NFL still doesn't get Las Vegas, even with Raiders

NFL still doesn't get Las Vegas, even with Raiders

LAS VEGAS -- Sometimes the bumbling bozos in charge of the NFL just can't help themselves.

Or maybe they've been so afraid of Las Vegas for so long that they automatically start hyperventilating every time a player buys a plane ticket to this gambling town.

Blame it on their outdated and misguided beliefs about gambling and casinos - all of which have long been dismissed by other sports leagues. Blame it on their sheer paranoia that somehow their golden goose will go away if players happen to walk by a blackjack table.

But, really, doesn't the league realize its owners just voted 31-1 to allow the Oakland Raiders to move here?

Apparently not, judging from the reaction of league officials to a trip some players took to Sin City over the weekend. Their crime? Taking part in the Pro Football Arm Wrestling Championship at the MGM Grand hotel-casino.

"We are looking into it, and we became aware of it as it was underway," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "A longstanding policy prohibits any NFL personnel from promotional appearances at a casino."

Maybe the owners should have thought about doing away with that policy at the same time they met to approve Las Vegas as the new home of the Raiders. It wasn't on the agenda, though, probably because it didn't come with a $750 million gift attached the way the new Las Vegas stadium did.

People here have long been used to the NFL being hypocritical when it comes to gambling. But they might have thought the issue was settled when owners agreed to accept $750 million and Commissioner Roger Goodell said there were no plans to ask casinos to take the Raiders off the betting board when they come to town.

Yet here the league is, still fretting about players promoting casinos as if their presence at the MGM Grand somehow undermines the integrity of the NFL.

It's the same head-in-the-sand mentality shared by the NCAA that ignores the reality of the times. In the NCAA's case, it still has a prohibition on Las Vegas hosting NCAA events, which will prevent the city from being considered when the Board of Governors meets later this month to hand out championship sites.

Not only can't the city bid for a regional or Final Four, but also the men's ice hockey and wrestling championships it was hoping to land.

That's despite Las Vegas being host to four conference basketball tournaments this year - including the Pac-12 tourney that sold out the new arena on the Vegas Strip. Before it was moved this year from the MGM Grand, college players never had to leave the hotel-casino to play.

Fortunately for Las Vegas, other sports and leagues do get it. They gladly come to a town where fans will happily follow.

The ice was broken when the NHL decided Las Vegas would make a fine town for one of its franchises, now the Vegas Golden Knights. Then Mark Davis decided the city would be the perfect home for the Raiders, and every owner but one agreed.

And why not? Why should there be a stigma about a town based on beliefs from 50 years ago?

The NBA doesn't think there is. The league held an All-Star Game here and has a wildly successful summer league. Commissioner Adam Silver has called for legalized sports betting across the country, and there is a push behind the scenes to bring an NBA team to town.

NASCAR has not one but two Cup Series races scheduled in Las Vegas next year. The best rodeo cowboys in the world compete in their World Series every December, while the PGA has held tournaments here since the mobsters ran the town in the 1950s.

The biggest fights are almost always on the Las Vegas Strip, and the new T-Mobile arena is now the official home of the UFC. At a time when sports and entertainment bisect, Las Vegas has been the perfect host for everything from rugby championships to the World Series of Poker.

None of them has any worries about the reputation of Las Vegas. None believes ties between casino interests and teams are a problem.

None worries about their players spending nights in Strip hotels or walking through casinos like the other 42 million people who visit Las Vegas every year.

That the NFL does is laughable. But the real joke is on the league as it tries fitfully to move forward in a world where the old rules no longer apply.

Times have changed. Casinos aren't the threats the NFL always made them out to be, and to argue otherwise would be nonsense.

Luckily, the Raiders won't be here for three more years. It takes time to build a new palace for the team, even with taxpayers footing half the tab.

That leaves plenty of time for an attitude adjustment in league headquarters.

Carr discusses contract negotiations with Raiders: 'These things take time'

Carr discusses contract negotiations with Raiders: 'These things take time'

Raiders general Reggie McKenzie plans to extend quarterback Derek Carr’s contract this offseason. That isn’t a new thing, something that has been in the works for some time. He re-affirmed that fact last week, citing his team’s commitment to work out a long-term deal likely the biggest in franchise history.

Carr was reportedly frustrated with the pace of contract talks after the NFL draft – they’re supposed to heat up this spring and summer – but said he believes a deal will get worked out before training camp begins.

That’s his deadline for an offseason deal, the point where he wants focus honed on football.

“I have an agent who is in charge of that and I am confident that he and Mr. (Reggie) McKenzie will work it out,” Carr, a Fresno State alum, told the Fresno Bee. “I am only focused on becoming a better football player and helping my teammates become better players.

“I have complete faith it will get done before training camp. These things take time. The Raiders know I want to be here; this is my family, and I know they want me to be their quarterback.”

The sides have discussed parameters of a long-term deal, with greater specifics to be ironed out in the future. Carr has long said he wants to be a Raider his entire career. The Raiders want him as the public face of their franchise. A new deal is expected by all parties, a sentiment that has never wavered on either side.

Carr is scheduled to make a $977,519 in base salary in 2017, the final year of his rookie contract.

Raiders offseason program intensifies as OTA sessions begin

Raiders offseason program intensifies as OTA sessions begin

The Raiders offseason program is five weeks old. Players have lifted weights. They’ve improved cardiovascular shape. They’ve done drills in position groups and discussed schematics. They’ve added rookies to a group now 90 strong.

On Monday, they can finally put on helmets. They still can’t wear pads or have full contact, but the Raiders can play 11-on-11. Receivers will be covered. Quarterback Derek Carr will throw into traffic. Generally speaking, the competition cranks up a bit.

The NFL collective bargaining agreement has strict mandates regarding offseason activity, and a period formally called “Phase III” allows for more realistic on-field football work.

The Raiders will conduct 10 OTA sessions over the next three weeks. The media can watch three of them. Tuesday is the first, with another in each of the next two weeks. These sessions are technically voluntary, though the Raiders generally hover around perfect attendance. Head coach Jack Del Rio prefers his team be unified in the offseason. Players know it and show up.

There is a mandatory minicamp from June 13-15 which wraps the offseason program and starts a quiet period that extends until training camp begins in late July.

These OTAs offer an opportunity for new players to learn the system, for adjustments to be made and for chemistry to be built heading into a 2017 season where expectations are high.