NFC West: Greg Aiello

The recent NFL.com report suggesting the Seattle Seahawks face a potential fine for having multiple players suspended invites questions.

Specifically, could the Seahawks already be facing a fine? The answer appears to be no.

"There are financial consequences for a team that has multiple players suspended in a season under those policies," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told NFL.com.

Bruce Irvin's four-game suspension from the Seahawks brings to five the number of Seattle players suspended since 2010 for using substances banned by the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. However, Irvin is the only Seattle player facing a suspension for the 2013 season. None of the suspensions served in previous seasons counts toward the total moving forward.

That means the Seahawks are not facing a fine at present.

Did they incur any fines in the past?

"We do not disclose that information," Aiello said via email Tuesday.

Around the NFC West: Giants were clean

January, 25, 2012
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There was never any evidence the New York Giants had taken cheap shots on San Francisco 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams during the NFC Championship Game.

There was only proof that some Giants players hoped to capitalize on Williams' history of concussions. Those hopes, expressed by Devin Thomas and Jacquian Williams, will not result in league discipline.

"Players are held accountable for their actions on the field," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "There were no illegal hits to the head or neck area against Kyle Williams on Sunday. There was no conduct by the Giants of any kind that would suggest an effort to injure Kyle Williams in any way."

As for the fans threatening Williams following his pivotal fumble? Williams told ESPN Radio those threats were "shocking" even though he expected harsh criticism.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the matter appears closed, with Aiello saying the league had no additional comment. Maiocco: "Coincidentally, 49ers co-owner John York is the chair of the NFL's newly formed Health and Safety Advisory Committee. New York Giants owner John Mara serves on the committee."

Also from Maiocco: thoughts on each of the 49ers' scheduled free agents. On Dashon Goldson: "The 49ers offered him a five-year contract last year. After he turned it down and the 49ers took the offer off the table, he returned to the 49ers on a one-year, $2 million contract. The 49ers might extend another five-year, $25 million contract. If that's not enough, they can keep him around with the franchise tag at one year, $6.2 million."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com checks in from the Pro Bowl.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers 49ers notes, including one about Brad Seely's candidacy as Colts head coach.

Keith Goldner of Advanced NFL Stats says it's clear the 49ers should have accepted a penalty for running into the kicker, then gone for it on fourth-and-1. Instead, the 49ers declined the penalty, letting the Giants take over possession at their own 7.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times puts into perspective the Seahawks' Pro Bowl haul. O'Neil: "In the previous two years, the Seahawks were the only team in the NFL that did not have a player either named to the Pro Bowl or chosen as an injury replacement. Seattle's five Pro Bowlers matches the franchise's fourth-largest contingent. Three of Seattle's four starters in the secondary will be appearing in the Pro Bowl, evidence of one of the biggest improvements in Seattle last season."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along thoughts from Brandon Browner, who spent four seasons in the CFL before Seattle gave him a chance this season. Browner on his tryout: "It was most definitely just to make the team. I told Coach [Pete] Carroll at my workout that I would really appreciate a shot -- a legitimate shot -- at making this team. A lot of guys get shots, but there are a lot of guys brought in [to be] camp bodies. I told him, 'You brought me in. I can do some things with this team.'"

Also from Henderson: Brock Huard and Kevin Calabro discuss whether the Seahawks should have interest in Peyton Manning.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic questions whether former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would join the Cardinals as quarterbacks coach. Somers: "I'm hearing, however, that Arians isn't particularly anxious to become a position coach again. He's been a successful offensive coordinator, so you can't blame him for not wanting to take a step down. Arians was the Steelers receivers coach when Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator there. Arians replaced Whisenhunt and worked closely with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. If the Cardinals were to hire Arians, he could work with quarterbacks or receivers. If he took the receivers job, current receivers coach John McNulty could become quarterbacks coach. He worked with quarterbacks while at Rutgers."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com confirms that Beanie Wells underwent knee surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews.

Also from Urban: Patrick Peterson will play in the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. He'd like to go as a cornerback in the future.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects Steven Jackson to fit well in Brian Schottenheimer's offense. Jackson: "I have played against his teams a lot and they all come with that attitude and a certain level of play. They have that 'it.' It's hard to explain what that 'it' is to a ... fan. But it's just something about [the way they play] when they go between those lines. Coach Fisher's teams have a certain something that's hard to put a finger on. But I have to assume it's [his] leadership."

Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes a sports economist as saying the Edward Jones Dome likely would need $200 million to $300 million in upgrades to prevent the Rams from breaking their lease after the 2014 season. Hathaway: "The Dome was largely financed with $256 million in revenue bonds, and the repayment of that 30-year debt will be $720 million. Every year, Missouri spends $12 million to pay off the debt, and St. Louis and St. Louis County each pay $6 million annually. The county's portion is funded through a 3.5 percent hotel tax approved by voters in 1990. The lease calls for the Rams to stay at the Dome through 2025 -- but only if the stadium is first tier at two points: 2005 and 2015. The Rams waived the requirement the first time in exchange for $30 million in improvements. This time, there are a series of deadlines in 2012, starting with the CVC's mandate to deliver a plan by Feb. 1."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, is not lacking for confidence. Williams: "What you'll see is that everywhere I've gone, I've been able to get a top five defense during the time I'm there. Anywhere from one to four, one to five, in all of the stops I've made. ... I get way too much credit for the X's and O's, but my specialty is handling people, especially difficult people."

Also from Thomas: Schottenheimer has streamlined his terminology.

More from Thomas: Rams owner Stan Kroenke has explored the possibility of bidding on the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are those words again: Los Angeles. Thomas: "NFL cross-ownership rules prevent an NFL owner from owning a majority interest in another pro franchise outside of his market, if that non-football franchise is in a city with an NFL team. L.A. does not have a pro football franchise and hasn't had one since 1994. It's also OK for Kroenke -- or any NFL owner -- to own two pro sports franchises in the same city. But the cross-ownership rules have been bent and modified over the years, to the point where some might say they're not really hard-and-fast rules."
Referee Bill Leavy's surprise confession over officiating errors in the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl defeat four years ago raised questions. Let's search for some answers.
  • What calls did Leavy admit missing? Leavy said he "kicked two calls in the fourth quarter" of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-10 victory. There were only two penalties in the quarter. One was a holding call against Seahawks tackle Sean Locklear, wiping out a gain to the 1-yard line. The other was a low block called against Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The latter call was clearly made in error. Current and former associates of Leavy declined to speak for attribution, but they said the call against Hasselbeck always bothered Leavy. However, that call didn't affect the game significantly because it came after Hasselbeck threw an interception and Pittsburgh was in command. Leavy's associates said they thought the call against Locklear was correct and they couldn't understand why Leavy would make such an admission.
  • Why was Leavy in Seattle? Leavy never worked another Seahawks game while Mike Holmgren was the team's head coach. The league assigned him to the Seahawks' Week 2 game at San Francisco last season, without incident. Leavy was familiar with coaches on the Seahawks' new staff, however. He had worked their training camp practices elsewhere previously. That could have made the connection more natural at this time. The league did assign him to Seattle.
  • Did the league know in advance Leavy was going to make these statements? No. League spokesman Greg Aiello had this to say via email when contacted Saturday: "Bill's personal comments speak for themselves and we see no reason to add to them."
  • What was the Seahawks' reaction to Leavy's admission? Few players from the 2005 team remain on the roster, but Hasselbeck was gracious when reporters asked him about the admission Saturday. "I think all the officials that we have in the NFL are stand-up guys and Bill Leavy is no different," Hasselbeck said, adding that he spoke with Leavy in Week 2 last season. "It’s not a perfect science and there’s a lot of human involvement there and I’ve played some games that I remember because I feel like I did a good job and then I feel some other games where I have some regrets. That goes for any sport, any player, I’m sure coaching is no different, in that same way I’m sure officiating is the same thing."
  • Why confess at all? This admission seemed to serve Leavy's conscience more than anything. The league certainly doesn't want to revive a 4-year-old discussion on officiating errors. Even the Seahawks had moved on. Leavy's associates described him as very conscientious and as an official with a strong performance record overall, but they said they knew the Super Bowl bothered him.

Officials take all sorts of abuse from fans and criticism from all angles, but rarely do they open up the way Leavy has done in this case. The only complaint here is that he didn't do so earlier, and he wasn't more specific.

Around the NFC West: Rams' staying?

April, 15, 2010
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Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on the Rams' ownership situation. He is not assuming Stan Kroenke would keep the team in St. Louis. He thinks the ownership transition has led to less aggressive spending on salaries. I'm not sure the free-agent class was strong enough to justify aggressive spending in most cases, and St. Louis would have to rank among the least attractive destinations for veteran players looking to win a championship. Miklasz: "Even if the Rams wanted (Brandon) Marshall, that’s only part of it. He wanted a new contract. A big contract. And reports indicate that the Dolphins are giving Marshall a four-year deal worth $47.5 million, including $24 million guaranteed. And the Rams do not have an owner who can sign off on something like that."

Also from Miklasz: a column expanding on his earlier premise.

The Associated Press says Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke isn't looking for the NFL to bend its rules against cross-ownership, according to league spokesman Greg Aiello. AP: "That means Kroenke will have to surrender his principal stake in the NBA's Denver Nuggets and the NHL's Colorado Avalanche to become majority owner of the Rams. Among the possibilities is handing control of those teams over to his 29-year-old son, Josh, a Nuggets executive." My take has been that Kroenke will probably find a way to get NFL approval. He wouldn't have exercised his option to take over full control of the team without feeling confident in the bid's success.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post quotes Aiello along the same lines. Klis: "Even if Kroenke should skirt the policy by transferring control of the Nuggets and Avs to a family member, as reported Tuesday night by Fox 2 News in St. Louis, he would still need approval from 75 percent of NFL ownership. (Broncos owner Pat) Bowlen and Kroenke were once business partners. They co-owned, with former Broncos QB John Elway, the now-defunct Colorado Crush Arena Football League team."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat wonders whether the NFL would view an ownership transfer within Kroenke's family as compliance with the cross-ownership policy. That could depend on how badly the NFL wants Kroenke and his money.

Also from Balzer: Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe nears the Thursday deadline for signing an offer sheet with another team.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com checks in with Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck from minicamp. Hasselbeck on new coach Pete Carroll: "He's a lot cooler than I thought. He's very cool. The team meetings he runs are awesome. They're exciting. They're not boring. They're fun. I just think it's a great opportunity for us as players, this part of our lives isn't going to last forever. So to be around guys who have been real successful, it's just a great opportunity to learn from them. And we've already had some Hollywood moments." No details quite yet.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a potentially telling quote from Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates regarding center Chris Spencer. Bates: "He's a natural center. He's quick off the ball. He has great hands. He's a leader of that line. He's nasty. It's a natural position for him, and we're extremely excited that he's a central part of that line." Line coach Alex Gibbs hasn't spoken to reporters since taking the job and I'm not expecting him to break that silence, at least anytime soon. The assumption would be that Gibbs and Bates think at least somewhat similarly on Spencer.

John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks the Seahawks made the right decision by backing away from the Brandon Marshall trade when the price got too high. Morgan: "Two second-round picks is not as valuable as a single first. It is, rather, much more valuable. The draft is fluid. In a good enough draft, the talent found at the end of the first and throughout much of the second is nearly identical."

Paul Bessire of sportsradiointerviews.com offers highlights from Alex Smith's recent interview with KNBR radio. Smith: "Last year, knocking on the doorstep and letting games slip through our fingers left a sour taste in our mouth -- a frustrated taste in our mouth. I think we are ready to overcome that and take the next step. I think everyone in this building expects that. That’s our expectation. Our expectation is playoffs. We’re not going to take anything less than that."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Travis LaBoy would love to play for the 49ers.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers reasons the 49ers might not have great interest in LaBoy. Barrows: "The team has two established starters at the position at outside linebacker in Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson. Another player, Ahmad Brooks, showed true potential last season. For one thing, you can never have too many pass rushers. Playing outside linebacker for the Cardinals in 2008, LaBoy began the season with four sacks in the first four games before injuries sidetracked his season. Second, the 49ers might be looking ahead to next season. Lawson is entering the final year of his contract at a time when the team may have bigger priorities when it comes to contract extensions."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals should be concerned about Deuce Lutui not working out at team headquarters this offseason. Lutui has stayed away while declining to sign his one-year offer as a restricted free agent. Somers: "Lutui, who is listed at 338 pounds, has had to closely monitor his weight throughout his four seasons in the NFL. Part of the reason the Cardinals signed Rex Hadnot and re-signed Jeremy Bridges, was to cover themselves at guard."

Also from Somers: Did the Cardinals get enough in return for receiver Anquan Boldin? Somers: "No matter what happens during the upcoming season, the Cardinals likely are going to feel the ripple effects of the Marshall trade. The Dolphins reportedly signed him to a four-year, $47.5 million contract. Depending upon the veracity of those numbers, Marshall might have passed Larry Fitzgerald as the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Fitzgerald's four-year, $40 million contract ends after the 2012 season. But he has clauses that prevent the club from trading him without his permission or placing the franchise tag on him. That will motivate the Cardinals to address Fitzgerald's contract next offseason."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com wonders whether Ted Ginn Jr. could fit in Arizona. Urban: "The Cardinals could always use a dynamic return man (although Ginn hasn’t been a full-time punt returner since his 2007 rookie year) and could use a burner as a fourth receiver. That said, Ginn is due too much money for a fourth wideout (about $1 million in 2010, $1.4 M in 2011 and $1.8 M in 2012). If Santonio Holmes is only worth a fifth-rounder (and yes, he has had off-field troubles which Ginn has not), than the Dolphins can’t possibly ask for more than a sixth-rounder for Ginn."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello is filing periodic reports on commissioner Roger Goodell's climb toward the Mount Rainier summit with Seahawks coach Jim Mora and CEO Tod Leiweke.

Seattle TV news reporter Paul Silvi from KING 5 has filed a video report from about 10,000 feet. The YouTube version didn't load as quickly as the one available here, at least for me.

One of the more recent reports from Aiello read, "Group rests for a few hours, then hikes to peak in morning and back down." Also: "Commish just called from base camp -- 10,400 feet up Mt. Rainier. Sounded great. Said it's hard work but unbelievable experience."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

NFL Coaches Association director Larry Kennan listed the 49ers and Cardinals among eight NFL teams known to have withdrawn from the league's employee pension plan since March.

That revelation doesn't necessarily mean the 49ers' Jerry Sullivan, Jimmy Raye and other assistant coaches nearing age 65 will follow Howard Mudd and fellow Colts assistant Tom Moore by considering retirement to maximize lump-sum pension installments. But Kennan said older coaches are increasingly worried about their retirement options after the league changed its pension plan while allowing teams to opt out of it altogether.

In March, NFL owners adopted a measure allowing teams to break from the NFL pension plan in favor of other plans. The goal presumably was to give teams greater flexibility in difficult economic times. Eight teams have exercised that option, but the Falcons were the only one of the eight to apprise employees in advance, according to Kennan (the 49ers and Cardinals declined comment, per team policy on internal employment matters).

Separately, the NFL altered its pension plan to affect how much money Mudd, Moore and other employees would receive if they waited past July to cash out.

"Can you imagine how bad it is for two of the greatest assistants in the game to retire over this?" Keenan said. "Did they overreact? Maybe. But they haven't been given better answers as to what the options are for them."

NFC West coaching staffs have undergone a youth movement this offseason, but several coaches face important decisions as they approach age 65. 

The 49ers' Sullivan turns 65 in July. He has coached in the NFL since 1992. Raye, an NFL coach since 1977, is 63. Rams quarterbacks coach Dick Curl is 69 and an NFL assistant since 2003. Seahawks assistant Larry Marmie, 66, entered the NFL in 1996. Seahawks special-teams coach Bruce DeHaven, an NFL assistant since 1987, is 60.

According to Kennan, one option for coaches could be to retire, collect the lump-sum payments and then return to coaching next season.

(Read full post)

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