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Goodell: Pro Bowl play improved from last year

Goodell: Pro Bowl play improved from last year

HONOLULU (AP) At least one key NFL executive thinks play improved at the Pro Bowl this year: Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell said Monday during a one-hour question and answer session on the social network Reddit that he thought the game improved from last year, when players were clearly not trying and were booed by fans in Hawaii.

``I watched the game and noticed the improved quality of the game,'' Goodell said.

The NFC dominated the AFC 62-35 on Sunday in a game that had some highlight-quality plays but that quickly became lopsided.

Goodell said he appreciates the commitment from players to make the game better.

``We need to continually work to make our game better for the fans,'' Goodell said. ``I look forward to getting detailed player comment and input over the next few weeks.''

Goodell interacted with fans during an ``Ask Me Anything'' session on Reddit, a popular message-board style website that allows users to vote posts and comments up or down. Goodell's session drew hundreds of questions and thousands of responses; the commissioner answered 14 questions.

The league has said it plans to decide on the future of the Pro Bowl by April, when next season's schedule is expected to be released.

Pro Bowl players immediately defended their play after the game, saying they tried hard and hoped the festivities would continue for future Pro Bowlers.

``I think he got what he asked for,'' said Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who set a Pro Bowl record with 10 catches.

``I think guys were intense, I think we understood exactly what he wanted, guys were making plays all over the field,'' Cruz said.

The game had its share of shenanigans, as well. Green Bay center Jeff Saturday lined up for one play on the AFC side even though he was a captain on the NFC team. That allowed him to snap one last ball to Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, his longtime teammate in Indianapolis before this season.

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt also lined up at wide receiver, getting two targets but recording no catches.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Survey of NBA general managers reportedly shows divide in how teams want to proceed with season

Survey of NBA general managers reportedly shows divide in how teams want to proceed with season

A conference call between NBA general managers and commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday revealed a divide as to how the GMs think the league should proceed if able to finish the 2019-20 season, according to a report by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor.

GMs were given a survey, the results of which were revealed on the call, and according to the report, they were split on several things:

  • Half the general managers voted to skip the rest of the regular season and go straight to the playoffs

  • More than half voted to reseed the playoffs 1 to 16, regardless of conference

  • About 75 percent voted in favor of a play-in tournament for bubble teams to determine the final playoff seeds; the other 25 percent voted in favor of a World Cup-style group stage

The play-in tournament was reported as a potential option by ESPN on Wednesday. Labeled as a “playoffs plus” format, it would allow teams just outside of the playoff picture like the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings -- all separated by just 1.5 games -- a way to play themselves into the playoffs if the regular season is in fact canceled. 

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The Wizards, currently the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and 5.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, weren’t mentioned in the report, but it did say 20-24 teams would be included. This would likely include Washington.

According to O’Connor, teams with top seeds like the East-leading Bucks and West-leading Lakers favor the play-in option over a group stage, likely because they get an easier matchup against lower-seeded teams and a less difficult path to a title. And because teams will always vote in their own best interest, the survey isn’t an indication of what will ultimately happen.

“There was zero commitment to any one plan,” one of the GMs told O’Connor. “But it was a call to gather more information.”

On Friday, Silver will talk with the league’s board of governors to discuss formats to resume the season, a potential timeline for return, and more. But nothing is expected to be determined on that call either.

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NFL, EA Sports agree to six year extension of Madden video game franchise

NFL, EA Sports agree to six year extension of Madden video game franchise

The Madden franchise will continue to be a part of the gaming universe for at least the next six years.

NFL owners on Thursday approved an extension of their deal with Electronic Arts, continuing a relationship that has existed for 30 years. It was also recently approved by the NFL Players Association.

The current contract was set to expire after the 2021 season. The extension means that EA Sports will continue to be the league's exclusive publisher of football simulation games through 2026.

EA Sports Executive Vice President Cam Weber said both sides had been talking for months. Many wondered what the future of the relationship might be after 2K Sports signed an agreement with the NFL in March to produce non-simulation games.

The current edition of Madden has seen a 30% increase in unique players. According to Electronic Arts, more than 330 million hours of the game have been played since it was released last August. The company has also seen large increases in gameplay during the past couple of months as people have been confined to their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic, with many tournaments taking place among friends and on television.

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Rachel Hoagland, the league's vice president and head of gaming and esports, said keeping the Madden franchise at the core of their video gaming strategy was important, especially with the emergence of new platforms and gaming systems. Sony and Microsoft have announced new generations of gaming consoles that are expected to debut by the end of the year.

"EA has done a nice job of ensuring the game matches the experience during a game week. The new technology will allow richer content and add more realism," she said.

Madden NFL 21 will come out in early August with the first looks at the game coming next week. 

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was last year's cover athlete. Baltimore quarterback and reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson said in April that he would be on the cover this year, but EA Sports has not made an announcement.

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