Sports

John McGrath: When it comes to NFL, no news is bad news

The Seattle Seahawks, whose 2014 season ended 114 days ago and whose 2015 season won’t begin for another 110 days, are holding an organized team activity Tuesday.

An organized team activity — or OTA, as football insiders call it — is what a lot of us might recognize as a “practice.” But why use one ordinary word when three others can be condensed into an abbreviation?

While it’s difficult to imagine anything meaningful will be accomplished by a two-hour workout scheduled in the middle of the offseason, I know why the team has identified May 26 as an appropriate occasion to practice.

The Seahawks belong to the NFL, a league whose unofficial but very obvious mission statement reads: “Our ambition is to dominate the sports news cycle 52 weeks a year.”

Seahawks players aren’t required to attend practice Tuesday, and subsequent practices June 2 and June 9 also are optional. A mandatory practice awaits them June 18.

How does this relate to the NFL staying in the news? Here’s how: If a player — Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson, for instance — declines to show up for a voluntary practice, it’s news. Not necessarily positive news, granted, but the NFL has long realized an essential premise of public relations: Any kind of news is preferable to no news at all.

Take the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch, whose recent history puts the odds of him appearing on the field Tuesday at about 50-50. If Lynch doesn’t show up, it will be news. If he shows up but declines to participate, it will be news. If he shows up and works out and generally does nothing newsworthy, it will be news.

Russell Wilson will show up, which shouldn’t make news but will make news anyway because the quarterback has yet to agree to an extension of a contract that will expire after the season. The nothing-new status of the negotiations has kept Wilson in the news, but let’s face it: When it comes to news — relentless news, insistent news, stay-tuned-for-an-update-at-11 news — Russell Wilson can’t hold Tom Brady’s deflated football.

A four-game suspension slapped on a future Hall of Fame quarterback for conspiring to throw footballs he can hold with a self-assured grip? Commissioner Roger Goodell could have resolved matters without the Sasquatch-in-the-Snow footprint, but exercising reason does not generate headlines such as “Patriots March For Brady’s Freedom,” posted Monday on Sports Illustrated’s website.

Seems a crowd of 150 — including a couple that postponed their honeymoon — held a protest rally outside Gillette Stadium. Brady, according to SI, “responded to the show of support by getting an adorable dog.”

In other NFL news, the league’s owners gathered last week in San Francisco for their annual spring meeting, two months after they gathered in Phoenix for their annual early-spring meeting. Each meeting lasted three days.

You’d think a six-day meeting at one site might be more efficient than two three-day meetings at two sites, but a single six-day meeting violates the NFL’s regard for news as peanut butter, something that can be preserved in a large jar for months.

The news from the owners meeting in San Francisco concerned an alteration of touchdown conversion rules proposed at the owners meeting in Phoenix: Extra point kicks, which had become a 99 percent probability when attempted from about 20 yards, now will be attempted from around 33 yards, reducing the probability rate to 94 percent.

Oh, and there will be consequences facing any teams bold enough to try a two-point conversion. The ball will remain in play if it’s turned over, allowing the defense to score two points if takes an interception or fumble to the other end zone.

I attended my first NFL game in 1963, been watching pro football for 52 years, and I can’t recall any instance of a fumble returned for a 98-yard score. Come to think of it, my memory bank on 98-yard interception returns is similarly empty.

The owners’ determination that a marginal, almost imperceptible spike in the degree of difficulty on extra point attempts is necessary shouldn’t have been news, but their rules-changing conclaves produced two months worth of discussion.

And here’s the, uh, kicker: Alterations of extra point rules apply only to the 2015 season. The owners will meet next year to discuss what went right and what went wrong.

They’ll gather in March and make news, and they’ll gather again in May and make news. And if by chance they stay the course, that will be news, too.

There’s a reason most of these guys are billionaires.

They’re geniuses.

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