Patriots

Bettman: 'Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal'

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Bettman: 'Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal'

Those that know him best said it was genuine anger in NHL commissioner Gary Bettmans eyes as he delivered a 30-plus-minute diatribe ripping into the NHLPA on Thursday evening at the Westin Hotel in New York City.
Bettman and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly rejected the NHLPAs latest offer for an eight-year CBA that included 300 million in make whole money and loosened player contract rights in most areas. But Bettman and Daly both insisted they were willing to die on the hill for a 10-year CBA that limits the term for contracts at five years or seven years for players re-signing with their own team and doesnt allow more than a five percent variance in salary each season.
They added a little insult to the injury of rejecting the deal by simply calling NHLPA special counsel Steve Fehr and leaving a voice mail message, and then Bettman started the verbal bombing that seemed equal parts angry, distressed and despondent.
The key for all of us is to have a long-term agreement. Thats what the fans deserve, said Bettman. Thats what the game deserves. Thats what the players deserve. Thats what all of the leagues business partners deserve.
The four new owners wanted to push ahead and do something bold. They virtually put a new 100 million on the table to show that they wanted to get the game back and play as soon as possible.
The unions response was shockingly silent, so to speak, in terms of reaction. There was almost no reaction other than thank you, well take the 100 million. The owners were beside themselves. Some of them I had never seen that emotional. They said they dont know what happened, but this process is over. Clearly the union doesnt want to make a deal.
Bettman went on to illustrate a negotiation where they clearly identified three things from the players: a 10-year CBA that would guarantee labor peace for a significant portion of time, a five-year term limit on contract for players that protect GMs from themselves and the five percent variance limit for year-to-year salaries that would eliminate the back-diving contracts. The NHL was giving in certain areas to get those necessary CBA features, according to Bettman, and was looking for a simple yes or no answer on Thursday.
Instead they got an NHLPA offer that moved partially toward the league, and that caused steam to start pouring out of Bettmans ears. Also unimpressed were the four moderate owners from Pittsburgh, Toronto, Winnipeg and Tampa Bay that got involved with negotiations this week.
We have all spent too much time without any real progress at the expense of our fans, our sponsor and the communities we serve. It was time to make bold moves and get a deal, said Pittsburgh co-owner Ron Burkle. Many people think we got over our skis and they are probably right, but we wanted to do everything we could to get back to hockey now. We didnt hold back.
We made substantial movement on our end quickly, but unfortunately that was not met with the same level of movement from the other side. The players asked us to be patient and keep working with them. We came back with an aggressive commitment to pensions which we felt was well received. We needed a response on key items that were important to us, but we were optimistic that we were down to very few issues. I believe a deal was within reach. We were therefore surprised when the Fehrs made a unilateral and 'non-negotiable' decision which is their right, to end the playerowner process that has moved us farther in two days than we moved at any time in the past months. I hope that going backwards does not prevent a deal.
Bettman basically stated that the 300 million in make whole money is off the table, any negotiated middle ground from this weeks talks are now off the table, and things could get frosty for a little while.
We are proposing a long term system that will pay the players billions and billions of dollars over the terms of the contract, said Bettman. I am disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight. Were going to have to take a long, deep breath and regroup.
Sometimes you feel like youre chasing your tail in this process. But we so much want to play we went even further than we should have.
If one judges by things like franchise value and monetary power then Toronto Maple Leafs owner Larry Tanenbaum should be one of the biggest power brokers in the NHL, and he sounded 100 percent frustrated after witnessing the process firsthand.
I must admit I was shocked at how things have played out over the last 48 hours, Tanenbaum said. The sessions on Tuesday felt cooperative with an air of goodwill. I was optimistic and conveyed my optimism to the Board of Governors at our Wednesday meeting. However, when we reconvened with the players on Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone had thrown a switch.
"The atmosphere had completely changed. Nevertheless, the owners tried to push forward and made a number of concessions and proposals, which were not well-received. I question whether the union is interested in making an agreement. I am very disappointed and disillusioned. Had I not experienced this process myself, I might not have believed it.
Well, everybody believes it now after watching the surreal CBA soap opera play out at the Westin. It has left the NHL still stuck in suspended animation, but perhaps a little closer to an agreement somewhere down the line.
But heres a word of advice for both sides: There is way too much Bettman vs. Fehr pay-per-view action going in these negotiations. Things wont get settled until theres much greater concern about doing whats best for the game.

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

Energized Patriots defense forces 'critical swings' with turnovers

“We’re a blue-collar team…”

Devin McCourty didn’t hesitate when asked about the Patriots’ identity. Moments prior, McCourty and his teammates had just stomped the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City, 33-8, to run their win streak to a half-dozen games. The Pats are tied for the best record in the AFC with the Steelers

“We played at a high level,” said McCourty. “They made some plays, but I thought we executed our game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do today.”

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After surrendering a 100-points per game through the first month (ok, it was only 32), the Pats defense has flexed their muscle during this stretch, allowing 12.5 points per game, which would be the best in the NFL were this a season-long thing. We’re not looking at the same unit even though the personnel is largely the same. If anything, from a talent-level, this defense has less skill than it did when the season started. Their best player, Dont'a Hightower, is out for the year, lost during the first win of this 6-game streak. They’ve also survived three-game absences from $31-million cornerback Stephon Gilmore and their most consistent interior defender, tackle Malcom Brown. Yet the defense keeps showing up, keeps improving and its confidence is growing by leaps and bounds.

“We’re just playing together…we’re kind of figuring that out,” said McCourty. “We’re understanding how we need to prepare, how we need to practice, whether it’s a hard, full-padded practice, whether it’s a walkthrough, we know what we need to do on each of those days and when we do that, we give ourselves a chance. You’re seeing that on Sundays. Everyone running around, everyone knows their job and it’s all about execution.”

“I thought our players gave a great effort tonight,” said Bill Belichick. “We came out and performed well early, throughout the game and played really good situational football.”

The Pats were opportunistic, forcing three turnovers, including one in a huge spot, when Marquis Flowers stripped the ball from wideout Seth Roberts as the Raiders were knocking on the door. It was 14-0 at the time, and Oakland had life. Second-year cornerback Jon Jones battled Roberts, Flowers popped the ball free and safety Pat Chung pounced on it. Instead of milking the clock and heading into halftime up two scores, the Pats turned that fumble into points, driving to midfield before Steven Gostkowski kicked a career-long 62 yarder. That further energized a Pats team that was already surging.

“It’s something we talk about every week,” said McCourty. “We’re playing solid defense, executing the game plan, but changing the game with turnovers - you know, even Duron’s interception was a third down so it was kind of like a punt. The energy that brings - when the offense takes the field after we get a turnover - that’s huge. And then with them driving again in the red area before the half is what we talked about, getting that stop.”

“We had some real critical swings with those turnovers,” admired Tom Brady, a chief beneficiary of those change in possessions.

Earlier this week, I asked McCourty if he got a sense that the team was coming together at the tail end of their stay in Colorado Springs. He smiled and joked initially, but you could sense the veteran safety can see and feel what the rest of the league is now a witness to.

“I hope so. I mean, it’d probably be terrible if I say yeah and then we go on a five-game losing streak. I can see the headline: ‘McCourty was wrong.’ So, no, I think we understand how the season starts to pick up. You know, each game means more. We understand that seven wins (now 8) doesn’t mean anything. We have to continue to get better. So, I think why we end up usually improving is because it’s the understanding of there’s no tomorrow.”

The defense ordered that Code Red after losing to Carolina in Week 4, and since then, they have worked harder, worked longer and cleaned up so many of the issues that ailed them that opening month. It’s a credit to the players, “they won’ the game tonight,” said Belichick, and the coaching staff as well. if you’ve followed this team over the years, you know even now, they’re not satisfied. There are “things to work on” added Belichick and they’ll start that work on the flight home from Mexico City to Foxboro. 

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