Archive for the ‘CBA mess’ Category

Remember the offseason that just ended about a month ago, and that bounty thing in which Saints players allegedly paid each other money to do a thing that resulted in potential injuries to opposing players, most notably Brett Favre? Yeah, that’s still a thing, and today a three-member appeals panel issued their ruling on the appeal launched by the four players in question (Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove).

That’s when something shocking and unexpected happened. The panel ruled in favor of the players, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That means all of the suspensions are voided, and the players have been freed.

Vilma succinctly summarized the feelings of the group after their victory over sheriff Roger Goodell.

He then proceeded to plot his revenge on his evil twin brother that he became separated from in the womb after a spirited sperm laser battle.

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The word “likely” was inserted into that headline out of clinging, desperate, misguided optimism. When it comes to replacement officials, we’re sort of like the pimple-faced 16-year-old who screams in terror and calls his local Internet provider while watching Kate Upton cut her shirt in half, hoping against hope that his connection returns upon the 18th viewing.

But alas, it seems that for both those whose pubescent urges are uncontrollable and those who seek competent officiating in their NFL games, hope is fleeting, and fading. That’s odd, because I’ve never once concluded that those two groups would have something in common.

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There are only three zeros in that number. NFL owners can’t actually see or read any number that has less than four zeros. They once knew how to count that low, but they haven’t needed to use numbers that small in years.

As we prepare to begin another week of preseason play tonight with replacement officials who once worked the mean high school and lingerie football fields, talks are still in the not talking phase between the NFL and its regular officials. It’s not an ideal situation for a league that preaches player safety, only a year after player safety was a major talking point during labor negotiations that threatened the 2011 season.

Speaking of which, if you take only a cursory glance at the coverage of the ongoing lockout of the regular NFL zebras, it looks quite familiar. There are accusations of accusing, and claims that statements of fact are entirely false, and then the standard bickering and belittling. Good times.

But once we get past that forest, there’s some interesting math in the latest statement made by the Referee’s Association.

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The replacement officials will screw up. They’ll look bad at times, and they’re going to make you really angry. Maybe they’ll do it a little more than the regular refs (more on that in a minute), but still, fans hating referees is a sacred tradition that’s existed ever since it was determined that officials of some kind are needed to enforce rules during organized sporting events.

So go ahead, be mad when the replacement officials blow a call. Be really, really mad. Just don’t be surprised. Naturally, replacement refs won’t be as good as the regular refs, because if they were then they ‘d be regular refs. And since the replacement refs aren’t even coming from major college conferences, the step down in some cases may be significant, with some zebras plucked from leagues where clothing is nearly optional.

None of this is news, or a new development, as we’ve known for quite some time that if replacement refs were used in games, they’ll probably suck. But while we know where most of these officials came from (the lower tiers of college football, or the arena league, or retirement), how exactly did they become available to work NFL games right now, and potentially during the season? Was there a fallout of some kind with their previous employer?

In a series of tweets last night, CBS’ Mike Freeman answered those questions with a few damning examples of incompetence and misconduct among the current scabs.

The first one involved a disgraced former teacher:

One of the replacement refs, a line judge working a game tonight, was fired from his job as a teacher after it was discovered he sent letters that contained scrawled threats and racist hate messages to co-workers. It was determined this line judge actually sent the racist cards to himself and others, so he could be transferred. Eventually, the school used a handwriting expert to determine the teacher wrote the notes, according to a published report.

Meh. Participating in an organized poker tournament five years ago is still way worse. It’s not even close.

While sending racist threats and hate mail to facilitate your own firing definitely shows a major character flaw — you know, the kind in which you’re a complete asshole — it may not have any bearing on an official’s ability to make the correct calls on a football field.

OK, fair enough. But this does:

A second replacement official was at the center of what is considered one of the worst officiated Pac-10 games in that league’s history. USC-Stanford game in 2010. Late in the game, USC ahead. Close game. Official, now a replacement ref, forgot to start the clock. This allowed Stanford to get ball back sooner than it should have and they won the game. Writers covering the contest called it one of the worst officiated games they had ever seen.

So yeah, there’s that. Brutal.

Call this rumor mongering if you want, but through one full night of preseason play the scabs haven’t done themselves many favors. There was a particularly glaring error in the Bills-Redskins game that unnecessarily cost Buffalo a challenge.

From NFL.com:

With 3:50 remaining in the first quarter, Bills punter Brian Moorman hit a 49-yard punt that was down by Ruvell Martin at the 4-yard line. Back judge Craig Burd saw it differently, ruling the play a touchback.

The ball was marched to the 20 as the crowd in Orchard Park rained boos down on the field. The local Bills telecast captured Moorman screaming at a side judge.

Bills coach Chan Gailey challenged the play moments before the Redskins were able to run another play. The call was overturned.

It’s preseason, so this mistake didn’t matter, because nothing really matters in preseason games. But during the regular season when every timeout and every challenge is vital and guarded like gold, there’s the potential that a slip of this nature could be a game-altering one.

The locked out officials know that, which is why they’re chillin’, smiling, and collecting their leverage one day at a time.

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Rules of any kind have a clearly defined purpose, and if there was a justifiable reason to regularly turn your eyes in a different direction when a rule is violated, then it simply wouldn’t exist anymore. It would vanish, and become obsolete.

That’s a general rule about rules. But the truth is that common sense can often trump a lot of rules. And that’s why a replacement referee’s participation in a very organized and very well-known poker event five years ago shouldn’t matter. At all.

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The final domino has fallen. The icing is on the cake. The turtle has crossed the finish line. The fat lady is singing.

The new collective bargaining agreement has officially been ratified and the new league year is underway. That means that free agents signed over the last six days can finally begin to practice with their new teams. It also means that we can put the finishing touches on our analysis of a pact that the league and its players will abide by for the next decade.

They want your blood: The NFL has become the first American professional sports league to institute blood tests to detect human growth hormone, according to Judy Battista of the New York Times. Random blood tests are expected to start before Week 1. The fact that the league was able to get the union to agree to blood tests is probably more important than the HGH aspect of this development. Now it’ll be easier to scan for emerging drugs in future seasons.

Roger is still the man: Commissioner Roger Goodell will retain the power to discipline players himself, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Lots of players don’t like the current disciplinary system and would rather have a neutral party handing out fines and suspensions for antics on and off the field. That’s the case in the NHL, where commissioner Gary Bettman cedes that power to a chief disciplinarian (currently former player Brendan Shanahan). Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark recently stated that changing the disciplinary system was a “deal-breaker.” Turns out it wasn’t.

More cuts likely to come: The ratification means teams have one day to get under the salary cap. Based on numbers from ProFootballTalk, that means the Raiders have to release $15 million worth of players in less than 24 hours. Teams also over the cap: Pittsburgh, Detroit, Dallas and Houston.

Here’s the best part: We’re done with the above “CBA mess” blog category for the next 10 years.

Once again, I realize that, typically, the only people who care about the media … are members of media. But with collective bargaining agreement negotiations behind closed doors, the peeps who can break stories at times like those are invaluable.

With the process now over with, here are our final rankings from the 136 days of hell:

1. Albert Breer, NFL Network — Mr. Reliable spent around 725 hours on sidewalks, giving fans the latest on meetings and negotiation sessions every step of the way. He’s getting some major props for his work.

2. Adam Schefter, ESPN – He was quiet early in the process but rose to the occasion late. He was the go-to breaking news guy on Twitter during the final weekend of discussions.

3. Liz Mullen, Sports Business Journal — She actually knows and understands the issues and provided a lot of context via Twitter.

4. Mark Maske, Washington Post — Sometimes it felt like he was in the room. No one seemed to have more details than Maske.

5. Jim Trotter, Sports Illustrated — Trotter was hit and miss, but he clearly had some stellar sources on the players side.

6. Michael Silver, Yahoo! Sports — He didn’t deny having a pro-player bias, but sometimes his articles came across as PR pieces. It was a little much.

7. Jay Glazer, Fox Sports — He had some clutch tweets late in the ordeal. And he gets extra points for being first to report that this thing was done.

8. Chris Mortensen, ESPN – Mort had a lot of big info related to the players’ vote and the desired opt-out clause later on.

9. Judy Battista, New York Times — Never had any major news but was often one of the first reporters to get the details out there.

10. Dan Kaplan, Sports Business Journal — Another important Twitter presence with tremendous sources.