How can NFL make bounty ban stick?


How can NFL make bounty ban stick?

The Mutiny Over The Bounty is now reaching the silly stage, which is right about the time to ask the question, What exactly is the league trying to do here?

If its to reinforce the new safety regime, then it has to not only crush the New Orleans Saints ex post facto, but aggressively seek other teams who have done the same.

If its to show the legal profession that it isnt vulnerable to safety lawsuits from ex-players, it may work some. Legal experts differ on the efficacy of this tactic, and Ill leave the cakehole-flapping to them.

If its to punish Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis for being annoying, Roger Goodell has opened a pandoras box that would clean out most executive levels of most team buildings.

But if, and were just spitballing here, it is to slap the coaches into line on issues like safety, or more comprehensively, to trim their sails the way most baseball managers got theirs cut back, then the league had better come heavy or not at all.

There is no figure in American sport more monumentally imperious than the NFL head coach. Each one behaves with a sense of entitlement and power that supercedes even most law books. They want what they want when they want it, and woe betide those who dont provide it swiftly enough.

Payton is one of those, with oak leaf clusters. He gave New Orleans a Super Bowl, and essentially runs everything that Tom Benson cant reach. And while he wouldnt necessarily be considered more of a noodge than most, he is vulnerable because of the bounty program he knew about and indirectly promoted.

Yet it is hard to see how the league could make a ban on bounties stick without policing every team every day in every meeting and watering hole, so surely Goodell has come to understand that going so public with the issue makes no superficial sense. The league cannot win this unless the players and coaches eliminate the practice out of fear of retribution.

And that takes us to now, four days later, with the Saints on fire and the football abuzz over what the next shoe will be, and from what height it will be dropped.

This has a chance to be a true internal firestorm for the league, because Goodell cannot stop the leagues investigation with the Saints without looking like a dupe who chose selective enforcement over sweeping cultural change. After all, the league chose this fight on its own, independently and without prodding.

In short, if Goodell wants to win, he has to go all the way, all four limbs flailing with menace and purpose. And that seems like more than any commissioner can be allowed by his employers to do. Ask Fay Vincent how independent lawgiving worked out.

So if this is a practical loser, what dies Goodell get out of it? A show that the league is trying to fight for safety by cracking down on one well-established bounty scheme? Cant see how a plaintiffs lawyer would swallow that one with the mountains of evidence that most teams have engaged in same over the years.

Or is it to scare the hell out of Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis to send a message to the other 31 coaches and general managers that they are employees too, and their loyalty tests are being recalibrated for great strictness?

It makes more sense than Goodell crusading to stamp out the influence of the evil Gregg Williams -- a fry of considerable smallness. Its bazookas on hummingbirds.

So just as an alternative to what seems to be a dead-end for the league, lets consider the possibility that this is a message to stamp out some sort of behavior considered rampant, and since stamping out bounties is pretty much a long-shot, one can only guess as to what the real aim is. And our guess is this:

To do yet again for the owners what they never want seen to be doing themselves administering worker discipline and consequences. The owners dont know team-building, but they do know liability exposure, and this is a hell of a gap in the shield. To hammer the Saints with both hands may get the message across to the other recalcitrants that the sheriff doesnt just enforce player law, but coaches and general manager law as well.

I mean, what else could there be? Fear of slow news days before the draft?
Ray Ratto is a columnist for

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

John Lynch: 49ers will be up-front with Kaepernick

The only promises new 49ers general manager John Lynch made quarterback Colin Kaepernick for this offseason are open communication and honesty.

Kaepernick has spent all six of his NFL seasons with the 49ers after being a second-round draft pick in 2011. He has started 58 of the 49ers’ past 71 regular-season games.

Kaepernick has the contractual ability to opt out of his contract in March. If he does not, it seems likely the 49ers would release him – even if they want him back – to avoid being on the hook for his scheduled $14.9 million pay for the 2017 season.

“The one thing we will do very well with Kap is we’ll communicate,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And I think that’s very important for both sides. Like everything else, that process is well in the works. We’ll continue to do that and we’ll be very up-front with him, in terms of what we’re thinking and we’ll want to know what he’s thinking, as well.”

Lynch said he developed trust and a good rapport with Kaepernick during the time when the 49ers were among the top teams in the NFL. Lynch was a broadcaster for FOX-TV and had occasion to meet with Kaepernick multiple times during production meetings.

“Every time we talk about Kap, I think of the guy who was in the Super Bowl not too (long ago),” Lynch said. “Things happen in guys’ careers. Injuries happen. Different things happen.”

Kaepernick began last season as the backup to Blaine Gabbert. After regaining his starting role in Week 6, Kaepernick put together his best season since 2013 – his first full season as a starter.

Kaepernick completed 59.2 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 90.7, and he added 468 yards rushing.

Lynch said he and coach Kyle Shanahan have been evaluating the players on the 49ers’ roster. The other three quarterbacks on the roster – Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Thad Lewis – are not under contract for next season.

“Like we said we would – and like we told Kap we would – we’re assessing everything,” Lynch said. “Both Kyle and I believe wholeheartedly that position is the most-important position in football.

“From every side of this thing, we’re evaluating. And we’re continuing to watch the film. We’ll continue to work toward that until we have made a decision.”

A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun


A sports-related pie-fixing scandal? Hell never felt so fun

I’m liking this 2017 so far. Then again, after 2016, nearly any year would be an improvement.

Just this last weekend we got a flat-earth scandal that turned into a mock-up about media self-importance and fake news (yay Kyrie Irving and his impish sense of satire!).

We got the overblown Russell-Hates-Kevin narrative, and the faux Russell-Secretly-Loves-Kevin counternarrative, all because we are stunningly attracted to meaningless and utterly contrived drama (yay our ability to B.S. ourselves!).

We got the NBA All-Star Game ripped for having no defense even though last year’s game was, if anything, worse (yay short attention span!).

We got the Boogie Cousins trade and the national revulsion of all the thought processes the Sacramento Kings put into this perpetually rolling disaster (yay making Boogie and Vivek Ranadive household names!).

And now we got the Great Sutton United Pie-Fixing Scandal. Yeah, pie-fixing. Hell never felt so fun.

So here’s the deal. Sutton United, a very small fry in English soccer, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, a competition in which all the clubs in England are commingled and play each other until one team remains. The big clubs almost always win, so any time a small club goes deep, it’s a big deal.

Anyway, Sutton went deeper in the competition than nearly anyone in the last century, a charming development given that it is such a small club that it had a stadium caretaker, goalie coach and backup goalie all in one massive fellow, a 46-year-old guy named Wayne Shaw. Shaw became the globular embodiment of the entire Sutton Experience, a jolly lark for everyone involved and especially when he ate a pie on the bench in the final minutes of Sutton’s Cup-exiting loss to Arsenal.

And now he’s been eased into resigning his jobs with the club, because – and this is so very British – there were betting shops taking action on whether he would in fact eat a pie on the bench, and he either did or did not tip off his pals that he was going to chow down on television.

He did eat the pie. His pals collected on their bets. The sport’s governing body opened an investigation into market manipulation by gambling – which is hilarious given that no fewer than 10 gambling establishments have advertising deals with English soccer clubs. Shaw was invited to quit to kill the story, and he took the hint.

Hey, dreams die all the time. But it’s still pie-fixing. Let that rattle around your head for a minute. Pie-fixing. Not match-fixing. Not point-shaving. Pie-fixing.

Now how can you not love this year?

Sure, it sucks for Shaw, but it serves as a series of cautionary tales for athletes around the world.

* Gambling is everywhere, and every time you inch toward it, you dance on the third rail.

* If you want to help your friends, give them cash.

* This is a horribly delicious way to lose your gig.

* And finally, fun in the 21st century isn’t ever truly fun because someone in a suit and a snugly-placed stick is going to make sure you pay full retail for that fun.

But it is nice to know that something that has never happened before is now part of our year. Pie-fixing is a thing now, as silly in its way as Irving’s flat-earth narrative was. And as we steer away from normal games as being too run-of-the-mill-fuddy-duddy entertainment, we have replaced them with sideshows.

Or do you forget how many people complained Saturday and Sunday that the dunk contest wasn’t interesting enough? How stupid is that?

Lots. Lots of stupid. But against pie-tin-shaped planets and pies turned into betting coups, how can it possibly compare?

We chase a lot of idiotic narratives in our sporting lives. The great What Will The Patriots Do To Roger Goodell story died like the old dog it was. We still try to flog Warriors-Thunder as a rivalry in search of better TV ratings when all the obvious evidence is that it is no such thing unless you think a couple that broke up nine months ago is still a solid story. We have Bachelor fantasy leagues, for God’s sake.

This would leave most normal folks in despair, thus matching their everyday experiences, but yin meets yang, and every time it looks like we are all barrel-rolling into the sun, we get Irving, and then we get Wayne Shaw.

In short, 2017 is going to be fun of grand surprises for us all. I look forward to the day President Trump tries to fete the Patriots and only gets to Skype with Bob Kraft and the equipment guys who midwifed DeflateGate, and Mark Davis in Las Vegas, just to see if he can get a P.F. Chang’s into the Bellagio.

Why not? This is sport’s year-long tribute to sketch comedy, and evidently everyone is signing on enthusiastically to replace lessons of morality and honor and equality and dignity and sportsmanship with slackened jaws and belly laughs.

So yay sports! Or as it is clearly becoming, A Night At The Improv.