– The Sports Business Journal reports a “breakaway” group of “mid-tier” NFL players is set to sign a lawfirm to intervene in the Brady vs. NFL case. The players, believed to be as many 70, are not happy that talks under federal mediator George Cohen broke off in March. Their motion, expected to be filed late this week, is essentially an attempt to have their voices heard alongside the owners and higher-paid players at the mediation table. This is the first tangible sign of discord among the players. Even if Judge Susan Nelson is expected to grant an injunction, this report is more fodder for the belief that NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith’s extreme positions have “painted him into a corner,” as PFT’s Mike Florio suggested.
– Mediation between the NFL owners and players has been adjourned, “tentatively,” until May 16. The extent of progress made remains completely unclear. While CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman has been extremely pessimistic, NFL Network’s Albert Breer has been the voice of optimism in his reports. The concern on the players’ side is that their leadership didn’t take mediation seriously. Free agency probably won’t occur before July or August.
– In addition to Christian Ponder, the Bengals will be working out TCU’ QB Andy Dalton in Texas on Friday. Cincinnati looks like they’ll pass on QB Blaine Gabbert should he be available at No. 4 overall.
– The Packers will host the Saints to open the 2011 NFL season on Thursday, September 8 at Lambeau Field in a battle of the last two Superbowl winners. The Patriots at Dolphins and Raiders at Broncos will open the Monday Night Football schedule, while the Jets will host the Cowboys in the first Sunday Night Football game. The Lions host their first MNF game in a decade when the Bears visit on October 10.
– Citing multiple sources, the National Football Post reports that Arkansas’ QB Ryan Mallett skipped his team visit with the Panthers earlier this month after “a late night on the town.” Mallett met Panthers officials on the evening of April 8, but reportedly canceled for April 9, when the bulk of his visit was supposed to occur. Mallett reportedly “called and said he was sick,” after being spotted out late following dinner. Mallett continues to carry the rep of being a massive off-field character risk with consumption and addiction issues.
– Florida State’ QB Christian Ponder is now the “hot guy” at the bottom of the first round, according to SI.com’s Peter King. King expects QB-needy teams to explore trading into the back end of round one in an effort to grab Ponder. The Bengals, 49ers, Titans, Seahawks, Redskins, Vikings and Cardinals are all candidates.
– According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Raiders were unable to sign FS Michael Huff to a long-term deal earlier this offseason because his salary escalated at a higher rate than 30% from 2009 to 2010. Huff’s salary went from $945K in 2009 to $5.75M in 2010. This rule is a relative of the “30%” rule that prohibited teams from locking up players to long-term deals that would pay them 30% more than their 2010 salary in any future year. Depending on the outcome of the CBA, Huff will either hit the open market or the Raiders will have to pay him $6.325M if he’s ruled an RFA.
– Falcons’ MLB Curtis Lofton (knees) recently disclosed that he underwent surgery on both knees after the season. Lofton played through the injuries in the second half of last season. He started running on Monday, so it doesn’t sound like either procedure was major. He should be fine for the start of training camp.
– Falcons’ SS William Moore was reportedly arrested Tuesday in Gwinnett County, Georgia and charged with speeding, driving with a suspended license and failure to appear. According to PFT’s Mike Florio, the incident arose out of a pair of previous speeding tickets, only one of which had been resolved. That unpaid ticket led to the suspended license and a failure to appear charge.
– Kentucky’ G Brandon Knight has declared for the NBA draft, but has not signed with an agent. After averaging 17.3 points, 4.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 treys as a freshman, Knight is expected to go in the top-10.
– Nets’ F Brook Lopez (right arm) will have surgery next week to remove a calcium deposit. Lopez has known that he would likely need this procedure for some time. It’s not considered major, and won’t be a factor next season. It does, however, make it even more impressive that Lopez averaged 22.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 52.6 percent in 25 games after the All-Star break.
– Knicks’ G Chauncey Billups (knee) may have injured a ligament, a source tells the NY Post. He isn’t thought to have structural damage, but any ligament injury is very concerning. He could be limited for the remainder of the playoffs.
– Lakers’ F Lamar Odom was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Tuesday. Odom easily beat out runner-up Jason Terry and third-place finisher Thaddeus Young. Odom began the year as a starter in place of an injured Andrew Bynum, but ended up coming off the bench for 47 games. In that role, he averaged 13.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 treys per game. Odom becomes the first Laker to ever win the award, which has been presented since 1983.
– Former NHL F Peter Forsberg has accepted a job with Modo of the the Swedish Elite League as an assistant GM. Forsberg will help the club with their marketing and scouting. Forsberg said that “it will be fun to build the Modo of the future.” Forsberg played for Modo before making his NHL debut and he returned to Modo during the 2004-05 lockout. He played in an additional 26 games with Modo over the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
– The Tigers have placed DH Victor Martinez (strained right groin) on the 15-day DL. He probably pushed himself too soon when he returned to the lineup Monday.
– A’s LHP Dallas Braden )shoulder) was diagnosed with left shoulder inflammation after a visit with Dr. Lewis Yocum. Braden should be able to begin a throwing program within the next week and is likely to return to the major leagues soon after his DL stint is up. He has a 3.00 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
– The UK Sun has published a new interview with WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart. One of the more interesting quotes was about WWE eliminating the word “wrestling” from the company name and on television. Hart explains that no matter what you call the company – WWE will always be about wrestling – and takes a swipe at Hulk Hogan in the process (it’s hard to resist):
“I’m kind of scratching my head about that. I don’t know that it makes any difference. Wrestling is wrestling. Call it whatever name you want, it’s still wrestling. I think WWE is synonymous with wrestling. If WWE doesn’t stand for World Wrestling Entertainment then what does it stand for?”
“It may be a case of Vince trying to monopolise wrestling even more than he has. I think a lot of the wrestlers today, judging by the styles they have, they are wrestlers. They are not bodybuilders or powerlifters or strongmen like in the days of Hulk Hogan, where it was more the look. The young stars today don’t want to be Hulk Hogan. They want to be Bret Hart or Shawn Michaels.
– John Morrison was interviewed by The Miami Herald this week. Here are some highlights of what Morrison said about:
Recent Changes to His Character: “I think the main reason people take me more seriously now is my beard. I think that is the thing that has made the John Morrison character turn the corner and become looked at as a title contender. As someone people see or could see me in the ring with John Cena, The Rock and Steve Austin, even The Miz. I can’t believe I just said that, but The Miz is there. He is the WWE champion. All those guys were or are at the top for a reason. The more serious attitude, the aggression and the anger is something Johnny Nitro never had and John Morrison had been lacking prior to this year. I think I tapped into some very real things as would any method actor would.”
Climing The Ranks in WWE: “When you get into sports entertainment, your goal is to become WWE champion. How do you get that? That is like asking someone how to get a promotion. There are a lot of answers, but there is no clear cut, ‘This is what you got to do.’
“It’s frustrating. I see myself as a perfectionist, an almost obsessive compulsive workout fiend. The things I can control I give a hundred percent all the time. I workout, pay attention and study. I do all that stuff. To not be able to achieve the level of success I want, dreamed of as a kid and feel I deserve is part of what really led me to show that aggressive streak and show that anger and frustration in the ring. It’s something that is real. It’s something that is really happening to me.”
WrestleMania 28 from Miami: “I love Miami. I’m stoked that we are going there next year. If we are not going to be in Los Angeles, we may as well be in Miami. I love the sun. Next year I hope and expect to be main eventing WrestleMania. I want to come in as WWE champion or world champion or be involved in a WWE championship or world championship match.”
– According to the Wrestling Observer, former WWE star Sean “X-Pac” Waltman feels John Morrison should apologize for his unprofessional conduct towards Trish Stratus at WrestleMania XXVII. He wrote on Twitter,
“I think he should be ashamed. I think he owes Trish a public apology, and deserves to be in doghouse. Total bullshit.”
“I lost a lot of respect for Morrison over that. He may not care, but he f’n should.”
The former WWE Women’s Champion stated during a radio interview two weeks ago that Morrison gave her the cold shoulder during their post-match celebration. She also said that he rejected her suggestions during pre-match planning. Company sources indicate that he and/or his girlfriend Melina believe Stratus took the WrestleMania spot away from the Diva regular, hence Morrison’s behavior towards her.
Those on Morrison’s side say as he was laying out the match with Stratus, she was insisting that her trademark spots be featured, which led to his resentment. The complaint was that Stratus wanted to be the “star” of the match when its intention was for Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to garner mainstream attention for WWE. Also, the match was also under extreme time constraints and Morrison should have been treated as a rising star as opposed to “just another guy.”
While Stratus is generally regarded well behind the scenes, she has had her share of detractors over the years. She was not popular during her early years in the promotion and there have been complaints of her being arrogant, self-centered and phony. Former WWE announcer Kevin Kelly, who worked with Stratus from 2000 to 2003, was particularly negative towards her during a 2007 “shoot” interview and alleged that she engaged in a sexual relationship with Vince McMahon. Stratus also received a lot of heat from WWE officials for refusing to participate in the 25-Diva Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXV. She reportedly declined working the match because she was not guaranteed she would win. More recently, Stratus drew the ire of numerous Divas as they believe she “took their spots” at WrestleMania XXVII.
– On Monday’s episode of RAW, John Morrison called out R-Truth for being out of shape due to his habit of smoking cigarettes. Morrison defeated Truth and took his spot in the WWE title match at Extreme Rules, leading to a beat on Morrison by R-Truth. R-Truth then got a pack of cigarettes from a fan at ringside and lit up a cigarette, blowing smoke on the beaten body of John Morrison. According to TMZ.com, the largest anti-tobacco organization in the world is now demanding an apology from WWE for the segment, which they call borderline evil.
Patrick Reynolds, Executive Director of TobaccoFree.org, is demanding a public apology from R-Truth for smoking in front of children on a broadcast that’s promoted as family entertainment. Reynolds told TMZ.com:
“For him to smoke in front of [children] is irresponsible. At best, it’s thoughtless, and at worst, if he calculated appealing to kids by posing as a bad-boy outlaw, it’s evil.”
In response, WWE issued the following statement to TMZ.com:
“The negative effect smoking has on one’s health and physical performance was a part of a storyline on last night’s Monday Night Raw. Negative depictions of tobacco use on television are not unusual and can be seen on other TV-PG shows.”
– The ratings are in for Monday’s episodes of Tough Enough (Week 3) and WWE RAW from London, England. Monday night’s episode of WWE Tough Enough scored a 1.53 rating with 2,196,000 viewers. This is down from the previous week’s 1.81 rating and is the lowest rating for Tough Enough so far. This week’s episode of WWE Monday Night RAW scored a 3.1 cable rating with 4.7 million viewers. This is down from last week’s 3.45 rating.
– According to F4WO, Seldom seen WWE talent Harry Smith (aka David Hart Smith) apparently has plans to cross over from professional wrestling to mixed martial arts. His mother, Diana Smith, wrote on Twitter that he plans on following his father and grandfather’s trail as a shoot fighter.
“My son Harry Smith is quite the shoot fighter, does everyone know that? He is following in his dad Davey’s and Grandfather Stu’s footsteps.”
Diana also believes he is good enough to compete in a premiere mixed martial arts organization today.
“I actually think my son Harry Smith could compete in Pride, MMA/UFC now as a high level wrestler, he’s honestly that good! Ask Josh Barnett.”
Barnett, a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, said last year in an interview that he has been training the WWE Superstar in catch wrestling. Smith can be seen sparring with Barnett in the DVD seminar W.A.R. Catch Wrestling: Lessons in Catch-As-Catch-Can with Billy Robinson. CagesideSeats.com reported last month that Smith became an assistant coach in the Scientific Wrestling certification program under Catch-As-Catch-Can-Wrestling legend Billy Robinson. Smith earned the designation after logging over 100 hours of training with Robinson and receiving his approval to teach his concepts. Robinson stated to Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer that if he personally trained Smith for 18 months, he could win the UFC Heavyweight Championship—he was that impressed by him in the time they sparred.
Smith, however, remains under contract to WWE, which prohibits him from joining a mixed martial arts organization. While no indication has been given that the third generation wrestler is leaving WWE, his future prospects with the entertainment empire appear grim as he finds himself in a bigger rut than his 2007-2008 stint on the main roster where he primarily competed on WWE Heat. Sans an appearance in the 22-Man Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXVII, Smith has not competed in over two months; his last match occurred on the February 17, 2011 episode of WWE Superstars. Even further, Smith has not competed in a match on Monday Night Raw in nearly six months. He last appeared on the program on December 6, 2010, which saw him lose to former tag team partner Tyson Kidd in a blow off match. He was then laid out by Kidd’s short-lived bodyguard Jackson Andrews.
– WWE ordered O2 Arena security to confiscate all signs from fans relating to Zack Ryder at yesterday’s Monday Night Raw taping at in London, England. The Raw Superstar has been encouraging fans to bring Ryder related signs to WWE events, such as “Broski of the Week.” He often goes on Twitter acknowledging Ryder signs shown on television. He asked for an image of the “Zack Ryder = Ratings” sign that briefly appeared on Raw. That too was confiscated. Ryder was backstage at last night’s show, but was not used.
– Representatives of Jim Neidhart state that the former WWE star was not arrested by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on April 18. Neidhart realized he missed a date in traffic court on charges of driving without a license and operating an unregistered vehicle. He turned himself in to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and made a desk appearance. He then paid the $750 surety bond and was released. He was not incarcerated or taken into police custody.
– Britani Knight, a women’s wrestler from the UK, is denying online reports that she has signed a contract with WWE. Knight wrote on her Facebook page today: “Woahhh thanks the congratulations but i dont even know whats going on yet! Hopefully though guys fingers crossed!” Knight, who currently reigns as the Pro-Wrestling: EVE Champion, participated in a tryout before WWE officials this week. She also had a tryout with WWE last November.
– Jeff Hardy’s court case on drug possession charges was postponed again today after his lawyer asked for time to have a drug treatment assessment done. Jim Van Camp told Senior Resident Judge James Webb this was only an option under consideration. “There has been no assessment yet,” Van Camp said. “Becky Carlson … needs some time.” Carlson, the district administrator for the 19-B J.D. Sentencing Services Program, will form her own judgement as to whether Hardy needs drug dependent therapy, get another view from an expert and recommend a treatment plan. She said “that takes time.” The case has been continued until June 27.
On September 11, 2009 Hardy was arrested on charges of trafficking in controlled prescription pills and possession of anabolic steroids, after a search of his house yielded 262 Vicodin prescription pills, 180 soma prescription pills, 555 milliliters of anabolic steroids, a residual amount of powder cocaine, and drug paraphernalia. A Moore County grand jury later indicted Hardy. The cases against Hardy have been continued several times, including three times this year. He has remained free on bail pending his day in court.
– Kurt Angle, who was found apparently intoxicated behind the wheel of his vehicle in a ditch in Grand Forks, North Dakota on March 25, has been sentenced for reckless driving. The TNA Wrestling Superstar was sentenced Friday to a year’s probation, fines, and a 10 day jail sentence, which was suspended.