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Specter Meeting Still in the Works

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

PHOENIX, Feb. 4 -- League officials were working Monday with staff members for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to schedule a meeting between Specter and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for late this week or early next week.

Goodell participated in a news conference Monday morning but was scheduled to travel to Hawaii later in the day to spend a few days meeting with participants in next weekend's Pro Bowl. Goodell is scheduled to return to New York on Wednesday from that trip.

He said that a meeting with Specter had not been scheduled as of early Monday.

"I haven't heard anything," Goodell said.

Specter said in recent days that he wanted to meet with Goodell to discuss the league's handling of the spying scandal involving the New England Patriots. Specter was critical of the league's investigation and of Goodell's decision to have six videotapes handed over by the Patriots destroyed.

Goodell has defended the league's handling of the matter. In September, he fined the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick a total of $750,000 and stripped the team of a first-round draft choice in the spring. The league found that the Patriots had improperly used videotaping equipment to steal the play signals of the New York Jets' coaches in the opening game of the season at Giants Stadium.

Members of the NFL's security department also were attempting to arrange a meeting with former Patriots video assistant Matt Walsh, who has hinted to several news organizations that he has information pertinent to the case. Specter has said he thinks Walsh should be interviewed. Walsh now lives in Hawaii, but it's unclear if Goodell would be involved in any meeting that league representatives might have with him.

NFL officials are uncertain if Walsh has what they would consider any new evidence of wrongdoing by the Patriots. In addition to the six videotapes handed over by the Patriots in September, the league also received notes presumably taken from previous tapes. The notes, like the tapes, were destroyed by the league. If any tapes possessed by Walsh merely convey the same information contained in the notes already viewed by league officials, a source familiar with the case said, the league would not consider that new evidence.

But there could be significant further penalties against the Patriots and Belichick, the source said, if Walsh can provide evidence related to the latest allegation that the Patriots videotaped the St. Louis Rams' walk-through before the two teams met in the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2001 season. The Patriots denied that accusation, reported by the Boston Herald, and Goodell said the league has no evidence to substantiate it.

Vick to Keep Bonus Money

A federal judge ruled Monday that the Atlanta Falcons are not entitled to recoup nearly $20 million in bonus money from suspended quarterback Michael Vick.

U.S. District Judge David S. Doty overturned an earlier ruling that the Falcons were entitled to pursue the money through arbitration.

The Falcons had contended that Vick, who's serving a 23-month federal prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation and is on indefinite suspension by the NFL, had violated his contract. The team was attempting to force Vick to return $19.97 million of the $37 million in bonuses in his 10-year, $130 million contract with the Falcons.

The NFL Players Association argued on Vick's behalf that the Falcons were not permitted to force Vick to return the money under the terms of the sport's collective bargaining agreement, citing a previous case involving the Denver Broncos and wide receiver Ashley Lelie. An arbitrator ruled in that case that a player could not be forced to return money contained in an option bonus in his contract. At issue in Vick's contract was money contained in roster bonuses.

"While we are disappointed by Judge Doty's decision, this ruling does not affect our salary cap management for the 2008 season," Falcons President Rich McKay said in a statement released by the team. "Any potential recovery would have only affected our 2009 salary cap. As to our future legal strategies, we will meet with our legal representatives to more fully understand our options before making that determination."

The Vick case first was heard by Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is the NFL's special master, putting him in charge of resolving disputes between the league and the players' union arising from the collective bargaining agreement. Burbank ruled that the Falcons could pursue the $19.97 million through a non-injury grievance with another arbitrator.

But the union appealed Burbank's ruling to Doty, the federal judge in Minneapolis who oversees the sport's labor deal, and he sided with the union.

Brady, Moss Out

Tom Brady and Randy Moss pulled out of the Pro Bowl, a day after the Patriots were beaten in the Super Bowl.

Brady, who has been bothered by a tender ankle, was sacked five times by the New York Giants. He will be replaced by Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson.

Moss will be replaced by Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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