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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jets ticket holder sues Patriots and coach Belichick, seeks damages of more than $184 million

By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
September 28, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York Jets season-ticket holder filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick for "deceiving customers."

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., by Carl Mayer of Princeton Township, N.J., stems from the Patriots being caught illegally videotaping signals from Jets coaches in New England's 38-14 season-opening win Sept. 9.

"They violated the integrity of the game," Mayer's attorney, Bruce Afran, told The Associated Press. "This is a way of punishing Belichick and the Patriots."

Mayer is seeking more than $184 million in damages for Jets ticket holders.

Belichick was fined $500,000 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and the team was fined $250,000 for violating a league rule that prohibits clubs from using a video camera on the sidelines for any purpose -- including recording signals relayed to opposing players on the field. New England also must forfeit a first-round draft pick next year if it makes the playoffs or a second- and third-rounder if it doesn't.

"They were deceiving customers," said the 48-year-old Mayer.
"You can't deceive customers."

The lawsuit maintained that because other teams found illegal videotaping by the defendants, Jets ticket holders should be compensated for all games played in Giants Stadium between the Jets and Patriots since Belichick became head coach in 2000.

The two calculated that because customers paid $61.6 million to watch eight "fraudulent" games, they're entitled to triple that amount -- or $184.8 million -- in compensation under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

"How many times have the Patriots done this? We find it hard to believe they did it just once," Mayer said. "We just want to get to the truth of the matter of what the Patriots did to the Jets. I think the ticket holders are genuinely concerned about it. This is a type of misrepresentation."

Patriots spokesman Stacey James declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Mayer and Afran, who consider themselves public interest lawyers, have been thorns in the side of New Jersey politicians for years, filing lawsuits and demanding investigations to advance their grievances. They are well known in the state but generally have had little success in their causes.

Both have lost bids for elected offices, and Mayer once served as a presidential campaign adviser to Ralph Nader.

Their demand in March for a probe of Gov. Jon S. Corzine's gifts to a former girlfriend was rejected by a federal prosecutor. In 2006, a judge vetoed their effort to block Corzine's appointment of Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., to fill the governor's seat in the U.S. Senate.

They also failed to get a court to order a special election to replace Gov. James E. McGreevey when he resigned in 2004.

Now, they're taking on the Patriots.

Their latest lawsuit asserted that the secret videotaping violated the contractual "expectations and rights" of Jets ticket holders "to observe an honest match played in compliance with all laws and regulations."

The actions of Belichick and the Patriots violated federal and state racketeering laws, as well as the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and New Jersey Deceptive Business Practices Act, according to the lawsuit.

"Having been a lifelong Jets fan, as soon as I heard this, I was completely outraged," Mayer said.

"The NFL just slapped them on the wrist. I'm a consumer lawyer, and this is consumer fraud."

Associated Press Writer Jeffrey Gold in Newark, N.J., contributed to this report.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Griese to replace Grossman at QB for Bears

NFL.com Wire Reports

The NFL Network's Adam Schefter has confirmed that Brian Griese will start at quarterback Sunday for the Chicago Bears.

Griese will replace Rex Grossman, who threw three interceptions as the Chicago Bears fell to the Dallas Cowboys 34-10 on Sunday night and did not get a vote of confidence from his coach a day later.

"Will Rex Grossman start Sunday?" coach Lovie Smith asked on Monday, repeating the question. "Well, our evaluation process is going on right now, and if you come out to practice Wednesday, you'll have a better idea of who will be starting at all positions."

Smith gave his usual answer when asked Sunday night about Grossman -- "Rex Grossman is our quarterback" -- but his tone was different on Monday, fueling speculation Brian Griese might start Sunday against Detroit.

Grossman's supporters would have a hard time arguing against the move, considering he ranks 23rd in the league with 500 yards, has a 45.2 passer rating and is 47-of-89 (52.8 percent) with a league-leading six interceptions and just one touchdown.

But is Griese the answer?

A Pro Bowl pick with Denver in 2000, he has passed for 16,564 yards, but has also been released three times -- by the Broncos, Miami and Tampa Bay.

"I have confidence in our entire football team," Smith said. "Brian is a part of that. After you have a loss like that, we all feel bad. We should."

And Smith realizes something needs to change -- quickly.

At 1-2, the Bears are certainly not living up to those soaring expectations after last season's Super Bowl appearance. Besides Grossman's struggles, injuries are mounting.

They lost former Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown and starting nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek to season-ending knee injuries in the opener at San Diego. And on Sunday, Bears were falling like dominoes.

Linebacker Lance Briggs (groin), cornerback Nathan Vasher (groin) and defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) all left the game with injuries. Offensive lineman Ruben Brown suffered what was announced as a game-ending ankle injury, although he returned near the end.

"All of these injuries we're evaluating right now," Smith said. "I can't give you anything else."

As for the evaluation at quarterback, Grossman's troubles are well-documented and they explain why the Bears let him enter this season with an expiring contract rather than an extension.

He was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month last September. Now, he may not be the starting quarterback when September ends.

There certainly is blame to pass around, but the focus is on the quarterback.

The Bears were hoping Grossman would play the way he did the first five weeks last season and ditch the inconsistency he showed the rest of the way.

Well, he is more consistent.

The problem is "Bad Rex" keeps lining up behind center, and that's bad news for the Bears.

Smith stuck with Grossman last season, but that leash appears to be growing shorter with each pass into double or triple coverage; there were a few of those on Sunday night.

Like the one that Anthony Henry picked off early in the fourth quarter.

Dallas' Nick Folk had just kicked a 44-yard field goal when Grossman tried to hit Muhsin Muhammad in triple coverage. Henry intercepted and ran it back 28 yards for a touchdown that made it 27-10 and put away the Bears.

Grossman didn't get much help.

"All the way around the whole offense, it was one of those days where it seemed like we'd get something going and it'd fall back, and we just couldn't get anything going," wide receiver Bernard Berrian said.

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Atlanta Falcons' DeAngelo Hall Goes Off In Loss To Panthers

I don’t know why Atlanta Falcons Cornerback De Angelo Hall went off in the game againt Carolina, but I’m sure it was related to the kind of year he’s had thus far. D-Hall’s been torched. He was taken to school by Chad Johnson in the second game of the season, and the Panther’s Steve Smith wasn’t so kind either. Still, he’s been beaten before, so that can’t be the only reason for his actions that producd not one but two personal foul penalties.

But after reading the AJC, it seems that Hall’s got a hot head, and Smith may have figured out how to get to him. It certainly worked, as the Panthers scored on the critical three-penalty-drive that led to their victory over the Falcons 27-20. For his part, Hall’s facing a team-given punishment and is going to take it like an adult: "I made a mistake. I promise it won't happen again, no matter what."

We’ll see.

Monday, September 24, 2007

1. The Oakland Raiders Finally Win - Beat Browns

After a streak of 11 straight losses, the Oakland Raiders, coached by Lane Kiffin, finally won a game. They beat the Cleveland Browns 26 to 24, and with a tactic used against them the following week at Denver.

In that game, the Raiders lined up to kick what would be the game winner in overtime, only to have a successful field goal attempted whistled dead because Denver Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan called a time out just a tick of the clock before the snap of the ball. When the Raiders lined up again, they missed the attempt.

This week Kiffin used the same maneuver against the Cleveland Browns when they lined up to kick what would have been the game winning field goal; the Browns came up short.

Yes, Kiffin’s a fast study. But lost in the discussion of the strategy used was that the Raiders were competitive in each game they played in, and so were bound to get a win.

The main difference is the offense. The combination of timed passes, varied formations, short drops, and zone-blocking has formed an offense that can move the ball and keep the defense off the field, which is a good thing because this Raiders defense isn’t the driving killing force of 2006.

Last year, I called for then-Raiders Offensive Coordinator Tom Walsh to be fired even before the season started, no so this year. Last year, the Raiders were a study in offensive ineptitude --- this year, the system they use is state of the art. I predicted a 9 and 7 season for the Silver and Black. I’ll stick to that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Condoning Cheating? - NFL Coaches Unfairly Treating Jets Coach Eric Mangini

Profootballtalk.com and The New York Times report today that several NFL Coaches and executives are working to gang-up on New York Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini for blowing the whistle on New England Coach Bill Belichek for telling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that the Pats vidoed defensive signals from opposing teams, a violation of NFL rules.

Selena Roberts of the NY Times writes:

Mangini didn’t just flip on Belichick, costing his former mentor a celebrated image that has been reflected in a shelf-full of Lombardi Trophies, as well as a $500,000 fine and a prime draft pick. He did more. He also humiliated the respected Patriots owner and league power player Robert K. Kraft.

That sin has left Mangini toxic to some team executives. After all, would you trust him? Is there anyone — a player, assistant, general manager, owner or mascot — that he wouldn’t betray in a pinch?

Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com reports:

The reality, however, is that Mangini has likely learned his lesson, and that he knows that he has pulled the trigger on a one-shot pistol. But this doesn't change the fact that no NFL executive could justify taking the risk that Mangini might offer up a sequel.

Meanwhile, Mangini might have problems keeping the job he currently has. As one league insider opined on Tuesday:

"The biggest issue that Mangini faces is that his team absolutely stinks. One of the problems with being a surprise team is that you can't surprise anyone anymore. They won't win more than six games this year. The Ravens tried to hand the game to the Jets after dominating for three quarters and the Jets refused to take it. The offensive line is awful, the defensive line is terrible, the running back is old, the wideouts drop passes, and the secondary is beat up. The Patriots will win that division by five or six games, easy. That, more than anything, is going to put heat on Mangini."

Wait. That's not right. It points to the observation that some NFL execs may have actually known that New England was cheating and kept quiet; indeed, if Mangini himself knew this, and talked, then how many other people knew? It doesn't make the NFL look good at all, and with these latest headlines, sends up more smoke, implying there's a fire burning somewhere in the league.

This matter of punishing Mangini as whistle-blower also opens another question -- at least in my mind. Why does the NFL allow a double-standard to exist, where players transgressions are blurted out to the public with abandon, and there's no threat of backlash by NFL team execs, but when it comes to the matter of an NFL coach like Bill Belichek, this invisible protective shield is thrown up?

It's not right. The Commissioner should release a statement warning the league's execs of punishment if such statements are made in the future. I personally dislike this aspect of how the NFL functions. Yes, Bill Belichek's a great coach, and while he should not have done what he did, and his overall record is somewhat tainted, he's got three Super Bowl trophies, and that didn't come just from hard-to-get videos.

But look at the facts -- the Pats have won some very close games in Super Bowl history. It's fair to ask if the video practice was used prior to each Super Bowl the Pats were in under Belichek. I'm not saying take his awards away, but the way they were gotten is under scrutiny.

That process of investigation must begin. But meanwhile, leave Eric Mangini alone. I'm certain he got tired of being well-prepared for New England only to have his hat handed to him by a too-well-prepared Patriots team, and knowing how they got ready to play, and what they did during the game steamed him.

Enough was enough.

Commissioner Goodell -- Remarks Before The Senate Commerce Committee

Commissioner Goodell -- Remarks Before The Senate Commerce Committee
September 18, 2007

Chairman Dorgan, Chairman Inouye, Vice-Chairman Stevens, and Members of the Committee:
Good morning and thank you for inviting me to appear today and testify on this important subject. I do not believe that this subject is, or should be, immune from Congressional scrutiny. To the contrary, the National Football League has always strived to conduct itself in the public interest, and to do everything in a first-class way. We can only benefit from objective, thoughtful reviews of our policies and programs. And so I welcome the opportunity to be with you today.
I am joined here today by Harold Henderson, our Executive Vice President of Player Programs, and Dennis Curran, our Senior Vice President and labor relations counsel. Both Mr. Henderson and Mr. Curran have been deeply involved for the past two decades in collective bargaining, including on player benefits, and in the administration of these benefit programs by the joint NFL-NFL Players Association Retirement Board.
I recently completed my first year as Commissioner of the NFL. During that year, I have spent a considerable amount of time with retired players and on the concerns raised by a number of them. And while I would candidly acknowledge that we have more work to do, I want to outline both the steps taken thus far, and the framework within which we are approaching this issue going forward.
In that context I should add that I cannot comment on the specifics of any individual case. In my role as Commissioner, I have not read the disability claims files, and I am not qualified to speak to the medical and legal issues raised in any individual case. Although I appoint one half of the Trustees on the Retirement Board, those Trustees act in a fiduciary capacity and I never discuss pending cases with them. Insofar as you may have questions regarding individual cases, I am certain that Mr. Henderson or Mr. Curran, or one of Mr. Upshaw’s colleagues, could respond better than I can today.
In considering the subject of benefits for retired players, I begin from a premise which I think no one seriously disputes – the men who played professional football decades ago deserve our respect and recognition, and their contributions to our game must never be overlooked. I honor them and their achievements and neither I nor the NFL clubs will turn our backs on them.
Second, while it might be tempting to say – as some have – that this is Gene Upshaw’s problem to solve, that is neither fair nor accurate. The responsibility for addressing the needs of retired players belongs to all of us. The retired players, the current players, the clubs, Gene as head of the Union, and I as the Commissioner – all of us have a role to play. We will continue to address this issue in a way that is compassionate, creative, and realistic.
Third, just as it would be wrong to say this is Gene Upshaw’s problem to solve, it would be wrong to say that the NFL can or should solve the problem by itself. While some may not believe this, the fact is that we cannot solve every problem of every type that has been identified, and certainly not in a way that will satisfy everyone. NFL clubs currently spend close to 60 percent of their gross revenues on player benefits and salaries. Our clubs contributed almost $150 million last year to finance medical, disability, and retirement benefits for former players, and during the term of our current collective bargaining agreement, we project that our clubs will spend more than $700 million to fund just this package of player benefits. Owners are responsibly addressing these concerns, but they are simply not in a position to absorb significant incremental costs.
In meetings with Committee and personal staff, our office and the NFLPA have provided you with a comprehensive summary of the benefits provided to retired players. Those benefits have steadily improved over time, and among the benefits available to a player who retires from the NFL today are all of the following:
n A defined benefit pension plan with a benefit that is geared only to years of service, not to the player’s earnings. If a player with ten years of service begins to receive his pension at age 55, he receives $56,000 per year; if he waits until age 65, he receives $147,000 per year. These amounts have grown steadily, and pension benefits have been increased in each new collective bargaining agreement over the past 15 years. For example, a player who retired 25 years ago – in 1982 – and who begins to receive his pension at age 55 has seen his pension benefit credit more than double since he retired as a result of increases agreed to in collective bargaining.
At a time when companies all over America – many of which are considerably larger than the NFL – have terminated their pension plans or turned them over to the federal pension guaranty board, we have both negotiated steady increases in our benefits, and agreed to apply those increases on a retroactive basis. In our most recent agreement in 2006, we agreed to increase pension obligations by more than $200 million. In the last ten years, we have increased those obligations by roughly $400 million – virtually all of which has been for the benefit of retired players. I think everyone would agree that this is a substantial additional commitment by our member clubs to former and current players.
n We also offer a 401(k) plan, in which player contributions are matched on a 2:1 basis by the clubs up to $20,000 per year. Players have access to these funds as early as age 45.
n A player annuity plan, under which eligible players receive an NFL contribution of $65,000 per year to provide transition income to players. They have access to these funds as early as age 35.
n Five years of post-career medical care and a health reimbursement account of up to $300,000 for use later in life.
n A lump sum severance benefit paid upon retirement from the NFL based on the number of seasons played.
We also, as the Committee knows, have a disability plan which offers a range of benefits, including Total & Permanent, Football degenerative, and “Line of Duty” benefits. We recently added another benefit, known as the “88 Plan,” which provides up to $88,000 per year for former players suffering from dementia, without requiring proof that the dementia is football related. For other categories of disability, the benefits range from $18,000 per year to $224,000 per year, depending on the nature and severity of the disability. These benefits are in addition to any state workers’ compensation. In addition, not all disability benefits are based on a complete inability to work.
Benefits available under the disability plan have also grown substantially over the past 15 years. An active player who qualifies for football-related Total & Permanent disability has seen his annual benefit increase from $48,000 in 1993 to $224,000 today. An active player whose Total & Permanent disability is not related to football has seen his annual benefit grow to $134,000. And former players with football-related “degenerative” disabilities have seen their annual benefit grow from $75,000 in 1993 to $110,000 today, without regard to whether they are able to work. These are annual amounts paid to the player as long as he remains disabled.
Our disability plan has a number of features that make it unique and superior to many other plans. I am told that most American workers have no employer-provided disability benefits. A report released last month by the Labor Department showed that barely 3 out of every 10 workers in the private sector have access to long term disability coverage. In certain sectors of the economy that might be perceived as higher risk, the rate of coverage is ever lower.
The NFL Plan covers all players with at least three seasons of experience (four years for players retiring before 1993) and provides for benefits even if the disability is not football-related. With as few as three years of NFL experience, a former player can receive benefits from the NFL disability plan even if his disability results from a car accident, a fall at home, or some other everyday cause. Moreover, eligible players can still apply for football degenerative benefits for up to 15 years after they retire from the NFL.
The NFL Plan provides for payment of disability benefits on a retroactive basis, so players are not prejudiced by delays in the application and administration process. A player who is approved will receive benefits retroactive to his date of application. If the disability precedes the application, the player can receive up to 42 months of benefits on a retroactive basis. And, finally, NFL disability benefits are not offset by medical or workers’ compensation payments, or any other NFL benefits, such as injury protection or severance pay. As the Committee knows, the workers’ compensation system provides lifetime medical and other benefits to players. NFL disability benefits are in addition to any payments received from those systems.
We believe these features, far from being exclusionary, demonstrate our commitment to providing fair and generous benefits to players and their families. And the record bears that out – since 2000, we have paid more than $110 million to players from the 1960s to the present who qualified for disability benefits.
Like you, I have heard concerns expressed about “red tape” and the complexity of the application process. We have taken recent steps to address that problem, and I think there is more we can do. One area of frustration is the Plan’s “Initial Claims Committee.” This arises out of new regulations adopted by the Labor Department in 2002. At the time these regulations were being considered, we filed comments with the Department noting that these regulations would likely have the effect of slowing down decisions on disability claims, and urged that they not be adopted. As we said at the time, because of the sometimes complex nature of disability decisions, including the need to have medical examinations completed by neutral physicians, and the reports analyzed within 45 days, the new rules “will only force faster denials.” The requirements imposed by the Labor Department have had the unintended consequence of making the application process longer and more complex, as our people feared at the time they were proposed.
In the future, we can look more closely at how we decide which cases need to be reconsidered. The statistics show that an overwhelming number of recipients are approved to continue their benefits, which rather strongly suggests that we may not need to review and reconsider cases as often as we have in the past. We have begun that process by reducing the frequency of medical re-evaluations from annually to once every three years for players receiving Total & Permanent disability payments.
When decisions need to be reconsidered at the Board level, we will begin making decisions outside of the Retirement Board’s quarterly meetings. Thus once an application is complete, or additional medical evaluations have been received, the Board can consider and vote on the application by fax or email. This simple change will allow more expedited processing of applications.
Finally, we have tried to ensure that the standards by which disability claims are evaluated are clear and understandable, and therefore more easily applied. As one example, decisions regarding “Line of Duty” disability, which is a partial disability arising from football, are based on standards developed by the American Medical Association. We also recently agreed to expand the standards for determining Total & Permanent disability by incorporating the medical findings of the Social Security Administration. If a player has been determined to be eligible for disability benefits by Social Security, no separate medical assessments will be needed. Instead, the determination of the Social Security Administration will govern the former player’s medical eligibility for NFL disability benefits. Our retirees have my personal commitment to continue the effort to identify and implement any reasonable procedural changes that would allow disability determinations to be made more quickly and reliably. To that end, we have enlisted the assistance of independent counsel and benefit consultants to advise us on best practices with respect to disability plans and to recommend steps we can take to improve the administration of the Plan.
This does not mean that every person who seeks disability benefits will, or should, receive them. That needs to be understood by all parties. Disability benefits are meant to assist people who cannot work, not simply that they can no longer play professional football. No disability plan, whether sponsored by a private insurer, by an employer, or by the Federal government, provides benefits to anyone who applies. And it does not mean that, even if approved, every applicant will receive the amount he requests. But we will continue to strive to do better, and to be seen as doing better.
I now want to address certain allegations about the manner in which decisions are made on disability applications. The administration of the disability plan is governed by federal law and by regulations established by federal agencies. The Plan operates as required under those regulations, including the use of an Initial Claims Committee, neutral physicians, and the associated time limits. The people who make decisions act as fiduciaries, who are obligated to follow the law and the terms of the Plan.
There are those who claim that disability applications are nonetheless denied as a result of some sort of grand labor-management conspiracy. This claim assumes that an extraordinary number of people – myself, my predecessor, Gene Upshaw, the Trustees, the Plan Administrator, the neutral doctors, Plan counsel, and their various staffs – have all agreed to deny benefits without regard to whether an applicant actually qualifies.
Those who adhere to this theory also dismiss that federal courts throughout the country have upheld the Retirement Board’s decisions in 24 of the 25 cases that have been litigated. The critics explain that away by saying that the standard of review is too deferential, ignoring that the standard is set by federal law, not by the NFL, and is consistently applied in reviewing decisions by benefit plan administrators and fiduciaries in all sectors of the American life.
But no matter how deferential the standard of review may be, no court would defer to a decision tainted by collusion or conspiracy. The simple reality is that no such claim has ever been proved and no court has ever made such a finding. These charges are as cynical as they are unfounded, and the Committee should not dignify them here.
There is one other myth about decision-making that should be dispelled – that being that many players are either denied benefits altogether, or forced to endure extraordinary delay, because the Union and management trustees routinely divide 3-3 on applications. There is no basis whatsoever for this suggestion. In fact, since the Initial Claims Committee was put into place in 2002, it has deadlocked on only six claims in a line-of-duty disability and only 32 cases of Total & Permanent Disability. Every other claim filed – almost 600 claims – was decided unanimously, one way or another.
Where claims are appealed to the Retirement Board, the same is true. The Board seldom splits in its votes. And even if there is a split in the Retirement Board, the case is referred to a neutral physician, called the Medical Advisory Physician. That doctor’s report is final and binding. That report decides the case – not the Union trustees or the Management Trustees.
Apart from addressing the workings of the disability plan, we have recently
taken some additional steps to address specific needs of former players.
Earlier this year, we joined with the NFL Players’ Association, the NFL Alumni Association, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame to establish an “Alliance” to bring together the different groups seeking to help retired players. As a first step, we have agreed to create a fund, set initially at $7 million, to fund two specific medical initiatives.
First, to provide full or partial funding of hip, knee or shoulder replacement surgery and related rehabilitation for former players at a network of leading hospitals throughout the country.
Second, to provide an expanded national program of cardiovascular risk screening, and education for former players.
Apart from these two programs, we are also exploring ways of providing support for players in need of assisted living arrangements, and other specific medical needs.
Finally, we are expanding our outreach efforts to better identify former players with special needs, so that our Alliance can provide financial assistance to those proud former players and their families who are sometimes hesitant to ask for assistance.
We recognize that this is not a short-term problem. Some of the leaders addressing this issue – former players like Jerry Kramer or Hall of Famers Willie Lanier and Merlin Olsen – have met with us and continue to do so. I am sure that together we have the resources, creativity and determination to make a real difference in the lives of our former players.
There are today approximately 8000 active and retired NFL Players. Like many groups of 8000 people, their circumstances vary widely. We are proud of the comprehensive and improving package of benefits provided to players, and we will continue working to do as much as possible to help those in need.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before your Committee today.

Len Pasqurelli Says Redskins Jason Campbell Has Arrived - Beat Phili

And I agree. I didn't see the game, but I've long believed that Campbell would grow into the position and be not just the Redskins leader, but one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Remember, he came out in the same draft at Alex Smith and Aaron Rogers, yet wasn't even considered as good as those two. He was drafted in the first round, but his selection was virtually ignored by many.

Watch out for Campbell.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Goodell with Costas: if more"Illegalities" come to light, the penalty will be higher!

Those of us who got home from th Giants Vs.Packers excuse for an NFL game got to relax with "Football night in America." We had the Pleasure of watching Bob Costas interview Mr. Goodell. He spoke eloquently for most of a quarter of an hour about crime and punishment. Not about Mike Vick or Tank Johnson or even David Boston, But about a Coach who had been caught stealing signals from the sidelines of opposing teams via video camera, and an assistant Coach who was found guilty of using a controlled substance. Both men were fined, but was the punishment just in both cases?

I'm not saying if both men deserved to be punished, i'm asking if both punishments were leveled correctly....
Coach Belachick earned a 500,000 personal fine. Thats like hitting me with a $.25 fine for spitting. His salary is around 8 million dollars a year. So 500K comes out to about 6.25% of his yearly salary. This is just punishment?? He SHOULD be suspended for the remainder of the season, as well as the Team losing BOTH First round draft picks! Why? Because he cheated, and it shouldn't be tolerated. On to Coach Wade Wilson, the Cowboys QB coach.
he claimed he took Steroids for his Diabetic condition"to improve the Quality of his life." While i can relate to that being a diabetic myself, if you are in a job that has certain rules about what you can and can not take medically. weather you are a coach or player, you have to follow those rules. Ok, so Coach Wilson took HGH(probably to improve the Quality of his "adult" functions), and was caught. He agreed to cooperate with the legal investigation.
Sure, he should be punished, but should that punishment be almost one third of his 325K a year salary?? Because his actions were criminal, but did not Hurt another person(meaning Not Punitive in nature) just maybe $100.000 is a bit excessive here....I barely Make 1/6th of Coach Wilson's Salary, and if you took away one third of that I'd throw a royal fit. Wade Wilson has a right to question the punishment leveled at him, but not weather he should be punished.

If the Head Coach of a professional Football team needs to "collect" Data on other Coaches' signals,..it's time for him to get out of the game. If I were Patriots owner Bob Kraft, knowing that he is the Orthodox Jewish man that he is, I would simply terminate the Coach and Hire someone else 10 minutes ago!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pats Bill Belichick issues Apology, says he's spoken with Goodell

Belichick issues apology, says he's spoken with Goodell

ESPN.com news services

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This videotape needs no interpretation: New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick walked out of his news conference on Wednesday when pressed repeatedly about the sideline spying scandal that landed him on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's crowded docket.

Ten minutes before his regular availability, Belichick issued a one-paragraph statement apologizing to his team and confirming that he has spoken to Goodell about an "interpretation" of league rules that ban videotaping of the opposing sideline.

"Although it remains a league matter, I want to apologize to everyone who has been affected, most of all ownership, staff and players," Belichick said. "Following the league's decision, I will have further comment."

It was not clear whether Belichick was apologizing for his actions or the distraction it has caused his team as it prepares for Sunday night's marquee game against San Diego. But if he thought -- or even hoped -- that the standing-room crowd of media was there to talk about the Chargers, he failed to prepare in the manner that has made him one of the most successful coaches in the history of the league.

Never one to relish his interactions with the media, Belichick grimly refused to respond to a half-dozen questions about the scandal, possible punishments and the potential effect on his team. Begging for a football question, he seemed ready to abort the news conference after just a few minutes at the podium.


In August, ESPN.com ran a comprehensive package on cheating in sports. Jeffri Chadiha wrote the NFL portion of the package. Among the ways NFL coaches try to gain an advantage was trying to descramble signals sent from coach to player:

"When Marty Schottenheimer coached the Cleveland Browns in the late 1980s, he routinely sent a scout to watch the signals opposing teams used to relay messages from coaches to players. When the scout returned, Schottenheimer's staff would watch the game film and match the signals to the plays that followed.

"[Herm] Edwards said the same is true today. It's common for coaches to watch standard game tapes [which include shots from the press box and end zone angles], sideline tapes [which usually wind up on highlight shows and include footage of players and coaches talking on the sidelines] and even the television shows of opposing coaches for tips."

"Any questions about the Chargers?" he pleaded in his standard, other-things-to-do monotone. "Want to talk about the football game? If not, I think that statement pretty much covers it."

It appeared that there were none, before one reporter asked about Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

The prospect of defending against the reigning NFL offensive player of the year is not the sort of thing that usually cheers up opposing coaches.

But Belichick smiled.

"I think the Chargers are a concern. Their football team is a concern. That's what we're concerned about," he said. "Whatever happens out there Sunday night, out there on the field, that's when everybody will make their statement."

After another 15 minutes of football questions, though, the subject returned to the spying scandal.

"Is there any other question on the Chargers?" Belichick said before walking out. "OK. Yep. That's all. OK. Thank you."

NFL security confiscated a video camera and tape from Patriots video assistant Matt Estrella on Sunday when he was working on the New York Jets' sideline during New England's 38-14 victory. The league has confirmed that it is investigating whether the Patriots were taping the Jets' defensive coaches as they signaled to players on the field.

However, league sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Goodell has already determined that the Patriots have violated league rules when they videotaped defensive signals by the Jets' coaches.

Goodell is considering severe sanctions, including the possibility of docking the Patriots "multiple draft picks" because it is the competitive violation in the wake of a stern warning to all teams since he became commissioner, the sources said. The Patriots have been suspected in previous incidents.

"It's really hard to say [they should] forfeit games," Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "Draft picks would hurt a lot of teams; take away their first or second-round pick -- that would be a stiff penalty to make sure nobody does it again.

"You would hope that, during their run, when they were winning all their Super Bowls, all that stuff wasn't going on. You look back in the past, and we played them in the championship games, and you kind of wonder. It seemed like they were a step ahead of us at all times, but those games are behind us. There's nothing we can do about it. You just look forward and see what the commissioner will do."

Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, a co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said the league is trying to keep technology from overtaking the game.

"If they are in fact found guilty of this, it only shows that the steps the league has taken are good steps," Fisher said. "There's no place for it. Everybody clearly understands the rules. The competition committee's responsibility is to protect the integrity of the game. With technology the way it is right now, things could get out of hand in a matter of weeks if we don't protect the integrity of the game."

Jets coach Eric Mangini, a former Belichick assistant, also declined to comment. Asked if he had any knowledge of such shenanigans while he was in New England, he followed the form of his mentor.

"As I said with this whole issue, it's a league issue and they are handling it," Mangini said. "And we are really focused on the Ravens."

Patriots players also tried to focus on their game.

How it came to light?

NEW YORK -- A story in Wednesday's New York Daily News claims that Jets coach Eric Mangini, a former New England assistant under Bill Belichick, came armed with keen knowledge of the team's surveillance methods -- and finally decided to act.

"[The Jets] knew they did it," the Daily News wrote, citing a person with knowledge of the situation, who sent the newspaper an e-mail. "They caught the guy a year ago, but couldn't do anything about it. When Eric came, he said that's what they used to do. Bill is going to be [ticked] at Eric. He kissed and told."

Sunday's game was the fifth time Mangini has coached against Belichick since joining the Jets.

-- ESPN.com news services

"I'm the last person in the world to know any of that stuff, anyway," offensive lineman Matt Light said. "I could care less what happens outside of my little world."

But Goodell doesn't have that luxury.

In a busy year for his misbehaving minions, the commissioner has already banned Tennessee cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones for the entire season after repeated run-ins with police. Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick has been suspended indefinitely while he faces a likely jail term for his role in a dogfighting ring.

The Bengals had 10 players charged with crimes during a 14-month span, and both receiver Chris Henry and linebacker Odell Thurman are currently suspended. Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer wants Goodell to be consistent with his punishment, whether the offender is wearing a uniform or not.

"Hopefully there's a harsh enough penalty that it's not worth it to try to cheat and try to get any advantage that you're not allowed to get," Palmer said. "I hope the commissioner is just as harsh on them as he's been on individual players for making mistakes."

Other players reacted strongly.

"It just makes you wonder how long they've been doing this and has it really helped them win some games?" Giants defensive end Michael Strahan said on a conference call with Wisconsin media. "That's no different from the cheating ref in basketball."

Last November during New England's 35-0 victory in Green Bay, the Packers caught Estrella shooting unauthorized video told him to stop.

"When you look back, it's scary," Packers cornerback Al Harris said. "I don't want to say anything wrong towards their organization, because I think highly of their coaching staff and their personnel, but if that's the case, that's not right. I would consider it cheating. I honestly would."

Belichick sidestepped questions about the commissioner's timetable and about whether he had any contingencies in place should he get suspended -- the most drastic of the potential penalties Goodell could consider. The coach also refused to discuss whether he worried that the scandal -- dubbed "videogate" in the press room, of course -- would distract his players.

Also at stake is the legacy of the NFL's latest dynasty, one that memorably rejected individual on-field introductions before its first Super Bowl victory, instead "choosing to be introduced as a team." Stressing individual discipline and salary cap selflessness in a league where they tend to be in short supply, the Patriots won three NFL titles in four years and held themselves up as a model organization.

Now, they're being accused of cheating.

"That's not going to tarnish this team," running back Kevin Faulk said. "We know what we do and how hard we work."

Linebacker Chad Brown, who re-signed for a second stint with the team this week and landed in the middle of the tumult, acknowledged it would be embarrassing if the allegations turn out to be true. But he also said the videotaping is an offshoot of the gamesmanship all teams indulge in.

"I think that all the facts should come out before people judge this organization," Brown said. "I think we do things the right way."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN's Chris Mortensen was used in this report.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New England Patriots Accused Of Stealing Signals From Jets - ESPN and Other Sources

I personally think Commissioner Goodell should take the game away from the Patriots. That's terrible. It also cloud's the whole "Bill Belichek's a Genius" talk. Here's John Clayton ...

According to league sources, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has determined that the New England Patriots violated league rules when it videotaped defensive signals by New York Jets coaches during the Patriots' 38-14 win Sunday. There will be a hearing with the Patriots -- mostly likely by phone by the end of the week -- and then a ruling by the commissioner that could cost New England draft picks. Here are some questions and answers on the incident:

What is the commissioner's stance?
Such spying is a serious infraction. It's cheating and could affect the outcome of games. Goodell established a strict player conduct policy, and he wants coaches and team employees to also live up to a high standard.

What rules did the Patriots allegedly violate?
The "Game Operations Manual" states that "no video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game." The manual states that "all video shooting locations must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead." NFL security officials confiscated a camera and videotape from a New England video assistant on the Patriots' sideline when it was suspected he was recording the Jets' defensive signals. Taping any signals is prohibited. The toughest part usually is finding evidence to support an allegation.

What could the punishment be?
Goodell must come down hard on this one because he clearly has evidence. ESPN has reported that Goodell is considering severe sanctions, including the possibility of docking the Patriots "multiple draft picks." That could mean a combination of a second-rounder and something else, maybe a fifth-rounder. The commissioner could push the penalty over two years, but he can't treat this lightly by just taking away a second-day draft choice. The Patriots are good. They had only two draft choices -- a first- and a second-round pick -- make the team this season. Fining them just a fourth-round choice wouldn't hurt them much.

What advantage could a coach get by stealing defensive signals?
Any good coach with knowledge of the defensive play calls from the sideline can adjust his blocking schemes and come up with the appropriate counter measures. You've seen quarterbacks and coaches study photos of defensive alignments after each possession. If there is a way to pick up defensive signals, a quarterback can make the right audibles and get out of a bad play. Knowledge is everything.

Belichick is the best in the business at taking information and turning it into strategy. He's the best coach in football at knowing the strength and the weakness of a player and putting him in a position to succeed. Give him a signal or two and he will know how to burn a team with a big play at the right time. A coach that smart is always looking for an edge.

Why will owners be upset about this?
First, many owners may feel Belichick beat them by cheating. That may be hard to take, but that's life. What is going to upset them even more is this incident could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. This incident will probably lead to having a defensive player on the field with a radio helmet to receive defensive signals from the sideline. Using hand signals to relay defensive calls is an outdated concept. The offense can use modern technology. Why can't defenders? It's going to cost money to equip defenders. Thanks to this incident, owners may have to start paying for that advancement next year.

What will be Belichick's defense?
That's hard to say because there won't be an open hearing. In fact, the hearing is supposed to be done by phone as early as late this week. The commissioner doesn't have to supply details of the Patriots' position. He just has to render a decision. Bringing Belichick to New York would be a circus. There is no reason to have a circus involving this one. The video either says the Patriots were spying or not. Goodell will listen to Belichick's defense and then deliver his penalty.

What will be the longterm effect on Belichick and the Patriots?
Although this is embarrassing, you can't take away what this franchise can do. They may have the best team in football. Robert Kraft is one of the league's best owners. The team has three Super Bowl rings and a great chance to get a fourth. Other great organizations have paid penalties for violating league rules. The Broncos lost a draft choice for violating the salary cap with John Elway. The Steelers once had to forfeit a third-round draft choice for working out in shoulder pads in the offseason. The Patriots may lose a draft choice or two. And whether or not the Patriots videotaped the Jets' defensive signals, Belichick won't be any less of a coach.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ground Broken on "New Medaowlands"

Tuesday September 4th was a red letter day for the Jets, Giants, and the New Jersey Sports and Expsition Authority. The ground was broken on the site of the new stadium that will be shared by both NY teams. Currently the stadium is referred to as the "New Meadowlands, but the NJSEA and the Teams are working on a Naming Sponsorship that could Net close to 250 million dollars over the life of the agreement. For the average fan, the concern is weather or not they will be priced out by Personal Seat leases(PSL's). The new complex will feature a 100,000 square foot Tailgate plaza, improved access roads, a "Great Wall" of Colored panels that will be interchangeable for each team, and an additional 4,500 regular seats, plus 200 assorted luxury boxes.

The new Stadium will host at least 20 NFL games per season, more than any other stadium in the nation, as well as numerous other events ranging from college football to international soccer, concerts and more – as many as 80 a year, in addition to Giants and Jets games.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, State Senate President Richard Codey, New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority Chairman Carl Goldberg, former Authority Chairman and current Rutgers Athletic Director Bob Mulcahy, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, plus Giants President and CEO John Mara, Giants Chairman and Executive Vice President Steve Tisch, and Jets Chairman and CEO Woody Johnson.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Eddie Debartolo's Sports Agency Gathering Talent To Rep

In December of 2006, former 49ers owner Eddie Debartolo formed a new sports agency, and its been making waves with deals ever since. Take Troy Smith and Jerry Rice. DSE sports agents, Ralph Cindrich and Brian Kopp, have signed 2006 Heisman Trophy Winner Troy Smith. Smith, an Ohio native who led the Ohio State University Buckeyes to a 25-3 record.

Rice, regarded as perhaps the greatest wide receiver in National Football League history and a former Dancing With the Stars contestant, signed on recently with DeBartolo Sports & Entertainment (DSE). DSE will negotiate and manage Rice's endorsement deals, appearances and public relations. Rice, 44, played most of his 21-year career for the 49ers before retiring last year.

Indianapolis Colts Regain Super Bowl Form, Top N.O. Saints 41-10

The key was the defense and a gaggle of second-year and third year players that stepped in to make the Colts even better than last year.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis Colts looked just as formidable on offense as they did when they won the Super Bowl last season.

And even better on defense.

Shaking off a sluggish first half, the Colts outscored New Orleans 31-0 after intermission in Thursday night's NFL opener to beat the Saints 41-10. At the same time, they served notice to New England, San Diego and other highly touted teams that losing six players who started the Super Bowl last season hasn't slowed them down a bit.

Four of them were on a defense that didn't allow a touchdown Thursday night.

"All offseason, that's what everyone talked about, that the defense has lost all these guys," said Peyton Manning, who threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns. "A lot of young guys played good tonight. It's only one game and there's a long way to go, but we played really well tonight."

Playing against his hometown team, Manning threw two TD passes to Reggie Wayne and another to Marvin Harrison. Joseph Addai ran for 118 yards on 23 carries and that super-quick defense shut down Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and the explosive New Orleans offense.

The game was tied 10-10 after a sloppy first half.

But Manning led two quick TD drives in the first 8:49 of the second half as the Colts put up 24 points in 20 minutes after intermission. On the first drive, Manning hit Harrison for 42 yards to set up a 2-yard TD run by Addai. Then the Super Bowl MVP came right back to throw a 28-yard TD pass to Wayne.

"NFL games are 60 minutes long. We were a little out of synch in the first half," coach Tony Dungy said. "They played us defensively a little different than we thought. We knew we had to run the ball a little more."

Another major player -- for both sides -- was New Orleans cornerback Jason David, who started for the Colts in their Super Bowl win over Chicago and then left as a free agent. He was victimized by Harrison on a 27-yard TD pass in the first half and again by Wayne on both his scores, the second a 45-yarder in the fourth quarter.

But David also produced the Saints' only TD, stripping Wayne after a second-quarter completion, picking up the ball and returning it 55 yards for the score.

"We don't do that," Manning said when asked if he deliberately went at David. "We had the right calls at the right time. With Marvin and Reggie, you're always going to throw it to those guys. If you have a good day, they say you're picking on one guy. We really don't do that."

David said he had to get used to a new scheme in New Orleans but didn't have any excuses.

"Any time you come back and play a team you used to play for, you want to play your best game," he said. "I didn't play my best game tonight. All the plays you saw tonight ... that's on me. There's nobody else to blame but me."

Wayne finished with seven catches for 115 yards.

"The joke in the locker room is that I scored on both sides of the ball," Wayne said of his run-ins with his former teammate. "I gave him a free touchdown, so I guess that was the appreciation we gave him."

The game finally put the focus back on football after an offseason dominated by player discipline problems and long suspensions, most notably involving Michael Vick and Adam Jones. Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was at the game, said beforehand, "I think we're ready now to get the focus back on football."

It took a little while before Manning got the Colts' offense focused.

Manning was just 8-of-17 for 101 yards in the first half, 66 of those yards on two completions: the 27-yard TD to Harrison, plus 39 on a throw to tight end Dallas Clark that set up Adam Vinatieri's 33-yard field goal that tied the game at 10.

But the Saints, who reached the NFC title game last season before losing to Chicago, could never get their potent offense going.

"I thought at halftime, being on the road and with all that went on we were in good shape," New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. "But we had some miscues. Our inability to convert third downs and keep the ball hurt us."

Colts TE Dallas Clark is such an integral part of this offense. The Saints played a ton of Cover 2, but could not account for Clark in the passing game. Indianapolis used very few three receiver sets on first and second down, but created the same effect by splitting Clark out wide. The Colts also added a new wrinkle by putting Clark on one side and Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne on the other and it helped produce Harrison's first quarter TD catch.

In the third quarter, Clark drew the safety playing quarters coverage up while Wayne filled the void on his deep post for a huge touchdown that all but sealed the Colts victory.

Clark isn't known as a top blocker, but he was effective in sealing the edge for Indianapolis' stretch play. This play abused New Orleans which -- out of fear -- was reluctant to bring an extra defender into the box. Clark did a little of everything, including even getting a first down carrying the ball on an end around, and simply put, was instrumental in this win.
They had just 112 total yards in the first half, and Bush and Deuce McAllister each had just 21 yards rushing before intermission against a made-over Indianapolis defense. That unit included undrafted rookie Ed Johnson at defensive tackle in place of Anthony McFarland, out for the season with a knee injury.

Both finished with just 38 yards, Bush on 12 carries and McAllister on 10. Brees was 27-of-40 for 183 yards and two interceptions.

"It just felt like we never got in synch," Brees said. "We felt we hadn't accomplished much in the first half so we were chomping at the bit to get out there and sustain some drives. Everything happens for a reason. Maybe we needed to get our butts kicked tonight to get a little fire going."

The only score by the New Orleans offense was a 34-yard field goal by Olindo Mare in the second quarter after a nine-play, 36-yard drive. From the middle of that quarter until the middle of the fourth, the Saints ran just one play in Indianapolis territory and that was for a 2-yard loss.

Indy linebacker Freddy Keiaho, replacing departed free agent Cato June, was outstanding.

In the second quarter, he drove through a blocker, carrying him into Bush and dropping the runner for a 5-yard loss. In the third quarter, he picked off a pass that led to a 33-yard field goal by Vinatieri that made it 27-10 in the first minute of the final quarter.

The Colts took a 7-0 lead on the Manning-to-Harrison TD in the first quarter. David's play tied the game, and Mare's field goal put the Saints up 10-7. That lasted until the late drive keyed by the Manning-Clark hookup.

Then the Colts took over completely in the second half.

The Manning-Wayne 45-yarder made it 34-10 five minutes into the fourth quarter and Matt Giordano's 83-yard interception return closed the scoring.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2007 Kick-off Party invades NYC Chelsea Hotspot

The NFL Draft Bible and Fieldposition have teamed up to bring you the first NFL season Kick-off Party ever to have it's own Podcast. Recording live from "Flight 151" in the Heart of Chelsea this Thursday night, the Party will feature Football Trivia, $2 Coors light's, and hopefully Lots of Good football fun. Hosted By NFL Draft Bible's CEO Ric Serritella and it's SR. VP, and field scout, as well as Fieldposition.com and SBS Football Personality Dr. Bill Chachkes, the Party and Podcast start at 7 Pm eastern, and is located at 151 8th av bt 17th and 18th streets(Yes Zennie, only a few blocks from Murry's Bagels!!)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Patriots' Rodney Harrison to be suspended 4 games, reportedly for HGH

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
September 1, 2007

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- Rodney Harrison, the frequently fined strong safety who solidified the New England Patriots' defense through back-to-back Super Bowl victories, will miss the first four games of the NFL season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

"Tomorrow, the commissioner will announce I have been suspended," a somber Harrison said in a hastily announced conference call with reporters on Friday night after ESPN.com reported that he had admitted obtaining human growth hormone.

Harrison did not take questions or confirm the banned substance involved.

"I want to make it clear that not once did I ever use steroids," he said. "I did admit to the commissioner that I did, in fact, use a banned substance."

The league issued a statement late Friday night confirming that Harrison is suspended without pay for four games, effective immediately. He is eligible to return to the active roster on Tuesday, Oct. 2, following the previous night's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the league said.

The NFL, meanwhile, confired that Wade Wilson, currently the Cowboys' quarterback coach, also admitted to NFL officials that he received illegal drugs.The NFL announced his suspension on Saturday.

According to the New York Daily News, Wilson admitted receiving HGH while working for the Chicago Bears from 2004-06. The league said that Harrison, Wilson and Richard Ryzde, a former doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, were involved in an internet drug operation being investigated by the Albany (N.Y.) District Attorney's office.

Ryzde was fired by the Steelers. League spokesman Greg Aiello said Saturday that those three were the people affiliated with the NFL involved with the operation.

The Patriots, who lost in the AFC championship game to the Indianapolis Colts last season, are considered favorites to reach the Super Bowl after a series of strong offseason acquisitions, including Adalius Thomas and Randy Moss. Harrison apologized for becoming a distraction to his team as it prepares for the Sept. 9 opener against the New York Jets.

"I will be absent from the team for the next four weeks. That is a penalty that I have to serve. I intend to return and do my best to really help this team in any capacity I can help this team get back to winning the championship," Harrison said.

"This is something that Rodney Harrison did, and Rodney Harrison did alone. My teammates didn't do it. As they prepare for the Jets and games after that, I would ask that you give them the respect, not badger them with questions because they don't have any information."

The team had no comment, spokesman Stacey James said.

Harrison also apologized for serving as a poor role model for young football players.

"I sent the wrong message with my actions," he said. "I have not made excuses, nor will I make excuses. I made a mistake and I am very sorry for that. ... I do not condone my behavior. I am very, very embarrassed by it. I am disappointed in myself."

In a 13-year career, Harrison has earned a reputation as one of the NFL's most aggressive players, one feared by opponents for bonecrushing hits they complain are cheap or illegal. The league often agrees, fining him more than $200,000 in his career, including a one-game suspension in 2002 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oakland's Jerry Rice that cost him a game check of $111,764.

But as much as others hate to play against him, his teammates appreciate the way he practices, plays -- and talks -- at full speed.

On his second day of training camp after joining New England, Harrison took out elder statesman Troy Brown on a route across the middle. Brown threw the ball at him, but a month later a group of Patriots went to coach Bill Belichick and asked him to make Harrison one of the defensive captains.

"It wasn't about me making friends," Harrison said before the 2004 Super Bowl. "It was about me proving that I still had some gas in my tank and I could still play."

But it wasn't just gas in his tank.

As the hits took their toll on Harrison, he turned to banned substances to get back on the field.

"My purpose was never to gain a competitive edge," he said Friday night. "Rather, my use was solely for the purpose of accelerating the healing process of injuries I sustained while playing football.

The injuries came more frequently as Harrison, now 34, got older.

He was sidelined for eight games in 1999 with a shoulder injury. After injuring his ankle in 2002, the Chargers feared his career was in jeopardy and cut him.

Harrison quickly signed with New England and held together the defense for teams that won the 2004 and 2005 Super Bowls, sealing the second victory by intercepting Donovan McNabb with 9 seconds remaining.

But he played in just three games in 2005 before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligaments. He broke his right shoulder blade last season and missed six games, then returned for two more before straining his right knee and missing the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

ESPN.com reported that Harrison's name came up in federal and New York state investigations into an Internet pharmaceutical distribution ring for steroids and other performance enhancers.

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