the “Schiano rule” would impact the rosters. Punters would become more important. Kickers a little less so, now needed to just kick field goals and extra points (although some teams, who have punters kicking off, already have this situation). If you are a return man who can’t handle catching a punt in traffic, your chances of making it to the NFL decrease (you wonder what would have happened to a rookie seventh-round pick named LaRod Stephens-Howling if the current kickoff rules had been in place in 2009.) Patrick Peterson would get more chances to take one back, that’s for sure.
From a pure entertainment standpoint, such a new rule would certainly create an interesting wrinkle, not to mention making every post-scoring play look like a safety just happened. It seems a little too drastic to me. But at this point, given the way the league is trying to get safer, the game is clearly evolving, and that’s not going to stop.
Tags: competition committee, Greg Schiano, Jeff Fisher, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Patrick Peterson, Roger Goodell, rules
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The NFL and the NFL Referees Association announced Wednesday night the two sides had finally come to an agreement and the regular officials are coming back. It won’t be ratified before Friday and Saturday, but commissioner Roger Goodell lifted the lockout so the game tomorrow night between the Browns and Ravens will be covered by the regular guys.
If nothing else, it takes away a huge distraction from the first few weeks of the season. It was inevitable after the mess Monday night in Seattle The Cardinals had been fortunate in their first three games since there really had been no major issues that affected the outcome (although the extra timeout the refs gave the Seahawks in the opener would have cost the Cards had the Seahawks won late, and imagine if Seattle was 3-0 with two wins it shouldn’t have.)
As it is, the blown call in the Seahawks-Packers game could hurt the Cardinals. The Seahawks are 2-1 and not 1-2 in the NFC West.
“Well it was upsetting, because it does affect us,” Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb said. “In my eyes, it was clearly an interception. Just like anybody else around, it’s something that doesn’t sit well with us, because it directly affects us. That’s unfortunate at this level.”
The Cardinals have been careful not to say much of anything on the subject (although Darnell Dockett did drop an expletive on Twitter Monday night — not that it mattered, because the NFL decided not to fine any players critical and Dockett wasn’t the only one to use such language.) Coach Ken Whisenhunt made sure the message was that the Cards couldn’t let it bother them, no matter who the officials were. “We just want the right calls to be made,” Kolb said.
The official press release listed these particulars for the new eight-year agreement:
The agreement includes the following key terms:
– The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
– Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
– Apart from their benefit package, the game officials’ compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
– Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
– The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.
Those are details I’m sure most don’t care about. Most just care that the officials are back. And we’ll see how long it is before someone complains about one of the calls they make.
Tags: Kevin Kolb, officials, Packers, Roger Goodell, Seahawks
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The punishments for the New Orleans Saints — at least most of them, since the player punishments are still TBD — came down Wednesday and they provided the expected doozy: A year-long suspension without pay for Saints coach Sean Payton, an indefinite suspension for former DC Gregg Williams of at least a year, and an eight-game ban for general manager Mickey Loomis.
Obviously this isn’t about the Cardinals, although there are parts of this that do impact the Cards:
– To begin with, the Cardinals will be the first team to play the Saints, since the teams will match up Aug. 5 in the Hall of Fame game to kick off the preseason. Wonder what the talking points will be during that broadcast? You wonder if the Cards are just going to be in the background, because it’s hard to see the Saints’ storylines not dominating.
– The Saints lose second-round picks this year and next. That’ll move up the Cards’ third-round pick a slot sooner. We’ll see what it means in 2013.
– Once the regular season begins, the Cards know that Williams, who had since been hired as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, won’t be around. Williams may never be around in St. Louis; commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t assuring anyone that Williams will be reinstated. Not that new head coach Jeff Fisher can’t work around it — former Cards head coach Dave McGinnis, on staff with the Rams now as an assistant head coach, could drop into the DC role like he once did for the Cards. UPDATE: Fisher said the duties won’t go to a permanent DC. He, McGinnis and Chuck Cecil will split the work.
– Then there is the Kurt Warner tie-in. The original investigation sprouted from the way the Saints treated Warner, then the Cards’ QB, and Brett Favre, then with the Vikings, during the playoffs after the 2009 season. The Cards’ playoff game, in fact, was mentioned a couple of times in the NFL’s official release about the punishments, including Warner himself. “The investigation showed bounties being placed on four quarterbacks of opposing teams – Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers, and Kurt Warner.”
Warner, appearing on NFL Network Wednesday, had this to say about the punishment: “I’m shocked, like a lot of people, but not fully surprised. … But this is what Commissioner Goodell has done from Day One. And I love he is trying to make statements trying to protect our game for the long-term.”
Added Warner, “To a degree, this has gone on through the history of our game, where guys have gone out to hit guys really hard to knock them out of the game or at least knock them off their game so it affects (the hitting team) in a positive manner. Of course, not to the extent to where you are paying guys to hurt other guys, and I think that’s where this takes a different turn.”
– The NFL also made clear that they won’t let this happen again, sending a memo to all teams directing the owner of every team to meet with the head coach to confirm bounty systems aren’t in place in any other organization. Said the NFL release, “Each principal owner and head coach must certify this in writing to the commissioner by March 30.”
Tags: Dave McGinnis, Gregg Williams, Hall of Fame game, Jeff Fisher, Kurt Warner, Rams, Roger Goodell, Saints, Sean Payton
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
Now, there is a game in England every year, as much a part of the NFL landscape as Bill Belichick’s dry press conferences or James Harrison’s fines. Once, though, it was a big deal that the Cardinals and the 49ers were going to play the first NFL regular-season game out of the country, in Mexico City.
Back in 2005, we had the NFL’s then-COO, Roger Goodell, talking about wanting to see how a game outside the U.S would work. In a lot of ways, the Cards were a natural fit. A game against the 49ers at Sun Devil Stadium usually would only draw 35,000 or so and it would be half-empty; with the Cards set to move into University of Phoenix Stadium the next year, it made sense they would be the team to surrender a home game for the cause. That didn’t necessarily work for the Cardinals’ players, but in the big picture that usually doesn’t matter.
There were other reasons why the Cards were a match. On the practice squad was offensive lineman Rolando Cantu, the first Mexican citizen (non-kicker) ever to play in the NFL (Rolando is now a co-worker, his desk just a few cubicles down from me) wasn’t playing in the game but he was already a virtual rock star in Mexico because of his spot with the Cards. (Cantu officially played in the NFL the final game of the 2005 season in Indianapolis, cementing his legacy.)
The Cards tried to approach the journey to Mexico as just another road trip. Don’t forget, it was mixed in with the Cards’ poor 0-3 start, including an groin strain the week before in Seattle for first-year quarterback Kurt Warner. Josh McCown was back at QB, facing future Card Tim Rattay as the 49ers QB, since rookie Alex Smith had yet to win the job. Ideally, the Cards wouldn’t have given up a home game, especially since most of the 100,000-plus fans (final attendance was officially 103,467) who had a rooting interest would be rooting for the 49ers.
That changed quickly, when veteran safety Robert Griffith came charging out during introductions waving a huge Mexican flag. Suddenly, many fans who hadn’t cared about who won and who lost now took a liking to the Cards. The game started horribly, with the Cards fumbling on each of their first two possessions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. It was a 14-0 hole and San Francisco hadn’t even been on offense. But the Cards rallied, and rallied big.
McCown ended up with arguably his best day as a Cardinal (32-for-46, 385 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) and kicker Neil Rackers had his best day of his best season, making all six of his field-goal attempts (Rackers set an NFL record with 40 field goals, in 42 attempts, that season.) The game, by all accounts, was a success (OK, maybe the 49ers wouldn’t agree) and paved the way for the future games outside the U.S.
My lingering memory, aside from Griffith’s run? My paper at the time was still backward in its technology and I may have been the only one without a wireless capability on my laptop. I was worried about getting a landline at the stadium (The NFL did a great job of hooking me up despite those nasty long-distance rates) and it paid off – stadium workers breaking down after the game kept shutting off the wireless connections, leaving only backwards-me uninterrupted access to the internet on deadline.
Tags: Josh McCown, Mexico, Neil Rackers, Revisionist history, Robert Griffith, Roger Goodell, Rolando Cantu, Sun Devil Stadium, Tim Rattay
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So last month there was a flash of hype about the high-ranking draftees possibly not attending the draft in New York and not shaking commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, all because of the labor situation and the whole players-versus-league concept. That seemed to fade, but it was impossible to know how much.
Today, we know. It turns out a record 25 players will attend the draft, crushing last year’s mark of 17 attendees. The NFL just announced it via e-mailed press release. The names to attend:
|Prince Amukamara||CB||Nebraska||Corey Liuget||DT||Illinois|
|Akeem Ayers||LB||UCLA||Von Miller||LB||Texas A&M|
|Adrian Clayborn||DE||Iowa||Rahim Moore||S||UCLA|
|Randall Cobb||WR||Kentucky||Cam Newton||QB||Auburn|
|Marcell Dareus||DT||Alabama||Patrick Peterson||CB||Louisiana State|
|Nick Fairley||DT||Auburn||Mike Pouncey||G/C||Florida|
|Blaine Gabbert||QB||Missouri||Aldon Smith||DE||Missouri|
|AJ Green||WR||Georgia||Tyron Smith||T||Southern California|
|Mark Herzlich||LB||Boston College||Phil Taylor||DT||Baylor|
|Mark Ingram||RB||Alabama||Danny Watkins||G||Baylor|
|Cameron Jordan||DE||California||JJ Watt||DE||Wisconsin|
|Julio Jones||WR||Alabama||Ryan Williams||RB||Virginia Tech|
Tags: draft, Roger Goodell
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By mid-afternoon, we will know if the Cardinals will have sold out the home opener Sunday against the 49ers, preventing a local TV blackout. There are an estimated 2,000 tickets left (probably less than that by now), and there is always a chance, if the team gets close, the NFL will extend the blackout deadline 24 hours to give the team the chance at that sellout. UPDATE: The blackout deadline has been extended to Friday.
Blackouts, given the economy, will be an issue in the NFL this season. Jacksonville has already said they expect every one of their games to be blacked out locally and the Chargers are another team that has been up front in talking about probably blackouts. The NFL has steadfastly maintained it will not change its blackout rules, although it did announce today the ability to see the game on a delayed basis — for free — on NFL.com.
From the league’s release: The league’s new NFL Game Rewind package on NFL.com will make all games available on an on-demand, subscription basis throughout the 2009 regular and postseason. However, games blacked out locally for failing to sell out 72 hours in advance will be available on NFL.com at no cost in the affected home markets. These free “re-broadcasts” locally of blacked-out games will be available at NFL.com beginning at midnight on the day of the game and remain available for 72 hours (except during ESPN Monday Night Football telecasts). “We understand that the economy is limiting some families and corporations from buying as many game tickets as they had previously,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “These free re-broadcasts on NFL.com will allow our fans that can’t get to a blacked-out game an opportunity to see the entire game.”
Tags: 49ers, Blackouts, Roger Goodell
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This aftermath comes directly from the final charter flight of the preseason, late night Thursday (and by the time it’s posted, it’ll be Friday, when everyone is sleeping). One thing coach Ken Whisenhunt said that seems perfectly rational – it’s so hard to judge the fourth preseason game, more than any of the other preseason matchups. The second half is littered with guys on both sides who either aren’t going to be on the roster when the season starts or will play little on offense or defense (if they are active at all). Is there reason to be concerned? Clearly, guys like Adrian Wilson, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald didn’t seem particularly happy. Ultimately, though, it’s impossible to know what this all means until the 49ers visit in 10 days or so.
So, knowing what we know (or can’t really know, since it’s the fourth preseason game), here are some thoughts:
– Very interesting that Whisenhunt went out of his way to praise cornerback Michael Adams after the game. Ralph Brown and Bryant McFadden weren’t playing because of bad ankles, and, especially since Adams can be so effective as a gunner in punt coverage, I’m beginning to think he’s made this roster. You never know, but when you’re on the bubble and the coach is delivering specific kudos, that’s a good sign.
– On the flip side, it’s hard to see Lance Long having a chance to make the team. He has played a ton the past two games and yet it doesn’t seem like he has left enough of a lasting impression.
– All through the preseason, Warner has downplayed the offense’s issues, saying how good he felt despite the results. That seems to have changed to an extent. Warner knows what this offense can do, but he talked about not being on the same page and Whisenhunt talked about being out of sync. Some of that may do with the receivers; Steve Breaston was clearly rusty (he lined up wrong twice and was flagged for ‘covering up’ a lineman or tight end in an illegal formation) and Anquan Boldin isn’t playing. But Fitzgerald is fine and Warner couldn’t hook up with him a time or two. It’s hard not to remember how the offense sputtered a bit in the season opener against the 49ers last season despite a win and wonder if it could happen again.
– It’s impossible to know what the defense was or who was supposed to be where, but the lone big play given up by the starting defense came when the Chad Jackson got past Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Cards need big things from DRC; you just hope his confidence is still where it needs to be. I’m sure he’s not looking at these past two games as résumé material.
That’s really it. Cuts come tomorrow, and as I said in my radio stint before Thursday’s game, I am willing to wager a good amount of money that won’t be it – and that the Cards will bring in a player or two cut from other teams by the time they get back to practice next week (OK, I wouldn’t really wager. Commissioner Goodell would frown upon that, and I’d lose my job. But you get what I mean.)
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bryant McFadden, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DRC, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Lance Long, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Adams, Ralph Brown, Roger Goodell, Steve Breaston
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