Losses piling up for Fehr, NHLPA in losing battle from start

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Losses piling up for Fehr, NHLPA in losing battle from start

Steve Burton should have been right. He was right about Phil Kessel having testicular cancer. He was right about Tim Thomas skipping his final season to hunker down at NORAD in preparation for the Mayan apocalypse.

And he should have been right about the NHL lockout being over. Its too bad that Steve Burton didnt take into account the fact that Donald Fehr is still very much involved in this negotiation process.

Donald Fehr clearly doesnt realize hes no longer toying with Bumbling Uncle Bud Selig, a commissioner so inept he couldnt negotiate his way out of an All Star Game tie, let alone a labor impasse.

Fehr, a players executive who has lead his charges into work stoppages in six of the eight labor disputes hes been involved in, is now trying put his mutually assured destruction negotiation tactics into a labor dispute with a league that just eight years ago used a scorched earth bargaining strategy to bring the NHL Players Union to its knees.

The National Hockey League is a niche sport that has over expanded into areas that are clearly not capable or wiling to consistently support the game. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is more than aware of this and has built support among the teams in those fringe markets that simply cannot afford to make a bad deal and are more than willing to sacrifice a season to get what they want.

Unlike wannabe tough guy NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, or the marginally competent Selig, Bettman wields real tangible power in these talks. All Bettman needs is the support of 8 teams to veto any proposed CBA agreement. It also means over three quarters of the league has to be in agreement to override Bettmans authority. And since the deal to sell the Phoenix Coyotes to Greg Jamison is still pending approval, NHL itself is the current owner of that team giving Bettman his own vote in any CBA matter. With the support of ownership hawks like Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, that care nothing about the game itself and are more than willing to subsist on other revenue while they crush the players, and teams like Florida and Columbus, whoare more willing tomiss the season to make the deal they want, Bettman has all the power he needs.And as long as Bettman has the support of what amounts to a doomsday cult of hard line owners, the best the players can hope for is to get the best deal they can manage as quickly as possible.

Now before anyone accuses me of being for the owners or looking at this from a fans perspective let me make the following clear: I blame Bettman and the owners completely and totally for this. They were the ones who were more than willing to line their pockets with expansion fees as teams cropped up in places that only see ice in their cocktails. They were the ones who began this negotiating process with an offer so draconian and lopsided you knew they had no intention of ever playing a full season. The owners are the ones that locked the players out and are more than willing to put the entire sport of hockey at risk to line their coffers just a bit more.

And even with the deck clearly stacked against the players, after eighty plus days of seemingly fruitless back and forth Fehr had a chance to get the players making money again, with a 5050 split and the make whole provision. All they needed was a yes or no answer. The time to negotiate was over and someone as experienced as Fehr should have known this.

But Fehr countered, and as Fred Toucher on 98.5 the Sports Hubs Toucher and Rich Show said, he thought Donald Fehrs biggest failing was not being able to read the room during the negotiating process and he was exactly right. There was a deal to be made yesterday. Yes the players would have had to acquiesce to more of the owners demands, but an option for getting the people he represented working again was there for the taking. Not making that deal was risking a repeat of 2004 where the players ended up with a salary cap AND losing a year's salary AND getting their paychecks cut by 24. Fehr should have understood he was not going to win this negotiation when this process started. He needed to make the best deal he could while getting the players back to work to keep their actual losses this season to a minimum and that chance came and went yesterday.

Unfortunately, the owners will win any long protracted battle and by dragging this process out, all Donald Fehris doing is costing the players more and more money while he represents the only thing he really cares about: Donald Fehr.

UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

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UPDATE: Pedroia coming back to Boston for MRI after hurting wrist

CHICAGO — Sure, Dustin Pedroia could have gotten an MRI in Chicago. But the Red Sox don’t want any doubt.

With an injured left wrist, Pedroia is heading back to Boston for an 8:30 a.m. appointment Tuesday with Red Sox medical staff, setting up a hold-your-breath morning as the Sox wait to learn if Pedroia’s going to land on the disabled list. No roster move was made immediately after the Red Sox lost to the White Sox, 5-4.

MORE RED SOX-WHITE SOX

 

For now, the Red Sox say Pedroia has a wrist sprain. X-Rays taken in Chicago were negative but the wrist was swollen.

Pedroia was hurt in the top of the first inning Monday on a weird play, when he was trying to leg out an infield hit and wound up tumbling over White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who slid into the bag feet first. 

Pedroia was hurt bracing himself as he went over Abreu.

“He feels he knows those guys, they know him well,” Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said of the decision to send Pedroia back to Boston. “We felt it would be more comfortable for him to do that. He wanted to do that, too. He knows those guys well. We could have gotten an MRI here and had people read it, but he just knows the people there so well. We figured he wanted to do that, so we said, 'Sure, we'll fly you there and get the MRI done there.”

Pedroia had season-ending surgery on the wrist in September 2014, addressing a tendon issue. Pedroia had surgery on his left knee this year, and missed time after Manny Machado's slide caught him in that leg in April.

Pedroia during the last homestand was pulled as a precaution because of concern for that leg.

“He's been dealing with the situation from the winter time, but he's played well,” Dombrowski said. “He's played almost every day. He's had to deal with a lot of things, which is very unfortunate, but he battles through it.”

On the play he was hurt, Pedroia hit a chopper to the right side, where Abreu fielded it and hesitated before moving to the bag — likely determining whether he was going to try to flip it to the pitcher. He kept it himself and went in feet first, putting him essentially on the bag as Pedroia arrived. Moving at full speed, Pedroia tumbled over Abreu, leading Pedroia to brace himself with his wrist.

“A real freakish play,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll hopefully have some mid-morning information.”

Josh Rutledge took over for Pedroia at second base.

Pedroia’s power has been down all year, with just a pair of home runs, but he still entered Monday hitting .294.

 

Patriots UDFA Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

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Patriots UDFA Ellis 'all in' on football before giving medical school a shot

FOXBORO -- When a new player arrives to the Patriots, there's a familiar refrain that's recited from behind the podium at Gillette Stadium: "Football is important to him."

Whether the subject is a rookie or an established veteran, those five words can serve as Bill Belichick's stamp of approval. It means the player cares. It means the player is willing to put in time.

Belichick hasn't gone on the record on any of the members of this year's class of undrafted free agents just yet, but linebacker Brooks Ellis seems to fall into that category of players to whom football is important.

If it wasn't, he would probably be putting all of his energy into getting accepted into medical school right now.  

Ellis was a two-year captain at Arkansas and one of 12 finalists for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "Academic Heisman." He maintained a 3.82 grade point average as a pre-professional exercise science major with a minor in biology, he was the first two-time Academic All-American in program history, and he was the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the year for 2016.

All that is to say, Ellis had options upon graduation.

Football won out. He agreed to a deal with the Patriots soon after the draft, and he's spent the better part of the last month trying to learn defensive terminology and special-teams techniques. 

But eventually Ellis hopes to be an orthopedic surgeon, and later this summer he'll submit his applications to medical schools in order to kick-start that process for whenever it's time to pursue his next plan full-throttle.

"I'm putting my all into this right now," Ellis said, wearing Patriots gear while standing on the Gillette Stadium turf last week. "But when I get some spare time, I'm finishing applications, and then when I get back in July I'm sending those in.

"If I get accepted somewhere, I'm going to tell them I need to defer until I know for sure what the football situation is going to be. So I'm all in on football, and just in case, I'm going to have that ready to go when I get out of it."

If all goes well for Ellis this spring and summer, it could be a while before he's taking the Hippocratic Oath. The Patriots have a long history of giving worthy undrafted players a shot at the 53-man roster, and Ellis plays one of the few positions on New England's loaded roster that might have room for a newcomer or two.

On paper, he certainly looks like their type.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder was his team's leading tackler for two seasons. He played all three linebacker positions in Arkansas' defense -- strong-side, middle and weak-side -- and he started 31 consecutive games to finish his career. Ellis also has extensive special teams experience, and he recorded one of the quickest three-cone drills among linebackers at this year's NFL Scouting Combine.

That he learned under Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema can't hurt his chances, either.

Bielema began his coaching career at Iowa under former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick has dipped into Bielema's programs at Wisconsin and Arkansas several times over the course of the last few seasons. Running back James White, defensive end Trey Flowers and former tight end AJ Derby all played for Bielema, and Ellis joins fellow Arkansas rookies Deatrich Wise (fourth-round pick) and Cody Hollister (undrafted) on this year's squad.  

"He came in, started about halfway through his true freshman year -- we weren't a really good football team, we were 3-9 -- threw him in the middle of it, didn't bat an eye, and he got better every game," Bielema said of Ellis on Quick Slants the Podcast. "Sophomore year, [he] really began to mature, develop. He's another guy that the potential -- because we never redshirted him -- to grow in this year is going to be huge . . .

"He's just truly very, very intelligent, compassionate. And the value that he brings is he could be an unbelievable role player. I'm not saying he's going to be a four-time All-Pro or anything like that, but he'll be reliable, dependable, in every phase of the game."

Robb Smith, Arkansas defensive coordinator from 2014-16, believes Ellis landed in the perfect spot. Prior to his time at Arkansas, he worked under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, where he coached Patriots safeties Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, former Patriots corner Logan Ryan, Patriots linebacker Jonathan Freeny and safeties coach Steve Belichick.

"He's one of those guys that's not only going to know his job, but what the other 10 guys around him are supposed to do," Smith said of Ellis. "He'll be able to be a leader from that standpoint in terms of helping guys with the system and the scheme. He's very good instinctively . . ."

"This guy's going to be replacing my knee someday. I'm serious. He's going to be an orthopedic surgeon that's outstanding. I know that's what his goals are. But hopefully he gets to play a lot of football between now and then."

There's one more Patriots link connecting Ellis to New England. His agent, Neil Cornrich, has counted Belichick as a client and also represents Bielema, Ferentz, Flowers, Derby, undrafted Patriots rookies Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels (both of whom played under Ferentz at Iowa) and Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. 

It may come as no surprise then that when Ellis signed with the Patriots, no one knew. He didn't announce it on Twitter, as is the norm for undrafted players when they come to an agreement with a team. And the news wasn't leaked. Instead, he waited for the team to announce it, which his new employers probably appreciated.

Ellis, who according to the Boston Globe received the fifth-most guaranteed money of the 19 undrafted rookies the Patriots signed, said he received some simplie advice from Cornrich before making his way to New England.

"He just said that you'll fit in well there," Ellis said. "You're the type of guy they like, and you're the type of guy that succeeds in that organization. Don't do anything special. Just go out there and work like you do every day, and it'll turn out for the best."

Even if it doesn't, Ellis will have medical school. But he acknowledges there's some unpredictability with that path, just as there is being an undrafted player in the NFL. He still has to be accepted. His application, including personal statements, interviews and MCAT results -- "It was horrible, I don't want to take that ever again," Ellis said -- still has to be deemed up-to-snuff.  

Whenever Ellis starts, it will be the beginning of almost a decade of training between schooling and residency. It will be a challenge, he knows, and it's one that he looks forward to. But he's hoping it can wait because football is important to him. 

"It just makes you work harder," he said of his uncertain future. "It makes you really focus on right now, and make sure that you're doing all you can in this area because even the next area might not be there.

"That's what I've done. I'm just working as hard as I can on this, and if that doesn't work out, then I've got the next thing, and I'm going to work as hard as I can in that area."