Much to tackle at owners meetings

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There are a lot of issues at play heading into the NFL owners meetings next week in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The competition committee has gotten together twice recently for a total of 11 days to hammer out some issues that will be before the teams. Some of them are simple. It looks like one defensive player could finally be green-lighted to get a green sticker on his helmet that would signify he has helmet communication with the sideline like quarterbacks. Bears coach Lovie Smith has said he is in favor of this.

Some are more complex, like re-seeding the playoffs. Owner Michael McCaskey said he was generally opposed to the idea when at the combine because it minimized the significance of winning your division.

This past postseason, it would have meant the Buccaneers would have traveled to the Giants and the Steelers would have traveled to the Jaguars in wild-card round games. Instead, the division-winning Bucs and Steelers had home games against teams with better records.

If you’re interested in wading through it, here is the entire conference call that was led by Atlanta’s Rich McKay, who chairs the competition committee, and Ray Anderson, the NFL’s vice president of operations. Warning — this makes even the long posts on here look short.

RICH McKAY: We’ll start, as Greg [Aiello] said, we met for probably four days in Indianapolis. We met again in Naples for like seven days. We conducted our annual survey, which we sent to all the teams and got good input. That kind of frames the outline for our report, and then obviously meet and go through it. We also met with the players, got their concerns, proposed some things to them to get their feedback. That kind of forms the basis of our report.

Our report kind of starts this year with the idea of competitive balance, because that is something that we as a League take great pride in and believe should be an object of ours. This year, I think with a fifth seed in the Playoffs, again, winning the Super Bowl, and the sixth seed having won it two years ago shows that competitively we are a very balanced League.

The interesting thing this year was in the AFC, NFC headtohead game, the final result was 32 for the AFC, 32 for the NFC which, again, shows good balance. We’re happy with respect to the competitive balance side of the game.

Statistically, this year, plays per game were up to 153.1. Points per game were up to 43.4, that’s the highest since 1983 for points per game. Yards per game up to 650.4, that’s the tenth highest in our history. And passing yards per game were 428, which is the second highest in our history.

Touchdowns per game were up to 4.85. Penalties per game were down again to 13.45. And then the average length of game is down to 3:02:59, which for us is a very low level over the last ten years and especially a low level since we reinstituted instant replay.

I’ll cover some of the playing rule proposals. One was brought to us by Kansas City. I’ll let them speak as to the rule itself and their intent behind it. Some of you have talked about, or at least I’ve read, it deals with the issue of hair not being allowed to cover the player’s name plate or numerals.

Proposals 2 through 9 are all submitted by the Competition Committee. I’ll cover four of those. There are a couple others that are just procedure type rules and actually get a little technical with respect to anomalies that have occurred in the game. The four that I’ll cover include proposal number 2, which would eliminate the force shot and rewrite that rule to say that the only time force shot would be called is if a player was actually held and carried out of bounds. Really begins to mimic then the college rule, and would eliminate last year we think it was called a total of 15 times it would eliminate those 15 calls.

Proposal 3, we expand instant replay to include field goal reviews. We had the anomaly last year with the uniqueness of the one kick that hit behind the pole, hit behind the post. We propose that we expand instant replay to cover that play.

Playing rule proposed, number 4, is the coin toss proposal. We proposed it before, propose it again, the winner had the opportunity to defer.

Proposal number 8 would eliminate the 5yard penalty for face mask. We believe that we can still promote and cover all the safety issues there are with respect to the face mask penalty with 15yard penalty. We then said you either must twist it, turn it or pull it for a 15yard penalty as opposed to the 5yard standard which only required a grasp. College is likewise changing their rule this year with respect to that penalty.

There are numerous bylaw proposals from teams with respect to roster sizes and there’s a Playoff seeding proposal. I’ll describe for you what that is. The Playoff seeding proposal would provide the Division Champions automatically qualify for the Playoffs. Under bylaw proposal 4A, the two Division Champions that have the best records automatically qualify for seeds number 1 and 2. After that, seeding would be according to the best record. Tiebreakers would go to Division Champions. So in other words, you would be competing, if you were a wild card, you’d be competing for seeds three through six depending upon your record. If you tied with the Division Champion, you would lose the tiebreaker and be seeded one spot lower. That’s bylaw proposal 4A submitted by the Competition Committee.

Resolutionwise we have proposed a resolution which includes coach to defense. This is something we proposed on two other occasions. This is our third shot at it. We revised the proposal and now allow for a second player to have a speaker in his helmet. Those two helmets cannot be on the field at the same time, so we would envision that the second player’s helmet would be put on the sideline. And in the event the first player came out of the game with an injury or for some other reason, that player would switch helmets, be able to wear that helmet in the game and receive the communication. At no time can those two players be in the game at the same time with the communication devices in their helmets.

That’s coach to defense. There’s one miscellaneous position that I bring up, which is we’ve recommended that there be the creation of a moratorium, or a dead period, some five to seven days before the beginning of free agency, in which teams would be free to talk to free agents, potential free agents. Agents only, certified agents only, not the player themself, they can negotiate a contract, they cannot execute a contract, they cannot visit or meet with the player facetoface. We recommended this. We forwarded it to the Management Council. Our hope would be that there would be some type of proposal we could vote upon in May with respect to this position. It’s similar to although we’ve modified ours a little bit with respect to what now exists in baseball and to a certain extent basketball that’s the position we’ve taken. There will be no voting on that at this meeting. Our hope would be there would be something to vote on in May.

With respect to integrity of the game, we have taken a couple positions on that, and I’ll leave that to Ray to kind of walk you through where we came out on integrity of the game and proposals surrounding it.

RAY ANDERSON: Integrity of the game and fair competition is a critical theme for us. You’re aware of the Commissioner’s memo of March 6 whereby he requested that the Competition Committee look at measures that will make our enforcement, if you will, even more effective. Specifically we have considered and will put for consideration to the owners several duties. The first being that the owners, GM, president and head coach, will be responsible for annually certifying compliance with the rules and policies. We do that in a lot of businesses where you have to get audited and the senior person signs off on the audit that things are in truthfully good order. We think that will help with accountability.

Also, as part of that, the duty to report both at the Club level and at the League level suspected or actual violations of the rules. Clubs and the League will be responsible for having mechanism in place whereby folks who have information can communicate it appropriately under strict confidentiality protection.

The other thing we’re looking at is the standard of proof for being able to determine a violation. The analogy is in the criminal world, it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt; in the civil world, it’s preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not that something occurred. So we are looking to enforce a standard of proof that would be more in line with preponderance of the evidence.

Certainly, enhancing already existing processes and measures whereby we will be able to more vigorously monitor, detect and enforce rules violations. There may be enhanced technologies, spot checks, things that will make people understand that you need to be aware, because we are determined to make sure our game is clean and competitively fair.

The main thing is accountability from top to bottom in protecting integrity and maintaining the confidence among our fans. That’s what we’re looking to do in terms of integrity and fair competition moving forward.

GREG AIELLO: Okay. We’re ready to go to questions.

Q. Rich and Ray, with the memo and the Commissioner and what was done with it, there was also a request to be made to come up with new things, even if you thought they were appropriate. Did you come up with any new proposals? These proposals you just outlined, Ray, are they things the owners have to approve or are they things the Commissioner can enact?

RAY ANDERSON: Some of them, the Commissioner has the authority to enact. For instance, we have the authority to upgrade our processes and very frankly, upgrade our ability, technologically to determine violations, and we would have the authority to do that here internally, not necessarily needing a vote of owners.

RICH McKAY: With respect to new proposals, I would draw your attention to my miscellaneous position we discussed, which was the idea of creating a moratorium or dead period, if you would, prior to free agency. The AntiTampering Policy applies during that time period. We feel this is something that would be in everybody’s best interest to try to eliminate that period for purposes of antitampering based on the history of the rule.

Q. That measure, does that require the approval of the owner?

RICH McKAY: Yes, I believe it does. That’s something that I think we would hopefully vote on in May once we get with the Management Council and put it down to writing as to how it would be implemented.

Q. Rich, in terms of the integrity of the game, I know the idea of tanking games at the end of the year, resting regulars for teams that have secured Playoff spots, I understand several years ago the Competition Committee looked into it and decided teams have the right to do what they want in specific instances. Is that still the case? Did the Commissioner try to lean on you at all to try to change that?

RICH McKAY: No, Tony, he certainly did not try to lean on us. But with respect to your question, yes, I think the Committee has always taken the position that we don’t want to be in the business of trying to dictate what coaches have to do late in the season with respect to the decisions they are going to make. They’ve earned the right to make those decisions. They may have injuries that they’ve decided to rest, and other times they decide not to. As we saw this year, coaches made those choices.

I think we do support the idea that a Playoff seeding and the potential reworking of Playoff seeding can motivate coaches late in the year based on seed and potential home game or not home game to have more games that count late in the year. So for us, we think that’s a better solution than ever getting in the business of trying to legislate who a coach will play.

Q. Gentlemen, I have two questions for you. Number one, on the integrity of the game issue, do you both feel there’s a need to assure the fans of this League that what happened with the tanking was an isolated incident?

RICH McKAY: I think, David, the question has been raised because of all the focus that went on in that incident. And accordingly, you’ve got to make fans assured that you are paying attention to the issue, that you are directing as much energy as you can to the issue. I don’t believe there’s a problem, but I do believe that because of the situation that occurred, we owe it to our game and to our fans to try to enact as much as we need to to make sure people are comfortable that this was an isolated incident that’s behind us.

RAY ANDERSON: I would add this, we’re looking forward to trying to get better. You know, it would be naive to think that our house has been pure forever, but we are compelled to move forward. And certainly the incidences of this year probably accelerated the urgency with regard to doing everything you possibly can going forward to maintain and, in fact, enhance the belief and the confidence of our fans that we’re having a pure game and we aren’t tainted. That’s our goal.

Q. Both of you, unrelated question, the whole idea of what’s going on with the CBA, several owners have issues with this. How hot is this going to be for discussion in Palm Beach? Are you concerned about where this is going?

RICH McKAY: I am more concerned, David, about getting votes for some of our rule proposals. I think I leave the CBA issues to others. I think as a club what we have to focus on is our task at hand which is trying to win football games. For me, focus on Competition Committee issues also. But I’ll leave that to the Commissioner to take us through the CBA issues.

Q. How about Ray? You’re speaking for the Commissioner I guess today. How much of a concern is it, that some of the owners have come out publicly and said they’re not happy with the deal?

RAY ANDERSON: I would have to defer to Jeff Pash. A great deal of analysis is going into our CBA. Certainly, under circumstances, you would prefer there not be a lot of discussion out there for strategic purposes, but I’d have to leave it to Jeff Pash to respond beyond that.

Q. A little off topic, as well. I’m working on a story about the image of the NFL relative to the other professional sports leagues. NFL’s image seems very positive, popularity in the numbers, it’s increasing every year. Meanwhile, a lot of the issues that face the NFL are really casting a cloud over some of the other sports’ leagues, whether it’s off the field, of drugs, suspensions, things like that. Is it because the way the NFL kind of faces these problems and handles them, or is there a fairness issue here? What do you guys say, or lack of fairness?

RICH McKAY: Well, let me speak from a team’s perspective. I think one of the things that’s been great for our game and is great for the fans is really what I opened up with today, competitive balance. I think we have a League that people begin every year with the idea that they can compete for a championship even though the oddsmakers have said otherwise. I think that lends itself to fans having great interest in our game, and I think the other thing that’s helped us a lot from the teams’ perspective, in the last 18 months to 24 months, we have done just what you said. We’ve taken the issues straight on. The Commissioner has come right out, whatever discipline issues that we’ve had, he’s dealt with them, dealt with them quickly, and moved to put them behind us. I think those factors certainly help our game.

RAY ANDERSON: I would agree, Rich. Certainly the Commissioner’s charge here is to face your problems headon, and get on with it. So if there is an issue, if there are concerns, we’re not going to pretend they don’t exist. We’re also not going to pretend that we’re perfect, but we’re certainly going to try to get there. We get after it, and we don’t deny that we’ve got issues to deal with, so we go after them.

Q. What issues do you guys see on the horizon? A lot of buzz about the retired players’ complaints, the concussion issue has been dealt with, really the results of the studies and what’s going to happen hasn’t really, hasn’t come to light. What are some of the issues? What are they right now, the real prominent ones?

GREG AIELLO: I think you could probably list them for us. We’re all aware what the issues are relating to the game and the business and the League, what Ray said and Rich said. The approach is to address them head on, get ahead of the issues and take a leadership position. We’re not talking talent, we’re trying to keep the focus on the League.

Q. Question for Ray. In discussing the preparation, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, all that, how do you feel you have been treated as far as when the Commissioner destroyed the evidence, destroyed those tapes supposedly? Do you feel you were adequately kept abreast of that?

RAY ANDERSON: Certainly. They admitted, in discussions with Mr. Belichick, he admitted a lot of the things that had been alleged so that, yes, we were very comfortable that we dealt with that completely. I mean, it’s public knowledge that I was, along with Jeff Pash, some of the folks that went up there and reviewed and were able to validate that it was what it was. So we feel very appropriate

Q. And you feel that destroying the evidence was correct?

RAY ANDERSON: Absolutely.

Q. Why? Why destroy it? Why not just keep it around?

RAY ANDERSON: There was no further purpose in keeping it.

Q. Evidence is evidence. Evidence is something that’s supposed to be retained. No criminal procedure involves destroying of evidence.

RAY ANDERSON: They had admitted, this wasn’t anything disputed, they admitted it. We saw it was consistent with the admission. We felt it was prudent to leave it there, destroy it, and we don’t regret that at all.

Q. Rich, I’m just interested in what has been the reluctance to put the radio device in the players’ helmets? On the surface of it, it seemingly eliminates some of the videotaping issue. When people have expressed concerns about this, what have they told you?

RICH McKAY: I think the first time we proposed it, we got pushed back on both sides from offense and defense. Offense, because, you know, the question of why does the defense need it; defense, the question of what do we do if the middle line backers, whoever you decide to put the device in, gets hurt.

We were very concerned about the issue of potential for two players being on the field at the same time, so we didn’t have a backup procedure for the defense. I think that year we wanted to get the idea out there and see if we could get it passed but hopefully get it passed at least in the second year. I think we got 18 yes votes in that one. Obviously, we were short.

The second time we proposed it, I really thought it was going to pass. I think we ended up with 22 yes votes. We obviously came very close. And I couldn’t tell you where those no votes came from. I would venture to guess that more of them than not were offensive coaches. But I think, again, we didn’t revise it with respect to the backup player. I wish now we had. We have this year. So hopefully we’ll get it passed.

Q. Just one other thing, will they also have the green decal?

RICH McKAY: Yes, they will. Hopefully, we’re going to change that decal a little bit, spruce it up a little bit. Yes, they will.

On the back of helmets in other words, let’s just assume that you’ve got a linebacker wearing the primary and a safety wearing the backup. The safety’s helmet will be on the sideline. It will have a decal on it, but it will be on the sideline. He won’t play the game with that helmet until it comes time for him to need to go in and call the signals and the primary’s on the sideline, at which point he can then wear that helmet. But they will both have the decal, just like the backup quarterbacks do.

Q. I just have a question about the integrity of the game and the fair competition question when it comes to policing infractions. Can you guys discuss how the 49ers tampering conviction and the investigation may have affected your rules and the policing of these rules?

RICH McKAY: I can say from the Competition Committee standpoint we didn’t know anything about the 49ers’ situation, any of the facts or any of the discussions when we discussed the integrity of the game memorandum that the Commissioner submitted to us.

RAY ANDERSON: Likewise here, Nancy. That had no effect in our discussion at the meetings in Naples.

Q. Would a situation like the 49ers’ tampering conviction be something that would fall under this policing category?

RAY ANDERSON: Yes, particularly with regard the duty to report and ultimately the duty by senior folks to certify that they have not violated our rules and policies. So these measures that we’re talking about would, in fact, cover a situation like that.

Q. A couple questions on that coach to defense system. Rich, because of the spy game issues, does the coach to defense have a better chance of passing this year? I’ll wait for your answer.

RICH McKAY: I do. I do believe that it does have a better chance. I think maybe because of the focus that has been on the situation in New England earlier this year, but also because I think that people think the time has come for it. I thought last year they thought that; we just fell two votes short.

I also think our revision to allowing the backup takes away any of the argument I think the defensive coaches had. I do believe its time has come I hope. I never am overconfident about a vote, but I do feel that its time has come.

Q. My second question is also, the backup player, does that specific player have to be designated before the game?

RICH McKAY: Yes, yes. Just as the quarterbacks are designated on the pregame sheet, on the inactive sheet, we list all three quarterbacks, and obviously they have the radio receivers in their helmets, we will now ask the defense to list the two people that have that capability in their helmet, a primary and a secondary.

Q. And if they’re both hurt?

RICH McKAY: Then at that point, just like if the offense were to lose its two quarterbacks or three quarterbacks as it may be, at that point you go back to signaling.

Q. For Greg, two things; one, you know, at what point in the session will there be kind of a briefing for the owners of the state of CBA negotiations or plans for CBA negotiations? Secondly, can you give us any idea of like major marketing or other business issues that are going to be dealt with, whether it’s international or whatever?

GREG AIELLO: First, on the CBA, there will be a presentation, discussion, review of the CBA. I wouldn’t term it of the CBA negotiations, because we’re really not in the middle of negotiations. So it’s as Ray mentioned earlier, we’re in the middle of a great deal of analysis and there will be discussion of the CBA after the meeting, yes, over a couple of days.

Then the nature of this meeting is that it covers the whole gamut of League business operations so there will be presentation and discussion on League economics, broadcasting, digital media, staging projects, our international business with just about every key subject you can think of will be discussed. Not much of it, not much of it involves voting. But there will be a lot of presentation and discussion of these business operations.

Q. Lastly, Rich, if you could just expand a little bit on this dead period. That would be five to seven days in which teams would be allowed to negotiate deals before the free agency starts?

RICH McKAY: That’s correct. With certified agents could not sign a contract and no direct contact with the player, no visits, no physical nothing such as that. We think that when you look at the other sports, look at what they’ve done and why they did it, we think it makes sense.

Q. Rich, two questions, first, what’s the proposal on roster size during the offseason? Is the Competition Committee asking for more than 80?

RICH McKAY: There are a number of roster size proposals from a bunch of teams. The Committee has one itself. We’re all kind of working through that. I would say that, yes, there are thoughts of expanding past 80, but I think we all want to get to Palm Beach, talk with the teams that have submitted, and then sit down and talk amongst ourselves. I don’t think anything’s in concrete yet.

Q. Secondly, can you explain the specifics of the hair policy and recommendation on that?

RICH McKAY: The specifics, I really leave to Kansas City because I never like to speak exactly for somebody else’s proposal. As written, it’s a pretty simple proposal, and I will read it to you. All they do is insert under the jerseys and numerals section of our equipment rules a player’s hair may not cover or obscure the surname on the upper back of the player’s jersey.

Then with numerals it says a player’s hair may not cover or obscure the numerals on the back or the sleeves of the player’s jersey. That’s how that rule reads. The Committee as a whole is going to, you know, obviously endorse the position at some point when we get to that point. But I think I would defer to the Chiefs with respect to the proposal itself.

Q. In other words, hair can still be long, but as long as it doesn’t cover up any part of the name

RICH McKAY: That’s correct. That’s correct. I think that’s then what it is going to call for, is not for the players to cut their hair, it means they have to keep their hair under their helmets. There’s a big difference there.

Q. Quick scheduling question for Greg. Which day will Steve Bornstein be making his report on the NFL Network, and do you expect much discussion on the impasse with Comcast and Time Warner?

GREG AIELLO: Steve will certainly cover that. I’m not sure if that’s I can get back to you on that, Paul, whether it’s Monday or Tuesday. Does anyone have the timeline here? We’ll check that out and get back to you. But it’s definitely part of the meeting.

Q. Rich, could you explain a little more, when you talk about eliminating a forceout. That refers to instant replay review?

RICH McKAY: No. On field. On field.

So the rule let me get to the actual rule itself the rule as it is written now says that you can’t be carried or pushed out of bounds by an opponent. In our proposal, we would delete “or pushed” and we would insert the language, before “carried,” “held up and carried.” In essence we would eliminate the forceout. We feel there are so many levels of judgment that go into the forceout call, we just think it would create a much more consistent play when you say you get your feet down for a completed pass or you do not. That does not have to do with replay.

Q. That’s what it refers to, getting the feet down?

RICH McKAY: That’s correct.

Q. If you’re pushed out, one foot in, one foot out, it eliminates that discussion?

RICH McKAY: Incomplete.

Q. Was there any discussion on the field goal timeout situation that came up several times?

RICH McKAY: Yes, there was. In fact, we address it in the report. I’d like to find the exact position, but this report, as it usually is, is a little long.

I’ll just tell you what my recollection is. We took the position we felt we should leave it alone. We felt like that although there were some unusual circumstances early in the year that didn’t look right, if you will, to fans and those watching on television, as the year went on, it began to regulate itself because there is risk with calling the timeout and the way it was called. If the kicker misses the first one, makes the second one, that’s not a good thing. You’re giving the kicker a practice kick. Some coaches would say that’s not a good thing.

We saw once it didn’t work the way it had early in the year, really that kind of freezing the kicker late timeout regulated itself in our mind.

Q. Rich, two quickies. The history of the coin toss deferral, has this come up before? Would it be the same as college? Second question, in reviewing field goals, what are the limits of reviewing a field goal?

RICH McKAY: Okay. The coin toss would be the same as college with respect to the deferral, I believe we have brought it up before. I believe we have not been successful before. But as is our history, I think Competition Committee wise, doesn’t mean it will stop us from bringing it up again. We still think the twopoint play is the right thing to do. We brought it up five, six times before. What’s your second question?

Q. Instant replay and field goals.

RICH McKAY: Good thing you bring it up. It is somewhat complicated. I don’t want to make it more than it is. In essence, you would be allowed to review any kick that involves going under or over the cross bar. And inside or outside of the upright. The only kicks that would not be deemed reviewable is if the officials determine the ball had gone over the top of the upright, then like college, where they have specifically excluded that from review, so would we. If that situation occurs, then the official if the coach challenges, the official would go over and tell the coach that’s not a challengeable play.

Again, you would review whether it was left or right of the upright or whether it went over or under the cross bar or if it hit something, like the camera that we place behind the cross bar, you can’t review it if it goes over the top of both uprights because we think we do not have the camera angles to support a good picture there. So we would view that as a nonreviewable play.

Q. Rich, on the free agency dead period that you described; one, how much of a problem, if any, have you found of there being visits before free agency opens? Because you hear of that sometimes, and you think that has been a problem. Secondly, if you have a five to sevenday window, it pushes things back. But then you have the period before that, sort of like you have now. Will there be any exerted effort to police the period before the window opens?

RICH McKAY: Both good questions.

With respect to visits, I am not familiar with visits. I would be surprised if those have occurred because that does not, would not sit well with anyone with respect to that.

With respect to the period of time prior to it and why we proposed the dead period, it is because we feel like there’s too much contact that’s coming from all different directions, a lot of it coming from the agent’s direction. If you create this dead period, you’re creating a much more level playing field for those that wait the entire period. We don’t think there will be a lot leading up to it because every team will have that right and no contract should be executed during the dead period. There’s nobody that’s gaining any advantage by any early contact, and, yes, we would ask that any early contact, if this rule were to pass, would be vigorously enforced and prohibited. But I don’t see it as much of an advantage gain because no team could sign the contract in that period of time. So you would have the opportunity to meet with the agent, negotiate a contract, and have a better feel when free agency opens if you are going to have a chance to sign this player.

Q. One more thing on that, Rich. Do you think that would be a situation where I don’t know if this is covered in that but where the agent would be free to tell the media, “There’s an agreement that’s been reached during this period”?

RICH McKAY: Well, you can’t sign a contract. But to say that an agent isn’t going to try to tell the media member that he’s got a contract and a big number and the hopes that his number would be bigger, that would be naive of me to say otherwise.

Q. Quick question for each. Rich, on the potential reseeding of the Playoff teams, how much of the impetus stems from the final actions that came down during the final weeks of the ’07 season?

RICH McKAY: I don’t think much of it at all. This is something that we talked about, for now, I’d say going on five to six years. I think it goes back to when we went to eight divisions of four, we were extremely nervous about the fact that you could have a situation where there’s a division or two that’s extremely weak one year or another, and create imbalance as to who should qualify for the Playoffs. Whoa we were nervous about that going in.

I think if you look back at the approval of realignment and when we went to eight divisions of four, I think you’ll find that the Commissioner at that time, Commissioner Tagliabue, said that for two years we would study the issue to make sure we’re getting the right Playoff mix and that this shrinking of the divisions doesn’t have a real adverse effect. I think following that, we talked about the issue of should we reseed, and I think that conversation has maintained. I don’t think this year was any different than other years. There were some teams, obviously, that did it differently. But I do not think this year was the impetus.

Q. Does it taint at all, Rich, the sanctity of winning a Division Title in your eyes?

RICH McKAY: No, because I think that the major thing you want to accomplish when you go into the year is win your division. The reason you want to win your division, you know that gets you to the Playoffs.

So in my mind, in no way have we touched that. We haven’t gone into it saying this Division Champion doesn’t qualify for the Playoffs. We’ve gone one step further and said if you win the division and if you have one of the two best records in football or one of the best Division Champion records, you are going to get a bye. To me, I don’t believe it does. I know there will be others that take the position on the opposite side, and I respect them for it. But I would say to you, I think that to make as many games as competitive as we can late in the year without, in my mind, adversely affecting the third and fourth best division records, I think this would be a good step for the League.

Q. Ray, quickly. Ray, as a former agent, how prevalent, in your experience, were discussions between agents and teams before the official free agent deadline in general terms?

RAY ANDERSON: I appreciate the question, Ira. My experience was this moratorium makes sense because there was quite a bit of activity in the agent community which necessarily means, or frankly, had to get some cooperation on the other end to accomplish those communications. So this is a very timely and necessary measure given my history as an agent.

Q. I have a couple things here, just followups. First, on the reseeding, Rich, since realignment, can you tell us how many cases would have been reseeded? I’m sure you’ve got some research on it.

RICH McKAY: You know, can you get that from me Monday at the meeting? We do have that research. We’ve got it, and it will be in the report. I believe that the Player Personnel Department is actually working on that. There is a number of them. We’ve done it year by year, it’s not as easy as you think to do. We have done it, and I can give it to you Monday. I don’t have it right here.

Q: Another thing I was curious about on this moratorium, how will that affect potential free agents resigning with their existing teams? You know, there’s always a lot of activity that week with teams, salary cap, they keep guys off the market, etc., etc. Can these potential free agents actually sign with their existing team?

RICH McKAY: Absolutely, they can sign with their home team all the way at any time and during and including the dead period and/or moratorium, however you want to call it. We think that this is this potential rule, obviously let’s realize it’s still just in the proposal phase and will have to be voted upon by the owners, but I think it helps the home team myself. I think it clarifies what the market is five days or seven days before free agency actually begins. So I think the home team has a real clear picture of what the player’s market is going to be and they can make a decision accordingly as opposed to now, really you can operate in the dark as to what that market will be until free agency opens. That’s just one man’s opinion, but that’s how I see it.

Q. On the whole whistleblower effect here. You mentioned Goodell can enact some things. Are there things that have to be voted on? Can you clarify that for me?

RAY ANDERSON: Coach to defense and the like?

Q. I’m not talking about coach to defense. I’m talking about the whole whistleblower, integrity issue.

RAY ANDERSON: No. Very frankly, our position, my position, is that there’s some discretion allowed the Commissioner under our existing structure and policies whereby you wouldn’t need the authority of owners to say, for instance, we’re going to change or adopt or use a different standard of proof to protect the integrity and fair competition. No permission required to say we’re going to upgrade our policies and very frankly increase our technologies that will help us monitor, detect it, enforce. That’s something that the Commissioner has the discretion here to determine and would not require ownership approval. Unless, of course, the economics of the thing were significant.

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