PHOENIX (AP) — NFL owners got plenty done in their meetings, including approving the Raiders’ relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, and addressing a variety of rules changes.
So what does it all mean?
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The Raiders’ move to America’s gambling capital was a slam dunk once Bank of America came aboard with a $650 million loan that followed Nevada putting up $750 million in public funding for a $1.7 billion stadium. Oakland never really had a plan that enticed Raiders owner Mark Davis nor other NFL team bosses.
This relocation is unlike the Rams moving to Los Angeles, then the Chargers following them there; yes, three teams switching homes in about one year’s time.
This is the NFL following much of America — at least the part that is enamored of sports — in changing its perception of Sin City, the gambling capital of this nation.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said as much this week.
“I would probably tell you that I think society has probably had a little bit of a change with respect to gambling in general,” Goodell said.
“I think we still strongly oppose it in that room, and otherwise, legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is No. 1. We will not compromise on that.
“But I also believe that Las Vegas is not the same city it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It’s a much more diverse city. It has become an entertainment mecca. It’s the fastest-growing city in the country.
“So I think when you look at it today versus what it was a decade or two ago, I think it’s a much different city. And they made a very compelling proposal, which the owners obviously approved overwhelmingly.”
Also look for the Raiders, perhaps with some help from the league, to find a way to play home games outside of Oakland in 2019. They have lease options for the Coliseum for the next two years, and the Las Vegas stadium won’t be ready until 2020.
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This is not as major a step as some might think. Yes, the referee no longer will make the final decision, which will come from officiating chief Dean Blandino and his staff in New York. He will have input, but it makes sense for the crew at NFL headquarters to be the ultimate arbiter.
There is one person monitoring every game, and supervisors and overseers in the room. They have the opportunity to view replays even before the referee gets involved. They also are removed from the scene, if you will, bringing a more measured approach to the review. No cacophony from the stands. No players screaming their approval or disapproval. No coaches throwing fits.
“I think it will speed up for the fans and the coaches, not having to wait for a timeout to find out what’s going on,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.
“There were times in the past where you would go to commercial break, come back and then we would get the TV feed, then we’d have to challenge. All that now should be sped up and we should not have those long breaks for the fans and the players.”
While SportsCenter fell in love with defenders on field goals or extra-point attempts jumping over the line to block those kicks, most players in the NFL were loathing it.
Wisely, the league’s powerful competition committee felt the same way. In its meetings with the players’ association at the scouting combine, that was a prime topic.
Now, it’s gone. And, although it might be entertaining, good riddance.
“We all knew during the season at some point it was going to get discussed,” said competition committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons.
“We saw many instances as teams began to learn how to block it, it became more concerning … all of a sudden the players weren’t getting a free run and now the player was (blocked and) coming down at a really bad angle.
“When we met with the players’ association, to a person they were quick to say, ‘We don’t like this play.’ We also get feedback on proposals, and that was one that they universally said, ‘We want that play taken out.'”
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