Champion Ravens might be forced to open season on road

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PHOENIX — The NFL won’t be adding playoff teams for 2013, and the champions of last season, the Baltimore Ravens, could open on the road because of a conflict with the Orioles.

As the owners meetings opened Monday, scheduling was a main topic.

Traditionally, the season has opened with the Super Bowl winners playing host on the Thursday night after Labor Day.

The Ravens won’t have that opportunity unless baseball’s Orioles, who share parking lots at Camden Yards with the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, will move their night game Sept. 5 to the afternoon.

So far, there’s been no progress, and Sept. 4 is not an option because it’s the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell twice has spoken with his MLB counterpart, Bud Selig, seeking a solution.

“Unfortunately, the only (other) option is to take the Ravens on the road,” Goodell said. “We think that is wrong for the Ravens’ fans. We would not want that to happen.

“We are working on parallel tracks for a couple more weeks. Clearly, we are getting to a point where we have to make that decision.”

Last year, the NFL moved the opener to a Wednesday night to avoid conflicting with President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Goodell also said the playoffs will not expand this season, but it will be discussed for the future.

“The competition committee looked at some of the issues,” said Goodell, who added the league needs to discuss expanded playoffs with the players’ union, too. “Now, we have a little bit of work to do before we can advance it. It clearly won’t be happening for this year if there was any doubt about that.”

Surrounded by six Pro Football Hall of Famers at a news conference, Goodell and Jim Brown announced that the league will pay $42 million as part of a settlement with a group of retired players who sued over the use of their names and images without their consent.

“We have a common good fund in our agreement that will allow us to reach out and help a lot of our players who really need help,” Brown said, “and not only that, but to help their spouses who some are suffering. We have individuals who are homeless.

“Today is like a coming back together because we can publicly say that we are doing something together that is going to be a landmark happening for people who truly need it.”

Moments later, Goodell came down hard on teams that consider asking questions about a player’s sexual orientation at the scouting combine.

Michigan quarterback-turned-receiver Denard Robinson, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa and Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell indicated they were asked about it last month in Indianapolis.

“We have been following up with the players and their representatives directly,” Goodell said. “We are also this afternoon working with all of our executives that lead in that position to make sure they understand what you can’t ask and what you can ask. We’re a professional organization. That’s unacceptable. We will do things the right way. We will give them that education and that training. I hope that that will solve the problem.”

Goodell also dismissed the notion that problems caused by the third-quarter blackout during the Super Bowl will damage New Orleans’ chances of hosting the game again. The league believes New Orleans authorities discovered the source of the problem that caused a 32-minute delay.

“They did a great job,” Goodell said. “I mentioned that this morning to our membership and I think they deserve another Super Bowl.”

Goodell also:

• Said there will be no change to the $36 million salary cap reduction the Washington Redskins were hit with in 2012; $18 million last year and $18 this year. Redskins general manager Bruce Allen recently called the penalty “a travesty of fairness.”

• Admitted there was improved effort in the players’ performance at the Pro Bowl and there will be further discussions here on its future.

• Reiterated the league’s desire to place a franchise in Los Angeles. He even thought Philip Anschutz’s decision not to sell AEG, which has interest in building a stadium downtown, is “very positive.”

“We want to get back to Los Angeles, but we are going to look at every alternative we have to do that successfully,” he said.

• Said the league is expanding a relationship with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

LEAGUE SETTLES EX-PLAYERS’ LAWSUIT

MINNEAPOLIS — The NFL has agreed to pay $42 million as part of a settlement with a group of retired players who challenged the league over using their names and images without their consent.

The league will use the money to fund a “common good” trust over the next eight years that will help retired players with an array of issues. The settlement also establishes a licensing agency for retired players to ensure they are compensated for the use of their identities in promotional materials.

– Associated Press


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