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Column: Memo to Goodell: Tips from Tags good idea

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Column: Memo to Goodell: Tips from Tags good idea

Paul Tagliabue has become one of those guys we come to appreciate much more out of office than we did when he was in it. Part of that is because history has been kind, so far, in assessing his 17-year run as commissioner.

Some of it may have to do with his successor.

Tagliabue lacked charisma, but never smarts. Low-key and pragmatic to the end, he rarely made himself the story. He reminded us of that again this week by giving both sides in Bountygate enough to tone down their feud, even as it was about to get uglier. Instead of bluster or threats, Tagliabue used legal jujitsu to solve a problem quickly and quietly, so everyone could get back to the field and the real business of making money. The same principle he applied in that decision could have characterized Tagliabue's no-nonsense reign: It's the game, stupid.

Contrast that with Roger Goodell. While the current commissioner doesn't suffer in any comparison on the business side, he should learn to tone it down. The NFL has never been more popular and a look at this weekend's slate of games demonstrates why. There are so many matchups between contenders spread over a half-dozen towns that Week 15 looks like the playoffs have already begun. It would take considerable luck and scrambling for the postseason to come up with three games that look as entertaining as San Francisco at New England, Denver at Baltimore and Chicago at Green Bay.

But that wasn't enough for Goodell.

Speaking after an owners meeting Wednesday in the Dallas area, Goodell took issue with Tagliabue's ruling in Bountygate, contending his predecessor let the players off the hook too easy. Never mind that Tagliabue did the same for Goodell, shoring up the shaky scaffolding of an investigation that couldn't afford to take many more hits.

``My personal view is I hold everyone responsible,'' Goodell said. ``Player health and safety is an important issue in this league. We're all going to have to contribute to that, whether you're a commissioner, whether you're a coach, whether you're a player, and we all have to be held accountable for it.''

Considering the week he just had, and the two previous weekends trying to soothe grieving families and teammates following senseless tragedies, you would think Goodell would be laying low. So naturally, he went against the grain and let slip that the league will charge a committee with looking into expanding the playoffs to 14 or even 16 teams. Not surprising, it drew about as much support from players as an earlier proposal he floated for an 18-game regular season.

In a tweet, the Packers Tom Crabtree suggested that while Goodell was at it, he might as well lengthen the preseason, too, expand the regular season to 82 games ``(like nba)'' and turn the playoffs into a ``like triple elimination?''

More to the heart of the issue was this from Sports Illustrated magazine's Peter King:

``The NFL has to stop thinking of ways to make more money, and start thinking of ways to keep the game the best game in America.''

To be fair, Goodell has tried. He might have been reluctant to take on the concussion-related issues that cloud the game's future - the same ones that flew under the radar during Tagliabue's tenure, and those of his predecessors. But he's made a largely good-faith effort since. No doubt it's difficult striking a balance as both CEO of an enterprise that rakes in $9 billion a year while at the same time protecting the employees that make the game go. With mounting litigation over those very same player-safety problems, everything he says is likely to be parsed for its value in a court of law one day.

But the more he stubbornly defends every one of his positions - even the ones, as in Bountygate, where Goodell cherry-picked evidence and arrived at the wrong conclusion - the less of an honest broker he becomes. Not to mention a bigger distraction. The more headlines Goodell grabs, the less there are for the games themselves, which is where a commissioner's focus should be directed.

Besides, the league has plenty of high-priced lawyers to help it chart a course through what already resembles a legal minefield. And nobody rushes generals to the front in fights anymore. So maybe a few weeks in the background and away from the bully pulpit would do Goodell's reputation a lot of good right now.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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Need to Know: Final pregame thoughts on Redskins vs. Packers

Need to Know: Final pregame thoughts on Redskins vs. Packers

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, September 23, 15 days before the Washington Redskins visit the New Orleans Saints.  

Talking points

The wide receivers will have opportunities

It’s a copycat league but the Packers defense is unlikely to emulate the soft Cover 2 scheme that the Colts used to frustrate Alex Smith and the wide receivers last week. Green Bay plays a more aggressive defense with more blitzing and man coverage and they aren’t going to change that up today because of what the Colts did. This should give Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, and Jamison Crowder some opportunities to get chunk plays. It won’t be easy, but the chances will be there for the taking. 

Watch the Packers running game

The Packers don’t run the ball very often; the last two years they were 29th and 27th in the league in rushing attempts and so far this year they are 27th. Why run the ball when you have a weapon like Aaron Rodgers? While they are effective when they do run, with their average per rushing attempt ranking in the top 10 in both 2016 and 2017, it doesn’t always matter. The last four times they rushed for over 100 yards in a game they have an overtime win and three losses. It must be noted that Rodgers played in only one of those games, so we know what makes the difference there. 

A better day for Peterson?

All week long I have been talking about the matchup between the Packers stout three-man front of nose tackle Kenny Clark and ends Mike Daniels and Muhammad Wilkerson against the Redskins’ patchwork interior offensive line. I think that the Packers have the edge here and that could mean some tough sledding for Adrian Peterson. I still think that Peterson will be able to get outside some and he should have a better day than the 11 carries for 20 yards he had against the Colts. The Redskins will need extended drives for touchdowns if they are going to win and Peterson will need to be a part of it. 

Which way will the Redskins go?

This Redskins team is an inconsistent bunch. It would not be surprising at all if they followed up their flat effort against the Colts with a solid performance against the Packers. I think the passing game will be sharper and the defense will keep the Packers from being in third and short too often. Still, Rodgers will get his and the Redskins will find themselves in a shootout. I pointed out earlier this week that it’s hard to beat Green Bay if you don’t score at least 30 points. The Redskins haven’t done that since doing it back-to-back in Weeks 10 and 11 last year. They lost both of those games, to the Vikings and Saints. Maybe they can do it and I think they’ll make a run at it but it will come up short. 

Packers 28, Redskins 24

Injury report

Game status

Out: Apke (hamstring), Lauvao (calf)
Questionable: Harris (concussion), Richardson (shoulder), Brown (oblique)

For the Packers, QB Aaron Rodgers (knee) questionable, S Kevin King (groin) out

Full injury report here

The agenda

Today: Redskins Kickoff 12 noon, NBC Sports Washington; Redskins vs. Packers 1 pm, FOX

Upcoming: Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 15 days; Panthers @ Redskins 21; Cowboys @ Redskins 28

In case you missed it

 

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Capitals trim two more from roster, sending pair of goalies to Hershey

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Capitals trim two more from roster, sending pair of goalies to Hershey

Washington made a number of cuts Saturday morning to trim their roster down to 43 players

On Saturday night, they cut it down to 41 as the team announced goalies Parker Milner and Adam Morrison were assigned to AHL Hershey.

Milner and Morrison’s departure leaves Washington with four goalies on the current roster in Braden Holtby, Pheonix Copley, Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov.

The trade of Philipp Grubauer left the backup role in Washington a matter of some question heading into the season, but the team’s top four was never really in doubt. Saturday’s move to send Milner and Morrison to the AHL only confirms what we already knew.

With Hershey’s training camp set to start on Monday, the Bears will obviously need two goalies which explains why the move was made now. 

This will likely only be a temporary move, however, as Vanecek and Samsonov are likely to be Hershey’s goalies heading into the regular season. For now, keeping them on the Capitals roster allows them to continue practicing against better competition and will allow them the opportunity for more work in the preseason.

The Capitals still have another three preseason games left to play, the next of which will take place on Tuesday in St. Louis. 

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