- Ashley Fox
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There are 94 days until the regular-season opener and less than eight weeks until the first training camps open. Where has the offseason gone?
As organized team activities and minicamps continue, here is a look at several issues around the NFL:
The Saints bounty evidence will continue to trickle out. On Friday, Yahoo! Sports reported that the New Orleans Saints kept a ledger detailing money paid out weekly for "cart-offs" and "whacks" and money deducted for "mental errors." According to the report, the NFL showed portions of the ledger to some of the people implicated in the bounty scandal.
More undoubtedly is coming. The players involved continue to howl that they did nothing wrong and call for the evidence against them to be made public. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't stupid. He will want to control the message and prove that he didn't act with reckless abandon by taking the unprecedented steps of throwing a defensive coordinator (Gregg Williams) out of the league indefinitely, suspending a coach (Sean Payton) for a year, suspending a general manager (Mickey Loomis) for half a season and tossing a player (Jonathan Vilma) out of the league for a year, among other punishments.
Goodell can't have an image problem when it comes to this issue. He is trying to change the game. There can't be doubt about the evidence -- and there is doubt, and that's why more evidence will continue to come out.
What is the definition of "is"? Seriously, it was as if Jim Harbaugh was channeling his inner Bill Clinton last week when he threw out that garbage about how the 49ers were merely "evaluating" Peyton Manning when they flew to Durham, N.C., to watch Manning work out in March. They weren't, Harbaugh said, "flirting" with Manning or "pursuing" Manning, even though Manning felt the need to call Harbaugh after he had decided to sign with the Broncos and tell Harbaugh personally he would not be joining the Niners.
It was just silly. Alex Smith didn't need to hear it. He got a new contract and is happy. Harbaugh wasn't asked a question about Manning. He simply volunteered to clear a record that was universally accepted as fact.
That sort of hubris might have flown at Stanford but not in the NFL.
There once were Rams in Los Angeles. And there could be again.
When the Vikings and the Minnesota state legislature finally agreed on the financing for a new football stadium in downtown Minneapolis, another franchise had to emerge as the most likely to eventually move to Los Angeles. That franchise is the St. Louis Rams.
On Friday, the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which operates the Edward Jones Dome, rejected a proposal by the Rams to make improvements to the 17-year-old stadium. The two sides have until June 15 to agree to a deal, otherwise they will go to arbitration. According to the lease, the stadium must be among the top quarter in the NFL -- it is not even close to that -- before the start of the 2015 season or the Rams can break their lease and move.
The sides are far apart on how to finance a renovation to the stadium and on how much work actually needs to be done. The Vikings were able to get their deal done, but only after about a decade of wrangling and after Goodell made it apparent the team probably would move without a new stadium. The Rams and the CVC don't have the luxury of that much time, but the same threat will be on the table.
The Pro Bowl was never going anywhere. It is all about money. The NFL tinkered with the Pro Bowl once before, moving it to the dead weekend between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The ratings held, and the game has been slotted for that weekend ever since, even though the product suffers because many of the best players are, you know, playing in the Super Bowl.
That is just a small detail to the league. When Goodell threatened to shut down the game because it has become little more than a glorified version of two-hand touch, it was Goodell's attempt to empathize with fans. Fans want to see football, not tag. Goodell got that. But he was never going to suspend the game for a season, much less do away with it altogether. There was too much money at stake.
And the players really didn't want it to go away either, for the same reason: money. For the 2013 game, which again will be played in Hawaii, the players from the winning team will take home $53,000 apiece. That's not chump change. The losers: $26,000.
So the NFL and NFLPA last week found common ground, all because of the almighty dollar.
The Eli praise continues. It has been an understandably fun offseason for the reigning Super Bowl MVP. There was a stint on "Saturday Night Live," followed by a ring ceremony at Tiffany and Co.'s flagship store in New York City.
Now, Eli Manning is back at work. Some Giants are talking dynasty. Manning is just being Manning.
"He is focused in his desire to be the best he can be," New York coach Tom Coughlin said last week after the Giants held their third organized team activities workout. "It never changes. He understands completely what the team concept is, and no matter where the necessary reinforcement is and the possessiveness that has to come from him as the leader, he is going to be there and do that.
"A year ago, it was a young receiver corps. This year perhaps some of these young offensive linemen have to get going. They have to take up the slack. So he puts himself in a position where he is there -- he is responsive to the circumstances that whatever our team's needs are, and he is going to do the best that he can to help regardless. So he has bought compete ownership of his team. He continues to get better himself and to help everybody around him get better."
And that is the reason Manning has won two Super Bowls in the past five seasons: ownership and accountability, two powerful and meaningful concepts.
Jim Harbaugh's explanation of the 49ers' contact with Peyton Manning didn't make much sense, Ashley Fox writes.