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NFL: Week 17

Goodell reaches out to fans

He has high hopes for new labor deal

Associated Press / January 4, 2011

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A day after the NFL regular season ended, commissioner Roger Goodell sent an e-mail to about 5 million fans, telling them that “if both sides give a little,’’ the league and its players’ union “can and will reach an agreement’’ on a new labor deal.

Citing the US economy and saying, “a 10 percent unemployment rate hurts us all,’’ Goodell wrote yesterday: “Yes, NFL players deserve to be paid well. Unfortunately, economic realities are forcing everyone to make tough choices and the NFL is no different.’’

He outlined two key elements in negotiations among owners and players to replace the collective bargaining agreement, which expires March 4:

■Expanding from a 16- to 18-game regular season, which Goodell called “a significant change’’ that would “resolve fan complaints about preseason’’ by dropping two exhibition games.

■Instituting “a new system that properly compensates proven veterans and retired players by shifting some of the outrageous sums paid to many unproven rookies.’’

In 2009, according to the e-mail, NFL teams agreed to contracts worth $1.2 billion — including $585 million in guaranteed pay — for 256 drafted rookies.

“Don’t get me wrong: top draft choices will continue to be highly paid,’’ Goodell wrote. “All we’re asking for is a return to common sense in paying our rookies. Other leagues have done this and we can, too.’’

Goodell also referred to the league’s efforts to improve player safety by enforcing rules on dangerous hits, especially to the head, and “addressing the potential wear-and-tear on players in the way they train in-season and off-season.’’

The union declined to respond to the letter, which was sent to a database of fan e-mail addresses the league has collected from various sources, including NFL.com.

Some individual players did react to what Goodell said, including Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the union’s executive committee.

“We’re not close [to a deal] right now,’’ Fujita said.

Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton found it noteworthy that Goodell wrote about owners and players needing to “give a little,’’ and also pitched an 18-game regular season and changes to rookie salaries.

“It sounds like more than ‘a little’ to me. What are the owners giving that’s equal to that?’’ Orton said.

Favre is sued Two massage therapists sued Brett Favre yesterday, saying they lost their part-time jobs with the Jets after complaining about sexually suggestive text messages from the veteran quarterback. Claiming they were subjected to sexual harassment and job discrimination, Christina Scavo and Shannon O’Toole are seeking unspecified damages from Favre, the Jets and a Jets massage coordinator. The suit also includes a message Favre allegedly sent to a third, unidentified massage therapist. “Kinda lonely tonight,’’ it says. “I guess I have bad intentions.’’ The team declined to comment. Favre’s agent didn’t immediately return a message. The lawsuit comes five days after the NFL fined Favre $50,000 for not being forthright in an investigation into allegations that he sent lewd text messages and photos to former Jets game hostess Jenn Sterger when they both worked for the team in 2008.

Injury report The Ravens expect injured free safety Ed Reed (ribs) and offensive tackle Michael Oher (sprained right knee) to play in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game against the Chiefs in Kansas City. Both were hurt in Sunday’s win over the Bengals . . . Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew will have arthroscopic surgery this week to repair partially torn meniscus in his right knee. He injured his knee in the preseason, played with pain for 14 games, rushing for 1,324 yards and five touchdowns . . . Giant offensive lineman Rich Seubert will have surgery to repair a dislocated right kneecap today. The 11-year veteran was injured in Sunday’s win over the Redskins.

Brackett coverage Colts linebacker Gary Brackett will almost certainly get fined after making helmet-to-helmet contact with a Titan Sunday. The Colts are hoping their defensive captain doesn’t get suspended. Brackett has been fined twice this season for illegal hits, and some believe a third such penalty could include a suspension . . . Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth reported to Redskins Park, a day after the Redskins ended a 6-10 season. Haynesworth was suspended without pay for the final four games for “conduct detrimental to the club.’’ He is appealing the suspension in hopes of recouping $847,000 in salary. Haynesworth returned to take the required season-ending physical and clean out his locker. He told reporters: “I’ve got nothing to say.’’

Williams gets deal One-time bust Mike Williams has found a home in Seattle. And the Seahawks’ leading receiver is sticking around after signing a three-year extension. Terms were not disclosed. Williams, the former first-round pick who spent the previous two years out of the NFL, finished the season with a career-best 65 catches for 751 yards and two touchdowns . . . Add this to the list of NFL records for Chicago’s Devin Hester — highest punt return average in a season. The Bears’ speedster averaged 17.1 yards, the highest in league history among players with at least 30 returns. He also set the career record for combined kick return touchdowns last month with his 14th . . . Police in Canton Township, Mich., said Lions safety Louis Delmas was a passenger in a road rage incident in which the driver waved the player’s gun. Police said 20-year-old Ravelle Sadler was arrested about 2:15 a.m. Dec. 21 after three people in another vehicle said they were threatened by the driver. Officers initially didn’t know who Delmas was and asked him if there was a gun in the car. Delmas said there was. Police didn’t arrest Delmas but seized the gun. Sadler faces trial Jan. 18 on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon and carrying a concealed weapon . . . The Seahawks’ win over the Rams to clinch the NFC West drew the highest preliminary ratings for the final game of “Sunday Night Football’’ in its five years on NBC. Seattle’s 16-6 victory earned a 12.6 overnight rating and 19 share.

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