Posted: Monday March 31, 2008 11:18AM; Updated: Thursday April 10, 2008 11:50AM
The air here is thick with talk of collective bargaining and impasses and opting-out of the CBA and the terrible economy impacting stadium construction. So it was fitting that the meetings opened last night with a presentation from Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein. He spoke about how to get good people, motivate them and keep them when they've accomplished great things. He talked about money, but he talked about people more. He told the owners, "Our best assets at Goldman Sachs take the elevator and leave the building every day.''
I think the owners would have preferred a more today's-economy-kind-of-spiel, because so many of them are worried that interest rates and advertising will at least temporarily cripple their bottom lines. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank suggested America was in a recession now, and asked Blankfein if he agreed. If we are, Blankfein said, it's a shallow one. Jets owner Woody Johnson asked about NAFTA, of all things. Roger Goodell asked him how Goldman Sachs viewed the sports industry today, and Blankfein was bullish on it -- particularly as an international business. And you wonder why so many owners want to play so many games in London and Germany? Follow the money, people.
I have this quick reaction to the proposed hair penalty, which would prohibit players from covering the names on the back of the jerseys with hair cascading out of the helmet: Who cares? Where's the hue and cry over this? I have never, ever heard a player or coach say any game was remotely affected by the length of a player's hair. And some of the biggest hair guys in the league are also some of its best people and best leaders. Al Harris. Troy Polamalu. Rashean Mathis.
To me, this is the classic case of people who don't play the game policing an element of the game that needs no policing whatsoever. I don't think Polamalu's hair is unsightly; I think it's cool. I'll have some thoughts from Harris and New Orleans cornerback Mike McKenzie tomorrow morning. Suffice it to say they're not pleased.
Though I think the Competition Committee is behind the proposal of Kansas City coach Herman Edwards ("This is not about culture,'' Edwards said, "it's about the uniform''), I'd be surprised if the rule passes. Like it or not, there's been a racial overtone to banning players wearing their hair the way they want.
Here's what I expect to happen of substance here:
The defense will get its in-game communication tools. Defenses league wide will be able to thank Bill Belichick for this. It's because of Spygate that the league will put speakers in two defensive helmets per game beginning this year. "It's our third shot at it,'' said Atlanta president Rich McKay, the co-chair of the league's Competition Committee. "I believe it has a better chance, maybe because the focus has been on the situation in New England.''
It takes a three-quarters vote to enact rules changes such as this one, meaning 24-of-32 teams will have to vote -- likely Wednesday -- for the ability for a defensive coach to communicate with a defensive player on the field during the first 25 seconds after the 40-second play clock begins. In 2006, 18 teams voted for the coach-to-player system, the same way the offense has the ability to go coach-to-quarterback. Last year, 22 teams said yes.
I'd be stunned if two more teams, at least, didn't cross over. It would eliminate the ability of an enterprising (read: cheating) team to illegally videotape defensive signals being sent into the game, because, obviously, the defensive team would now be speaking into a microphone instead of giving hand signals.
"I think its time has come,'' McKay said. It has.
Why two players? Because, unlike the quarterback, some defensive captains and/or leaders don't play every snap. So if the player with the speaker in his helmet leaves the field, one designated player per game would be able to change helmets so he could wear the one with a speaker in it. If both players are either hurt or not in the game for a defensive snap, the defense would have to signal in the play like the old days.