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Bears refuse to bend to new kickoff rule, told by league to stop mid-game

Source: Shutdown Corner

Written By: Doug Farrar

The Chicago Bears were one of six NFL teams that reportedly voted against the new rule moving kickoffs to the 35-yard line of the team doing the kicking. The rule, which moves the ball up from the 30-yard line and should cause more touchbacks and fewer exciting returns, was implemented by the league’s competition committee at the owners meetings in March as a move to improve player safety. The thought was that those exciting returns also involve too many high-speed collisions, but the Bears weren’t buying it.

In their Saturday preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the Bears refused to accept the new rule, and instead lined up their first two kickoffs at their 30, as had been in the past. Apparently, the officials on site didn’t catch it, because no penalties were called and it took a call from vice president of officiating Carl Johnson(notes) to “put a stop to it,” according to the Twitter account of Johnson’s predecessor, current FOX Sports analyst Mike Pereira.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who’s had return teams among the league’s best for a number of years, seemed unaffected by the violations and any potential fallout. In other words, it wasn’t a mistake.

“[Bears kicker] Robbie Gould(notes) … we can put it on the 35 and he can kick it out each time,” Smith said. ”We’re not really getting a good evaluation of what we can do coverage-wise on some of our players. That’s what we were trying to do with it.”

Last year, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Bears ranked first in average starting drive position — their average drive began just after their own 33-yard line. The Houston Texans were the worst team in this category; their average drive started just past their own 25-yard line. With almost a first-down’s difference between best and worst, and given Chicago’s recent history of great return men from Devin Hester(notes) to Danieal Manning(notes) to Johnny Knox(notes) (the picture above shows Knox taking a kick 70 yards in that very same Bills game), you can understand why Smith and the Bears aren’t pleased about giving up an advantage they have obviously built their personnel decisions around.

The decision to move the ball up would actually help the Bears’ kick coverage teams — FO notes that Chicago ranked 24th in average drive start allowed, allowing opponents to start at about their own 30-yard line. The Atlanta Falcons backed their opponents up to about the 24 on kicks last season, so there’s the team that should be upset that the skill element has been taken out of the equation.

The rule seems like an overreaction built to take fun and excitement out of the game, and there have already been fairly serious effects. In the first preseason week alone, according to Paul Domowitch of Philly.com, 43 of 127 kickoffs, or 33.8 percent, were touchbacks. Throughout the 2010 season, the touchback rate was 16.4 percent.

It doesn’t take a math major to understand the effect on the game, and why the Bears want to go rogue on this rule. Will they continue to do so, and what might the penalties be?

Expanded NFL Network deal could be a boon to CFL

Source: 55 Yard Line

Written By: Andrew Bucholtz


Back in March, I wrote that the ongoing NFL labour dispute could provide expanded U.S. television opportunities for the CFL, and one logical channel to pursue those was the NFL Network, which generally showed one CFL game per week last season. Months later and only just over a week before the CFL season’s set to start, an expanded NFL Network deal has finally come through, with the CFL announcing Tuesday that two games per week will be shown south of the border on NFLN this year. That’s a big break for the CFL, but it could also prove advantageous for NFLN.

From the CFL’s perspective, there’s plenty to be gained from this deal. There’s undoubtedly some money involved, but the larger goal may be having their product visible to fans south of the border. There are still a good number of Americans interested in the league, and the ongoing uncertainty over if there will be a 2011-12 NFL season may motivate even more American viewers to check out the CFL’s product. NFLN has a reasonably wide reach and a demographic of primarily hardcore football fans, which makes considerable sense for the CFL to target. Moreover, as the league found last year, having their product on NFLN also serves as a way for players’ friends and families to see their games, and it can be an excellent recruitment tool to attract prospective players as well.

However, this could work out very well for the NFL Network as well. If the NFL lockout carries over into the start of their season, all of a sudden they’ll be quite short of programming; much of the network’s content is highlights, analysis and news, and there isn’t going to be a lot on any of those fronts without a NFL season. They’ll still have documentaries, player rankings and such, but live football content is a nice break from that, and that can be particularly advantageous when there isn’t much else available in the way of pro football. Also, the costs on their end are minimal, as they’re just picking up TSN’s feed (created in production trucks like the one above).

The NFL Network schedule for the first five weeks has been released, with more games to follow later. The network will carry the league’s season opener live on June 30, with the B.C. Lions heading to Montreal to face the Grey Cup champion Alouettes at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Their next broadcast is July 2 at 8 p.m. Eastern, and will be tape-delayed coverage of the July 1 Toronto Argonauts – Calgary Stampeders game. The next four weeks all feature two live games, including Saturday doubleheaders on July 9 and July 16. This could be an excellent chance for American viewers to get some actual football in between lockout news. For the full schedule so far, scroll down to the bottom of this release.

Sorry, Wikipedia, Matt Lambros is not dead yet

Source: 55 Yard Line

Written By: Andrew Bucholtz

Montreal Alouettes’ receiver Matt Lambros has to feel like a certain famous plague victim; every time he protests that he’s not yet dead yet, others try to whack him over the head with Wikipedia and put him on the cart. As The Gazette‘s Herb Zurkowsky writes, Lambros’ Wikipedia page reported he’d died in a October car accident for several months last winter, and it proved notoriously difficult to correct the report.

“To this day, I still don’t know who was behind it,” Lambros said Saturday, after the Als held one afternoon workout at Bishop’s University under cool and windy conditions – the first time in a week the team has received a break from the heat. “I assumed some friends had done it as a joke. I knew something was wrong when I started receiving text messages from high-school friends, making sure I was okay.”

Even Marcel Desjardins, the Als’ assistant general manager, contacted Lambros’s agent, Montreal’s Darren Gill, for confirmation the prospect hadn’t reached room temperature.

“There was,” Desjardins said, attempting to conceal his laughter, “no indication that he no longer was breathing.”

Almost all of the 18 million articles that appear on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with access to the site, Gill discovered. For every time Gill went in and edited Lambros’s death notice, it just as quickly was changed back, although it finally has been corrected – both Lambros and Gill hope for good.

“He was just as frustrated,” Gill said. “It’s weird.

“But it’ll be a good story if he can make it.”

Lambros is a good story all on his own, though. The 6’2”, 210-pound non-import receiver was chosen by Toronto in the second round of the 2009 Canadian college draft after a successful career with the NCAA Division I FCS Liberty University Flames. He actually attended Liberty, a private Christian university in Virginia, after he was recommended to Flames’ head coach Danny Rocco by current Toronto Argonauts’ coach and general manager Jim Barker. Lambros, the son of former Eskimos’ linebacker Mike Lambros. Barker coached the Stampeders in 2003 and went back in 2005 as general manager, but ran a football camp for high-school prospects in between, and Lambros was one of his attendees. Barker sent video of Lambros off to Liberty and helped him land a slot there; Lambros repaid the Flames by helping them to Big South Conference championships in 2007 and 2008.

Toronto drafted Lambros in 2009, and he made an impression at first. He was cut in training camp but earned a practice-roster slot and suited up for their first game against Hamilton, where he caught a 22-yard pass for a touchdown. It would turn out to be his only reception of the year, though; he played in the next two games, but was mostly limited to special-teams duty, and wound up blowing out his ACL in the third game of the season while on kickoff coverage. He made it back to training camp with the Argos in 2010, but was released last June.

Now, Lambros is set for another shot at the CFL, and he may have a good chance to perhaps help replace the legendary Ben Cahoon in the Alouettes’ receiving corps. He’ll have to compete with the likes of Danny Desriveaux and Eric Deslauriers, but both are older and have their own injury issues to worry about. Contrary to Wikipedia, Lambros has not kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible. He’s not dead yet, and his CFL career may still be alive as well.

AEG has talked with five NFL teams about relocating to Los Angeles












Source: Shutdown Corner

Written By: Doug Farrar

The fact that the Southern California-based AEG corporation is interested in bringing an NFL team back to Los Angeles may be the worst-kept secret in America. But the company, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz and run by president Tim Leiweke (brother of former Seattle Seahawks CEO Tod), expressed real and concrete interest in moving a team to SoCal — the first time in 16 years that the league would be located there — for a Thursday story in the Orange County Register.

“St. Louis, Jacksonville, not extensively, certainly Oakland, San Diego, Minnesota are still in the mix,” Leiweke told reporter Scott M. Reed, when asked which franchises AEG had been talking to. Leiweke then added: “We’re not packing any (moving) vans right now.”

Leiweke then put it all on the table and said that AEG would be willing to pay to get a team out of a current stadium lease, citing the $24 million payment the Chargers would apparently have to make to get out of their current agreement.

When speaking to a group in Pacific Palisades on Thursday, according to Reid, Leiweke said that the $1.35 billion project to build Farmers Field (the as-yet nonexistent L.A. football field with a current name sponsor in Farmers Insurance) and renovate the Los Angeles Convention Center would bring $45 million per year in new taxes placed on hotel stays, property, employees, and sales. AEG is currently negotiating a lease for the property on which the new stadium will stand; it’s assumed that any team could play in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until a new stadium was built.

AEG is also committing to write checks to cover any bridge between a debt on stadium bonds and revenue created, and the company is trying to get a memorandum of understanding with the Los Angeles City Council by July 31, according to Reid. If that happens, AEG can move forward, and would certainly want to enter into more comprehensive and aggressive talks with a current NFL team, or with the NFL about a new team.

Where this becomes interesting is that in order to end the current lockout (by choice or by force), it’s almost certain that the owners will have to make concessions they don’t want to make in order to avoid more stringent penalties by an Eighth Circuit Court that now seems more committed to ending the lockout, even if it shortfalls both sides. The bill for that will fall in the lap of Roger Goodell, and the best way for Goodell to save his own bacon will be to facilitate the sale of a team, or the expansion of the league, and the fat fees those moves generally put in the pockets of all owners.

In other words, when labor peace exists again, job one for Goodell will be to refill the coffers to the levels the owners expected when this labor standoff began, and AEG may be the organization willing — and able — to do so.

Don’t worry, fans – Goodell says that the lockout is for your own good!

Source: Shutdown Corner

Written By: Doug Farrar

In the months and months we’ve had to deal with the NFL’s labor impasse, we’ve heard a lot of stuff from both sides that could best be described, as William Burroughs once did on an another subject, as “a thin tissue of horse[bleep].” Rhetoric isn’t held by one side or the other, though the owners have more practiced advocates of the gilded phrase in their cadre of attorneys and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell himself. A few weeks ago, I was able to sit in on a conference call between Goodell and Seattle Seahawks season ticket holders.

While most of what Goodell said was the standard stuff, one thing really stood out. In a statement that sounded canned at the time, Goodell said to one season ticket holder that the lockout instigated by the league was for the good of the fans, as well. Goodell said that the NFL must roll back overall costs (read: payments to the players) so that ticket prices could be reined in. At the time, it sounded like such an enormous vat of bull-pucky that I assumed Goodell was trying it out on what most people consider a smaller market, and he’d never actually stoop to believing that the NFL’s audience would be stupid enough to believe that the owners’ need to take equal proceeds from the players — proceeds those players have earned with their blood, sweat and broken bones — was somehow related to the ever-increasing expense of the NFL experience.

I was wrong.

When Goodell recently did the same call with Tampa Bay Buccaneers season ticket holders, he put out the exact same canard, where it was picked up by the Tampa Tribune, and then by Pro Football Talk.

More than one Bucs season-ticket holder told Goodell the pace of the collective bargaining talks have left them feeling anything but special and that fans are being taken for granted.

Goodell tried to assure that was not the case. The rising cost of attending games, he said, is one reason the league is working hard to hammer out a favorable CBA.

“We can’t continue to shift the cost, whether it’s the rising player cost or the rising cost of operating an NFL franchise, on to our fans,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to get a better economic model.

“And I think everyone understands that. You are not being left out of the equation. The fans are a big part of that equation and a big part of the success of NFL football.”

To put it as bluntly as possible, this is the biggest load of crap I have ever heard or read in my entire life. The man running the same league that treats Super Bowl nosebleed seat attendees about as well as Guantanamo residents has absolutely no business whatsoever trying to equate a power move that threw thousands of people into open-ended unemployment with no insurance, medical assistance or known future with some sort of nebulous fan interest. The man running the league that tried to hoard $4 billion in TV money to break the NFLPA once and for all offends the base intelligence of the dumbest person in creation when he tries to insist that the lockout is about anything but a craven money-grab that would make the producer of a reality TV show blush.

Aaron Schatz has the burden of being my editor at Football Outsiders, and he also happens to hold a degree in economics from Brown University. Aaron was equally offended.

This is nonsense. Ticket prices are primarily decided by two variables: supply of tickets and demand for tickets. That’s basic economics. When you’re pricing tickets, you charge what the market will bear. It doesn’t matter what your player costs are. Otherwise, all 32 teams would be non-profit operations.

If you cut costs, you don’t drop your ticket prices. You take profit home. I can’t think of any team that wouldn’t want more profit, except perhaps Green Bay.

If player costs go up, you don’t raise ticket prices past the point where supply and demand meet. That’s inefficient, because the rise in prices won’t make up for the corresponding drop in ticket sales.

Hey Roger, do you want to lower ticket prices for fans? STOP CHARGING FULL PRICE FOR PRESEASON EXHIBITION GAMES. Heck, you could even shift the charges and raise the cost of regular season tickets to cover the drop in the prices of preseason tickets, and I bet most fans would be fine with that. People are just plain offended at the idea that preseason games cost the same amount of money as regular season games. Last time I checked, the Red Sox don’t charge $100 for spring training tickets.

At a time when negotiations between the owners and players finally seem to be taking the right turn, it is a move of unbelievable stupidity for Goodell to say such things. After all this time, lying to the fans will do nothing to curry public favor, and unless Goodell wants to outline just how taking money away from the players is going to drop the price of season tickets and DIRECTV subscription rates, that’s exactly what he’s doing — lying through his teeth.

If Goodell wants to act in the best interest of the league, the players and the fans, the best course of action is to cut the silly conference calls, get back in the room, and help to figure out a deal that’s best for all involved. Propaganda is beyond useless at this point — it’s dangerous and destructive to the idea of a full season, and labor peace in the future.

Just shut up, Rog. That’s all we ask.

NFL fan loyalty on the decline?

Source: TSN

INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL is seeing the early signs of cracks in fan loyalty.

Ten weeks into the owners’ lockout of the players, commissioner Roger Goodell noted Wednesday the negative effect the labour dispute is having on pro football.

“Clearly it has had an impact on the fans,” Goodell said as the owners completed their spring meetings. “We see it in various metrics. There’s been a noticeable change, TV ratings were down on the draft roughly four million people. NFL.com traffic (is down), we see that.”

Ticket sales also are down.

“Fans want certainty,” Goodell added. “We can’t underestimate that the fans are going through challenges just in the general economy.”

That certainty isn’t likely to come soon. Both sides have a date in 8th U.S. District Court on June 3 for hearings on the league’s appeal to uphold the lockout. A decision probably won’t come for several weeks, and while another set of mediation sessions is scheduled to start June 7, not much is expected from those discussions while the appeal is being considered.

The owners’ meetings included lengthy talks about the labour dispute, but no deadlines have been set — yet — for the opening of training camps, which usually happens in late July. That drop-dead date “obviously is coming,” Goodell said, barring a collective bargaining agreement.

“We’ve made it clear that (revenue loss) is current and will continue to accelerate and impact on the ability of ownership to make an offer (the players) find attractive,” he said.

Owners were presented the full range of plans for opening weekend, from the first game on Thursday night at Lambeau Field to commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks on the first full Sunday of games. Those dates are not in jeopardy yet, but the longer the impasse, the more in danger they would become, particularly with the league’s marketing partners, sponsors and advertisers who must commit dollars to those events well in advance.

“We’re not at an Armageddon date,” Eric Grubman, executive vice-president of business operations for the NFL, told The Associated Press. “We’re not staring that in the face this week.”

Several teams already have begun to consider adjusting where they hold training camp. Fifteen teams trained last summer at complexes other than their in-season facilities, and some have deadlines as early as July 1 to decide whether to return to those locales or hold a truncated training camp at home.

“If it dragged on or there was a shorter camp, something like that might not be inconceivable,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said. The Colts training camp is held about an hour from Indianapolis at Anderson University.

One day after cancelling the rookie symposium scheduled for June 26 in Canton, Ohio — the first NFL event victimized by the lockout — Goodell reiterated the league’s intent to play a full schedule this season. He recognized the need not only for some sort of training camps but also for a free agency signing period once a new CBA is reached.

“The uncertainty is something we have to consider in getting players ready to play, and we have talked about different concepts,” he said.

A portion of these meetings was spent on adopting rules amendments for player safety. The league also announced a policy of “club accountability” for teams whose players repeatedly are fined for flagrant hits.

Punishments for the teams will be financial, but also could include further discipline by Goodell, including stripping of draft picks, for repeat offenders — something Goodell said he has “not contemplated yet.”

That announcement brought a strong reaction from two Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers: LaMarr Woodley and the oft-fined James Harrison.

“Thoughts on “the steelers rule”??? lol im sorry that im not sorry we hit 2 hard,” Woodley tweeted.

Harrison’s tweet was: “I’m absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots.”

Local reporters, concerned about next February’s Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium, asked several owners and Goodell whether the title game is in danger.

“You’re going to have the Super Bowl here, I’m confident of that,” Giants owner John Mara said.

“We’re approaching 2011,” Goodell added, “as we would any other season.”

Lingerie Football expands to Toronto

(Las Vegas, NV. – April 12, 2011) – Lingerie Football League, LLC. (LFL) officials are excited to announce the league has officially gone international with 2011 expansion into Toronto. The LFL will premiere its Toronto franchise in Fall 2011 to compete in the Eastern Conference of its US league against the Cleveland Crush, Philadelphia Passion, Baltimore Charm, Tampa Breeze and Orlando Fantasy. Toronto is part of an aggressive five team expansion of the LFL which also includes 2011 markets of Cleveland, Las Vegas, Minnesota and Green Bay.

“It has been incredible journey over the first two seasons of LFL Football, our expansion into Toronto is the first step toward a more significant footprint of the LFL brand into Canada. Our game will translate well into a country that has a tremendous sports culture that not only understands football but is fanatical in its support”, said, Mitchell S. Mortaza, Founder & Chairman, Lingerie Football League, LLC.

A Canadian LFL league is set to begin play in September 2012 with a (12) twelve week season in (6) six markets, one of which will be Toronto. The Canadian markets currently being considered to play alongside Toronto include Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Montreal, BC, Hamilton and Ottawa.