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Doc's NFL Notebook: Rule of Thirds

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In 2003, there was the “Rooney Rule” named after Dan Rooney’s commitment to giving management opportunities to African-Americans. Then in 2009 came the so-called “Hines Ward Rule” that penalized blindside blocks to an opponent’s head.

Now a new league ordinance, which will fine teams that have multiple players fined for helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless players, has become popularly known as the “Steelers rule.” The measure’s nickname comes from the multiple punishments doled out by the NFL to hard-hitting Pittsburgh linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Woodley responded on Twitter, saying “I’m sorry that I’m not sorry we hit too hard,” and Harrison added, “The people making the rules at the NFL are idiots.” The All-Pro Harrison clarified somewhat in a blog post that followed his initial comments. “In their attempt to make the game safer,” Harrison wrote, “They are actually clouding what is allowable. Even the referees are confused.”

Over for Stover
Last month saw the retirement of a player who once kicked for the original Cleveland Browns in the AFC Central against the Houston Oilers and Los Angeles Raiders. So yeah, Matt Stover was around for a while. The 43-year-old kicker has retired after 18 seasons in the NFL, including 17 with the Browns/Baltimore Ravens franchise. Stover ends his career with the fourth-most points in league history (2,004), and the seventh-best field goal accuracy (83.7%). The Ravens quickly announced that they plant to induct him into the team’s Ring of Honor on November 20. Stover scored all of the Ravens’ points in five straight games during the team’s 2000 Super Bowl season.

Criminal Minds
While it seems to be in vogue for football player to say silly things on Twitter (Mr. Peterson, Mr. Mendenhall is on Line One), Ravens LB Ray Lewis prefers to shoot his mouth off through the old media channels. In an interview with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio, Lewis said that an NFL lockout would lead directly to an increase in crime. “Watch how much evil… watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game," the veteran said about what he believes will be societal ramifications of a work stoppage. Despite the linebacker’s criminal history, that’s not a threat, but rather will be a result of free time on Sundays. "There's nothing else to do,” Lewis said.

Lockout Update
Ray Lewis’s amateur sociology aside, the lockout still looms over NFL players, veterans and rookies alike. The league canceled its rookie symposium, originally scheduled to begin June 26, due to what league spokesman Greg Aiello called "the uncertainty of the labor issues” and “the logistical challenges of conducting the symposium." The annual symposium teaches incoming rookies to transition to life in pro football, including finances and lifestyle changes. In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals granted a stay on the end of the lockout. The NFL and Players’ Association will appear together in a hearing on June 3, when the court is expected to decide on the legality of the lockout.

Viking Quest
A new wrinkle has entered the Minnesota Vikings’ efforts to replace their 30-year-old stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. While the Twins moved into new Target Field last year, the Vikings are still looking for new digs, in a search that could take them to California. Last month, the team announced plans for a billion-dollar venue in Arden Hills, Minnesota. But just days later, Vikings execs were seen in Minneapolis conversing AEG President Tim Leiweke, who is in charge of the Farmers Field stadium project in Los Angeles. Vikings VP Lester Bagley says the meeting was innocent, that the team is simply trying to create a sports and entertainment destination in Arden Hills modeled after AEG’s successful L.A. Live development. The Vikes have long been rumored as a team that could potentially relocate to L.A.

Busy Summer Vacation
With the lockout still on, Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco continues his cavalcade of new sports and activities. After his extended tryout with Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, Ochocinco tried his hand at bull riding. His rodeo career lasted just 1.5 seconds on the back of Deja Blu,” though it did raise $10,000 for non-profit organization Feed The Children. Ochocinco’s sideshows drew the ire of Bengals owner Mike Brown, who questioned his receiver’s commitment to football. “We aren't hiring a bull rider, a dancer, a soccer player,” Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “We want a football player... and that should be the focus.” Brown sarcastically added, “Next maybe he'll be a snake wrangler and we'll watch to see if he gets bit.” Ochocinco took Brown’s suggestion to heart, as he announced on Twitter that he will try snake wrangling next.

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