AFC West: Roger Goodell

There is no doubt: The Pro Bowl -- the annual all-star game of the NFL -- is not a shining light of the game.

But it can be fixed. It does not need to go away. It is salvageable.

The Pro Bowl, which will be played Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, has lost steam for various reasons in recent years. There is a chance the league will end the traditional game between the AFC’s and NFC's best.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Aaron Rodgers
USA TODAY SportsIn the past, Aaron Rodgers has complained about the effort level by some players at the Pro Bowl.
A big part of the reason the game has lost its luster is a couple of changes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has made.

For years, the game was always played in Hawaii the weekend after the Super Bowl. It would send the NFL into the offseason. Now it is played the Sunday before the Super Bowl and Hawaii is no longer the exclusive site of the game.

I think the league has to come to an agreement with Hawaii to be the permanent host. I’ve covered a few Pro Bowls there and they are always a raving success. Yes, it’s a long way away from the mainland and, yes, Aloha Stadium is an epic dump.

But so what? It’s an once-a-year affair. Many fans travel to the game, and local fans love it. Players also enjoy the Hawaii experience. Hawaii treats players and their families like royalty all week.

I also think the league needs to put the game at the end of the season again. I know the game has gotten some good television ratings in this current format, and that is vital to the league. But the product will be better if players from the Super Bowl get a chance to play.

It was always a cool tradition when the players from the winning team showed up every Wednesday to a ton of island fanfare. Without the Super Bowl players available, it dilutes the talent base even more. Every year, players bail out because of injuries, whether they are big or small. Why build in another way to lose talent?

Of course, one of the biggest issues for why the Pro Bowl has lost interest is the quality of play. The action isn't exactly fierce. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has complained about the effort level of some players in the game.

This week, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning gave a speech to the Pro Bowl players to play hard during the game to ensure they all get the opportunity to go to future Pro Bowls.

Regardless of any pleas to perform, this will never be a regular-season quality game. But it doesn’t have to be. Fans want to get one last look at their favorite players for the season and they want to see points scored.

It is attainable.

At the end of the day, I’m not passionate about the Pro Bowl. If it goes away, I’ll thank the Pro Bowl for the memories and move forward.

But I do think it can be salvaged with some easy fixes. The NFL is the greatest product in all of sports and it is the most popular and most financially successful of American sports.

If baseball and basketball can have all-star events that are put on well and that are anticipated parts of the schedule, why can’t the NFL do the same?

NFL hits Joe Mays back

September, 25, 2012
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This is the most chaotic of Roger Goodell’s time as NFL commissioner.

Yet in a time when the officiating labor issue has affected the integrity of the game, Goodell has taken control of one of his hot-button topics -- player safety. It will cost Denver Broncos’ middle linebacker Joe Mays.

The NFL suspended Mays for one game and fined him $50,000 for a violent hit on Houston quarterback Matt Schaub on Sunday. Mays hammered Schaub, whose helmet shot off his head. Schaub went down, holding his head in his hands in obvious pain. Later, he said he lost part of his ear on the play.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Mays is appealing the suspension. Mays has a reputation for being a good person and a respectful player. He twice apologized to Schaub on Sunday, and Denver coach John Fox has supported Mays.

Mays -- who was fined nearly $9,000 for a hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in Week 2 -- said Monday in an interview with a Denver radio station that he knew he was in the wrong, but he made it clear his intention was not to hurt Schaub.

“What I was thinking is, I’m just reading my progression, my gap blocks, so I’m thinking, try to get to the quarterback as fast as I could, try to get him down before he gets the ball off,” Mays said in the radio interview. “I see him back there, I’m coming, I’m coming and I see him cock back to release the ball, but I’m still going to try to hit him so I can affect the release a little bit. So, he threw the ball, and he kind of ducked his head because he saw me coming. When he ducked his head, that’s when I came in and hit him. It looked worse than what … I mean, it didn’t look good. I’ll just put it that way. My intention was to go in there and get a hit on him, not hit him in the helmet. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.”

Mays admitted, “I guess I could’ve been lower.” Still, in the radio interview, it seemed Mays thought he’d be fined, not suspended.

“If you hit him like that, you can also get fined,” Mays said. "Who knows how much money they’ll take away from me? When it comes to quarterbacks, they’re definitely going to protect them. I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen to me.”

If Mays loses the appeal, he’d likely be out for Sunday’s home game against Oakland. The Broncos could use several players in his spot, opting for Keith Brooking, Wesley Woodyard and backups Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving if he is cleared after suffering a concussion against Houston. Denver might have to make a roster move at the position if both Mays and Irving are out Sunday.

Rules are rules. It was a brutal hit. I was there, and I could feel the hit from the press box. I don’t think Mays’ intentions were bad. I believe his explanation, but the NFL has strict helmet-to-helmet rules. I don’t think Mays has a lot to complain about, especially a week after he was fined for a hit on Ryan.
Getting under the skin of the man who is in control of your career may not be the smartest of ideas.

But that’s what D.J. Williams has done.

According to USA Today, there is a sign outside of a Miami restaurant, that says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is not welcome at the establishment. The restaurant is partly owned by Williams, a Denver Broncos linebacker, and New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The former University of Miami teammates are both facing suspensions from Goodell. Williams will be for the first six games of the season for using a banned substance. Vilma is fighting a season-long suspension stemming from the Saints’ bounty scandal.

Williams, though, could face more trouble. He was recently convicted of his second alcohol-related driving case. Goodell could further suspended Williams for that case.

Did Williams have anything to do with the dig at Goodell? Will it even bother Goodell? These are unknown questions. But if I were Williams, I would keep my distance from Goodell and certainly not poke at him.

In other AFC West news:
  • The Raiders may have competition for pass-rusher Andre Carter. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports the Rams are setting up a workout for Carter. Oakland worked him out Tuesday. This may be a case of teams coming out of the woodwork to take a look at Carter now that he is healthy. If New England gets in the act, Carter (who had 10 sacks for the Patriots last season) could opt for another turn. However, Carter went to Cal and he lives in the Bay Area and those are reasons that could help the Raiders’ cause if they want to sign him.
  • An Insider piece looked at the top running back groups in the NFL. Insider To my shock, the Jamaal Charles-Peyton Hillis combo in Kansas City didn’t get any love. It should have.
  • The Football Outsiders continue the talk Insider that Denver cornerback Champ Bailey may be overrated. Again, I’d still take him at the age of 34. Perhaps he is losing a step; he is still a brilliant player who can help his team.
ENGLEWOOD, Co. -- Embattled Denver standout pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil was the first member of the team to meet the press Wednesday, the day the Broncos reported to training camp.

Dumervil
It was Dumervil’s first public statement since his arrest for an incident earlier this month in Miami. Dumervil has been accused of aggravated assault with a firearm stemming from a road rage incident on South Beach on July 14. While he was eager to meet the press, Dumervil did not shed much light on his situation.

“I know you guys have a lot of questions, but out of respect for the investigation, there’s not much I can say,” Dumervil said. “Once the investigation is completed, the truth will come out, and I’ll answer whatever questions [you have].”

Dumervil said he is excited camp is starting and he can concentrate on football. Dumervil could face a potential NFL suspension because of the incident. He said he has not heard from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Denver coach John Fox said the team will wait for the facts of the case before reacting.

“Well, when you're involved in a situation like that as an organization, just like any situation you’re involved in, you have to gather the information and find out, in the best way you can, the facts and let the process work itself out, and the truth eventually comes out,” Fox said.

Dumervil clearly has the support of his teammates as he begins camp.

“He’s going to be my big brother, regardless,” fellow Denver pass-rusher Von Miller said. “All I can do is be Von to Elvis. All that stuff, it was unfortunate that it happened, but all I can possibly be is Von. I’m sure he has a lot of people asking about that stuff. It’s already a burden in his life right now and I don’t want to contribute to any of that. I just want to be Von, just laugh and lift his spirits a little bit and not even worry about any of that stuff.”

Reviewing what I missed

July, 23, 2012
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Let’s look back at some of the stories that occurred in the AFC West during the past two weeks while I was on vacation:

Denver:
My take: Dumervil’s attorney has said he doesn’t expect charges to be pursued in the case. Still, the NFL will likely investigate, and Dumervil could face a potential short suspension.
  • New Denver quarterback Peyton Manning bought a home for nearly $5 million in the Denver area.
My take: This news is significant because it shows Manning is planning to be in Denver for awhile. At 36, Manning signed a five-year deal with the Broncos. If he thought he wouldn’t be able to fulfill much of the contract, there is little chance Manning would have made such a commitment to the area.

Kansas City
  • Receiver Dwayne Bowe did not sign an extension before the deadline for franchised players. He has yet to sign his tender and report to the team.
My take: Bowe was not expected to sign an extension. Now, he must go prove he is worth a new deal with a big 2012 season. My take: There has been a rash of drunk driving arrests by NFL players this offseason. I’m sure commissioner Roger Goodell is ready to throw the book at alleged perpetrators such as Washington, a reserve in Kansas City.

Oakland
  • Franchised safety Tyvon Branch signed a four-year contract extension.
My take: Securing a talented player like Branch for the future is a smart move. He is a key component of the Oakland defense. Plus, the signing opened up a reported $3.8 million in salary cap room. The Raiders will be able to sign some players to help for depth reasons this summer, perhaps starting with running back Cedric Benson, who has been linked to the Raiders for weeks.

San Diego
My take: I think both Franklin and Battle will fill nice depth roles for the Chargers. Both players can help. Franklin is a solid 3-4 defensive tackle who will be part of a strong rotation. Battle gives the Chargers more depth at backup running back and he can play special teams. As for Castillo, it is clear the Chargers don’t think he can play anymore. He was cut twice this offseason.

AFC West notes

June, 29, 2012
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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has let NFL teams know that the league is making process toward going to back Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Chargers and the Raiders are among the potential candidates to relocate to Los Angeles.
  • Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is facing a July 23 trial for a drunken driving charge stemming from an April incident. If convicted, he could face NFL discipline.
  • Many NFL types gathered in Tennessee on Friday to pay tribute to former Denver assistant coach Mike Heimerdinger. He died of cancer last fall. He was a well-respected member of the Broncos’ Super Bowl winning staffs in the late 1990s and he did a stint as offensive coordinator late in the Mike Shanahan days in Denver.
  • The Chargers will have 10 training camp practices open to the public.
  • Denver defensive tackle Ben Garland knows firsthand the devastation the Colorado wild fires are causing.
I have received a lot of questions from readers this afternoon about how much of the 2012 season Oakland middle linebacker Rolando McClain will miss because of his court case in Alabama.

Right now, it is impossible to guess.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that after being sentenced to 180 days in jail, McClain's attorney, Harvey Steinberg, said McClain has filed a request for a jury trial and now, under state law, "the process starts all over again." Steinberg said McClain will be notified at a later date as to when the jury trial will begin.

If the jury trial is a quick process and McClain is sentenced, he could face jail time during the season. But who knows how long the process will be and there are appeals and other situations at play. Often, when athletes serve jail terms, their attorneys try to arrange it that the time is served during their offseason.

Also, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could decide to discipline at any time if he chooses to suspend McClain. Again, this is a legal situation that is fluid. Any speculation on McClain missing time would be mere guesswork.

UPDATE: The Raiders released this stamement on the McClain situation: “The Raiders are well aware of the proceedings in the Alabama courts today. The team will continue to closely monitor the legal process, understanding that when appropriate the NFL will review the situation under its personal conduct policy.”

In other AFC West news:

The Broncos and kicker Matt Prater have a model to work with on a new deal. Fellow franchised kicker Conner Barth received a four-year, $13.2 million deal from Tampa Bay on Thursday. Prater has yet to sign his tender and he is not with the team during OTAs.

San Diego coach Norv Turner turned 60 on Thursday. Turner has proclaimed Chargers star tight end Antonio Gates ”back.” Gates has been dealing with foot injuries for several years.

Oakland running back Darren McFadden talks about his return to health on ESPN radio.

The Broncos announced they've signed fourth-round pick Omar Bolden. The cornerback is the team’s first pick to sign.
New Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said Thursday he planned to hire an offensive coordinator soon.

NFL.com reports Crennel will choose between three finalists. There are no surprises on the list: Kansas City quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, former Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders and former Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In other AFC West news:

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow talks to ESPN’s Skip Bayless in a three-part, wide-ranging video interview. He talks about everything from respect, LeBron James and religion.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the NFL Network will run Thursday games from Week 2-15 and every team in the league will appear on a Thursday night game in 2012.

The Broncos are raising the prices of some tickets and cutting the prices on others in 2012.

UPDATE: The Raiders announced the hiring of Steve Hoffman as their special teams coach. It had been previously reported. The Chiefs fired him last month.

Schedule favors Raiders, Broncos

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
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SAN DIEGO -- I have arrived for Thursday night’s crucial AFC West game between the Raiders and Chargers.

It a big game as the Raiders and Chargers are tied with Kansas City for first place at 4-4 heading into the second half of the season. Denver is a game behind the three teams at 3-5

It is going to be an interesting race and the remainder of each team's schedule is relevant. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Raiders and Broncos have the easiest remaining schedule. Both teams’ opponents’ combined winning percentage is .531. Kansas City has the toughest road ahead. Its opponents’ combined winning percentage is .600. It is tied for the third-toughest remaining schedule in the NFL. The Chargers’ opponents’ winning percentage is .546.

Thus, the winner of Thursday night’s game will have a strong head start.

In other AFC West nuggets Thursday:

San Diego running back Mike Tolbert said in a radio interview that the Chargers are not hanging their heads following a three-game losing streak.

After he said he worked his team too hard after a 28-point home loss to previously winless Miami, Kansas City coach Todd Haley gave his team two days off this week to refresh before hosting Denver on Sunday.

The Denver Post wonders what is wrong with struggling Broncos’ standout left tackle Ryan Clady.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with the mayor of San Diego to discuss the city’s quest to get a new stadium for the Chargers.
In the end, Terrelle Pryor has decided not to go down without a fight.

The NFL Network is reporting that the Raiders’ rookie quarterback is appealing his five-game suspension, which was part of him being included in the supplemental draft last month. The Raiders took the former Ohio State quarterback in the third round.

Pryor’s journey to the NFL has been convoluted for the past few months and his road to appealing has also been confusing. He had wavered on the decision. The suspension starts now and lasts until Oct. 10. He can’t play or practice, but he can meet with his coaches and study the playbook.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rarely lifts suspensions during the appeal process. However, it is not out of the question for Goodell to shave off a game or two from a suspension if a player makes a compelling case.

Pryor will be Oakland’s No. 3 quarterback when he joins the team.
The Oakland Raiders were the only team not to vote to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement. The league approved the deal 31-0 with the Raiders abstaining.

Oakland owner Al Davis has often abstained from league votes dating back to his long-term issues with the league. What does it mean? Nothing much. It was probably expected and it didn’t affect the vote. In the end, the Raiders must play by the rules of the league like every team that did vote.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday he hopes free agency will begin Wednesday and the players can voluntary start to go to their team’s facility on Saturday. He also said he hopes teams can start re-signing their own free agents and draft picks on Saturday. Undrafted free agents could sign beginning Sunday under the tentative current calendar.

The salary cap will be $120 million as expected. Here is an estimation of each AFC West team’s salary cap situation. Also, four-year veterans who are unsigned who will be eligible for free agency as expected. Here is a list of the top free agents in the AFC West.

What does all this mean? We’re getting close to football, folks. Very close.
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Our divisional bloggers discuss one thing they'd change as commissioner for a day:

One of the changes Roger Goodell has made in his five years as commissioner that I don’t agree with is altering the Pro Bowl format.

In the past couple of years, the Pro Bowl has been played in the week before the Super Bowl, and Hawaii is no longer the permanent home. In the past, the Pro Bowl was played the week after the Super Bowl. I think it worked well. I covered the Pro Bowl several times, and it was always a fun event for players and fans.

Goodell wanted to switch the site around, so he moved it to Miami (the site of the Super Bowl) in 2010 before returning it to Hawaii in 2011. The television ratings in the two years since the change have been good, and I don’t see Goodell ever going back to the former format.

That’s too bad. Having the NFL season end the week after the Super Bowl in Hawaii was a fun conclusion.

Going to Hawaii was a treat for players. I know a lot of them bailed out of the game, but that has happened in the past two years, anyway. I have talked to many players about the subject and they said the idea of going to Hawaii in February with their family and friends was something they all looked forward to.

In the current format, Super Bowl participants can’t play in the Pro Bowl. What kind of sense does that make? An All-Star game without players from the two best teams in the league is a lackluster affair, and I think interest from players in this format will seriously wane in the coming years.

If I were running the show at 280 Park Avenue for a day, I’d push back the Pro Bowl until after the Super Bowl and send it back to the Islands.

Goodell talks up Von Miller

May, 13, 2011
5/13/11
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Denver Broncos rookie linebacker Von Miller may be one of the 10 current players who are suing the league, yet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he has no problem with Miller, who was the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s draft.

According to the Denver Post, Goodell -- who is continuing his goodwill tour with NFL fans during the lockout -- told a large group of Broncos season-ticket holders in a conference call, the two men ran into each other in Denver prior to the draft.

"I happened to be in Denver at the Broncos' facility when Von was in a meeting with the coaching staff prior to the draft," Goodell said. "And I went out of my way to say hello to him. He's a great young man. [He’s] obviously, a great young, player … I have great respect for Von. I look forward to him having many productive years in the NFL."

Miller and Goodell embraced at the podium shortly after the Broncos took him. Miller said that night that he doesn’t have anything personal against the commissioner.

In other AFC West news:
  • The Kansas City Star looks at the workout-bonus money the Chiefs are saving because of the lockout. Well, there’s a bright side to all of this turmoil, I guess.
  • Did the San Diego Chargers take a step closer to becoming the Los Angeles Chargers this week?
  • The Oakland Tribune looks at Jason Campbell’s situation with the Raiders heading into his second season in Oakland.

Evening AFC West notes

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
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In a conference call with some Kansas City Chiefs’ season-ticket holders, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Chiefs’ owner Clark Hunt talked about the importance of parity in the NFL.
    • The Denver Post gives Broncos’ fans a chance to get to know second-round pick, UCLA safety Rahim Moore.
    • It looks like tight end Brad Cottam is going to attempt a comeback in Kansas City after missing last season with a neck injury. Why else would he be working out with his teammates?
    • San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding is working out with several other kicking specialists in California during the lockout.

    Putting a bow on Day 1

    April, 29, 2011
    4/29/11
    1:04
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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Wrapping up the first night of the NFL draft.

    Denver's No. 2 pick, Von Miller, was the only rookie on the 10-player plaintiff list that used the NFL to start the lockout. Thursday night, Miller gave NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a hearty hug after he was drafted. Miller said he has nothing personal against Goodell.

    Denver coach John Fox said Miller was No. 1 on the team’s draft board.

    The Broncos’ second- and third-round picks will be introduced to the media Saturday. They will wear No. 11 jerseys to symbolize the year they were picked. No one wore that number in Denver last year after injured receiver Kenny McKinley committed suicide early in the season. The team talked to McKinley’s family about it and the family is on board with the idea.

    Denver has not drafted a defensive tackle since 1997 when it took Trevor Pryce at No. 28.

    Check out Jeffri Chadida’s pre-draft column on Miller. He’s a high-character kid.

    Fox said the team did not receive any calls to move down from No. 2. The No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded since 2000. Fox did say he expects to get many calls about the No. 36 pick.

    Fox said he is thrilled to get the veteran players back in the building Friday.

    Fox said defensive end Jason Hunter’s stab wounds should not affect his ability to play in 2011. He was reportedly stabbed in the shoulder Wednesday.

    San Diego No. 1 pick, Corey Liuget, will play defensive end in the 3-4 defense.

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