How can NFL make bounty ban stick?


How can NFL make bounty ban stick?

The Mutiny Over The Bounty is now reaching the silly stage, which is right about the time to ask the question, What exactly is the league trying to do here?

If its to reinforce the new safety regime, then it has to not only crush the New Orleans Saints ex post facto, but aggressively seek other teams who have done the same.

If its to show the legal profession that it isnt vulnerable to safety lawsuits from ex-players, it may work some. Legal experts differ on the efficacy of this tactic, and Ill leave the cakehole-flapping to them.

If its to punish Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis for being annoying, Roger Goodell has opened a pandoras box that would clean out most executive levels of most team buildings.

But if, and were just spitballing here, it is to slap the coaches into line on issues like safety, or more comprehensively, to trim their sails the way most baseball managers got theirs cut back, then the league had better come heavy or not at all.

There is no figure in American sport more monumentally imperious than the NFL head coach. Each one behaves with a sense of entitlement and power that supercedes even most law books. They want what they want when they want it, and woe betide those who dont provide it swiftly enough.

Payton is one of those, with oak leaf clusters. He gave New Orleans a Super Bowl, and essentially runs everything that Tom Benson cant reach. And while he wouldnt necessarily be considered more of a noodge than most, he is vulnerable because of the bounty program he knew about and indirectly promoted.

Yet it is hard to see how the league could make a ban on bounties stick without policing every team every day in every meeting and watering hole, so surely Goodell has come to understand that going so public with the issue makes no superficial sense. The league cannot win this unless the players and coaches eliminate the practice out of fear of retribution.

And that takes us to now, four days later, with the Saints on fire and the football abuzz over what the next shoe will be, and from what height it will be dropped.

This has a chance to be a true internal firestorm for the league, because Goodell cannot stop the leagues investigation with the Saints without looking like a dupe who chose selective enforcement over sweeping cultural change. After all, the league chose this fight on its own, independently and without prodding.

In short, if Goodell wants to win, he has to go all the way, all four limbs flailing with menace and purpose. And that seems like more than any commissioner can be allowed by his employers to do. Ask Fay Vincent how independent lawgiving worked out.

So if this is a practical loser, what dies Goodell get out of it? A show that the league is trying to fight for safety by cracking down on one well-established bounty scheme? Cant see how a plaintiffs lawyer would swallow that one with the mountains of evidence that most teams have engaged in same over the years.

Or is it to scare the hell out of Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis to send a message to the other 31 coaches and general managers that they are employees too, and their loyalty tests are being recalibrated for great strictness?

It makes more sense than Goodell crusading to stamp out the influence of the evil Gregg Williams -- a fry of considerable smallness. Its bazookas on hummingbirds.

So just as an alternative to what seems to be a dead-end for the league, lets consider the possibility that this is a message to stamp out some sort of behavior considered rampant, and since stamping out bounties is pretty much a long-shot, one can only guess as to what the real aim is. And our guess is this:

To do yet again for the owners what they never want seen to be doing themselves administering worker discipline and consequences. The owners dont know team-building, but they do know liability exposure, and this is a hell of a gap in the shield. To hammer the Saints with both hands may get the message across to the other recalcitrants that the sheriff doesnt just enforce player law, but coaches and general manager law as well.

I mean, what else could there be? Fear of slow news days before the draft?
Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Kings adamantly disagree with perplexing foul call at end of loss to Rockets

Kings adamantly disagree with perplexing foul call at end of loss to Rockets

SACRAMENTO -- Every time the Houston Rockets tried to pull away, the Sacramento Kings answered Wednesday night in the team’s home opener. It was a heavyweight contender throwing body blows at a 100-to-1 underdog riding a huge home crowd advantage.

And then the ref called the fight.

With the Kings trailing 98-95 with 26 seconds remaining, the Rockets attempted to inbounds the ball and George Hill made a play. From the video replay, it appeared that the ball tipped off the fingertips of Houston's Eric Gordon and the nearest official called Kings ball.

Hill and teammate Garrett Temple celebrated the turnover and the sold out crowd went crazy.

The play went under review and not only was the call overturned, but Hill was assessed a personal foul. Gordon went to the line and hit two freebies to give the Rockets a 100-95 lead and effectively ended Sacramento’s chances.

In the confusion of the moment, it turns out that an official on the opposite side of the court called a personal foul and the replay wasn’t to check on possession, but to determine which Kings player would be assessed a personal foul.  

The Kings can’t call shenanigans on the officials, the league has stiff penalties for that. But they seemed just as confused as everyone else in the building when asked about the call during postgame interviews.

“I could have swore that the refs pointed out of bounds, our ball, but they said they called a foul, so it is, what it is,” Hill said following the game.

Hill avoided digging himself a hole with the league and a potential fine as reporters tried to dig deeper. 

Head coach Dave Joerger gave an account of what the officials said following the call, but he too seemed perplexed by the play.

“That was a foul,” Joerger said of what the officials told him on the sidelines. “I adamantly disagreed. They said they called it at the time, which I didn’t see. So that was more my argument than whether it was a foul or not.”

Sacramento continued to compete in the final seconds, but they were forced to foul intentionally down the stretch and the Rockets were able to hold them at bay to come away with the 105-100 victory.

Report: Gordon Hayward 'unlikely to return' this season


Report: Gordon Hayward 'unlikely to return' this season

Despite the severity of Gordon Hayward's injury, there was a small bit of hope that he might be able to return this season.

It appears that won't happen.

Hayward underwent surgery Wednesday night and is "unlikely to return this season," his agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN.

"We expect him to make a full recovery and return to his All-Star form," Bartelstein told ESPN.

The Celtics' prized offseason acquisition suffered the terrifying ankle injury just five minutes into his Boston debut on Tuesday night. He was diagnosed with a dislocated left ankle and broken tibia.

After playing in Cleveland on Tuesday, the Celtics returned to Boston for their home opener on Wednesday against the Bucks. Prior to the game, a 30-second video message from Hayward to the fans was played in the arena.

“What’s up, everybody? Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who’s had me in their thoughts and prayers,” Hayward said. “I’m going to be all right. It’s hurting me that I can’t be there for the home opener. I want nothing more than to be with my teammates and walk out on that floor tonight. But I’ll be supporting you guys from here, and wishing you the best of luck. Kill it tonight.”