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NFL's Goodell aims to share blame on player safety

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NFL's Goodell aims to share blame on player safety

NEW ORLEANS (AP) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to share the blame.

``Safety,'' he said at his annual Super Bowl news conference, ``is all of our responsibilities.''

Not surprisingly, given that thousands of former players are suing the league about its handling of concussions, the topics of player health and improved safety dominated Goodell's 45-minute session Friday. And he often sounded like someone seeking to point out that players or others are at fault for some of the sport's problems - and need to help fix them.

``I'll stand up. I'll be accountable. It's part of my responsibility. I'll do everything,'' Goodell said. ``But the players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it.''

Injuries from hits to the head or to the knees, Goodell noted, can result from improper tackling techniques used by players and taught by coaches. The NFL Players Association needs to allow testing for human growth hormone to go forward so it can finally start next season, which Goodell hopes will happen. He said prices for Super Bowl tickets have soared in part because fans re-sell them above face value.

And asked what he most rues about the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation - a particularly sensitive issue around these parts, of course - Goodell replied: ``My biggest regret is that we aren't all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get (bounties) out of the game, to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That's what I regret, that I wasn't able to make that point clearly enough with the union.''

He addressed other subjects, such as a ``new generation of the Rooney Rule'' after none of 15 recently open coach or general manager jobs went to a minority candidate, meaning ``we didn't have the outcomes we wanted''; using next year's Super Bowl in New Jersey as a test for future cold-weather, outdoor championship games; and saying he welcomed President Barack Obama's recent comments expressing concern about football's violence because ``we want to make sure that people understand what we're doing to make our game safer.''

Also:

- New Orleans will not get back the second-round draft pick Goodell stripped in his bounty ruling;

- Goodell would not give a time frame for when the NFL could hold a game in Mexico;

- next season's games in London - 49ers-Jaguars and Steelers-Vikings - are sellouts.

Goodell mentioned some upcoming changes, including the plan to add independent neurologists to sidelines to help with concussion care during games - something players have asked for and the league opposed until now.

``The No. 1 issue is: Take the head out of the game,'' Goodell said. ``I think we've seen in the last several decades that players are using their head more than they had when you go back several decades.''

He said one tool the league can use to cut down on helmet-to-helmet hits is suspending players who keep doing it.

``We're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders,'' Goodell said. ``We're going to have to take them off the field. Suspension gets through to them.''

The league will add ``expanded physicals at the end of each season ... to review players from a physical, mental and life skills standpoint so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion,'' Goodell said.

With question after question about less-than-light matters, one reporter drew a chuckle from Goodell by asking how he's been treated this week in a city filled with supporters of the Saints who are angry about the way the club was punished for the bounty system the NFL said existed from 2009-11.

``My picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll,'' Goodell said.

But he added that he can ``appreciate the passion'' of the fans and, actually, ``couldn't feel more welcome here.''

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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NBA, G League to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects

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USA Today Sports

NBA, G League to offer $125,000 contracts to elite prospects

The G League will begin offering "select contracts" worth $125,000 next year to elite prospects who are not yet eligible for the NBA, a move that could slightly lessen the handful of one-and-done players at the college level.

There is no determination yet on how players will be identified as potential targets for such a contract. The G League said Thursday that it is establishing a working group to develop that process and other criteria, and that there will be no cap on how many players could be signed to a select deal.

"We recognize that talent assessment is inherently subjective," G League President Malcolm Turner said. "But as the name would suggest, this working group will be charged with identifying the relevant pool of players who may be offered a select contract. It's not as if any player can unilaterally raise their hand and dictate that they will join the league playing under a select contract."

Players will be eligible to sign the select deal if they turn 18 by Sept. 15 prior to the season that they would spend in the G League. The move follows recommendations released earlier this year by the Commission on College Basketball, a group that was chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and was tasked with reforming the college game.

The commission report said "elite high school players with NBA prospects ... should not be `forced' to attend college."

Turner said the move addresses that concern.

"We've tried to answer the basketball community's call for an alternative in a timely and thoughtful way," Turner said.

Players who receive the select contracts all will become eligible for the NBA draft the following year. Their rights would not be retained by an NBA club beforehand, no matter which G League affiliate they wind up with.

Under current rules, players are not eligible to enter the NBA draft until they are a year removed from high school -- though that is expected to change through an amendment to the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players in time for the 2022 draft.

The G League has allowed 18-year-old players in the past, but never before under any elite designation.

While it is apparent there are still details to be ironed out -- such as how these select players will be allocated to G League teams -- NCAA President Mark Emmert said he appreciates the G League's plan.

"Obtaining a college education continues to provide unmatched preparation for success in life for the majority of student-athletes and remains an excellent path to professional sports for many," Emmert said. "However, this change provides another option for those who would prefer not to attend college but want to directly pursue professional basketball."

And this could put the G League and some big-name NCAA programs on a collision course.

Players can sign letters of intent to play for a Division I school in the 2019-20 season starting next month, and there's nothing to suggest that some of the top recruits -- whether they've signed or not -- won't consider going to the G League for $125,000 instead of college next season. That means the potential is there for some awkward situations if a player signs with a school, and later backs out of that commitment to turn pro.

The G League's working group is expected to be formed and functioning within the next couple of weeks, but it's unclear when the process of players contacting the league and vice versa will begin. It is expected that there will be an advisory council to tell athletes who contact the G League about their potential eligibility for a select deal, much like how college football players can ask about their potential NFL draft status.

"There might be some collision points, but our role and what we intend to do is educate and inform the marketplace," Turner said. "We're also not going to be targeting those who have already made their decisions."

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James called the NCAA model "corrupt" and said he would suggest to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver a plan to expand the G League and turn it into more of a farm system with an eye on truly preparing young talent for the NBA.

"As the NBA, we have to figure out a way that we can shore up our farm league," James said in February, when he was still with the Cleveland Cavaliers. "And if kids feel like they don't want to be a part of that NCAA program, then we have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas all the time."

Through the first two nights of this NBA season, 35 rookies -- most of them having left college early -- made their debuts. Of the 35, only five scored more than 10 points in their first game.

 

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Stanley Cup champions in the house for Wizards home opener

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@MonSportsNet

Stanley Cup champions in the house for Wizards home opener

It was a full D.C. family affair Thursday night inside Capital One Arena for the Washington Wizards' home opener against the Miami Heat. 

Several Washington Capitals were in attendance on their night off just 24 hours removed from an overtime-thrilling win against the Rangers, 4-3. 

Andre Burakovsky, who buried the game-winner for the Caps Wednesday night, was courtside with teammate Devante Smith-Pelly. Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey and Dmitrij Jaskin were posted up together in a different row. 

It's not all that often that basketball and hockey communities intersect (or get along), but that's certainly not the case in D.C. 

Now, if the reigning Stanley Cup champions can rub off some magic on the Wizards, we really could be referring to this city as the "District of Champions." 

 

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