No 'Town Hall' call today with Goodell and Saints fans
METAIRIE â€“ They mightÂ be locked out from their practice facility but on Tuesday night the New Orleans Saints owned nearby Zephyr Field lock, stock and barrel. Â
With split-squads led by defensive captain Jonathan Vilma and offensive captain Drew Brees, the Black and Gold treated an estimated crowd of 10,000 to an evening of fun and entertainment with all proceeds from the 2nd annual charity softball game going to benefit the Heath Evans Foundation. Â
Because of the ongoing NFL lockout, the slow-pitch game might end up being the teamâ€™s only true â€œOrganized Team Activityâ€™â€™ of the offseason. Â
Earlier Tuesday, the fifth and last court-ordered mediation between league owners and their locked-out players was held in a federal court in Minneapolis. The two sides voluntarily have scheduled to resume CBA discussionsÂ June 7.
On Monday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted NFL owners their request for a permanent stay of a prior ruling that halted their lockout.Â A June 3rd hearing is scheduled by the same three-judge panel to hear arguments on the legality of the lockout.
Wednesday (May 18) marked Day 64 of the lockout with no end in sight.
â€œWe believe the lockout is wrong, legal or illegal, moral or immoral,'' NFLPA assistant executive director GeorgeÂ Atallah said prior to Tuesday night's event that helped raise more than $200,000 for bringing awareness and help to victims of childhood sexual abuse. "Given the environment that weâ€™re in as a country, given the success of this game,Â given the connection between the players, the team and this city, the lockout is wrong. Â
â€œAnd weâ€™re going to keep fighting.â€™â€™ Â
The labor dispute, now in its third month, didnâ€™t prevent two young Houston women from making the six-hour drive East on I-10 to Zephyr Field to watch their heroes, including number one draft pick Mark Ingram, who hit the first offering he saw in the third inning high over theÂ 400-foot sign in right center field. Â
Arinn Bogarty, 25, and Sarah Grace, 24, were among the first to purchase tickets online after learning of the game two months ago. Â
â€œI follow Heath on Twitter and I immediately called Sarah,â€™â€™ Bogarty said. â€œIâ€™m a big Saints fan. I probably love them more than my own hometown team. They better get this settled.â€™â€™ Â
â€œI think it will work itself out,â€™â€™ Grace said. â€œItâ€™s a $9 billion sport. There is plenty of money to go around.â€™â€™ Â
Tell that to Saints WR Lance Moore, whose current status as a restricted free agent after five NFL seasons remains on hold while owners and players wrestle with the complex issues of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Â
Moore did not attend Tuesday night's game, nor is he participating in the â€œplayersâ€™ onlyâ€™â€™ non-contact workouts at the Westfeldt Practice Facility at Tulane. Before the lockout, the Saints placed a second-round tender on Moore for the third consecutive season, which potentially could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in an open market.
Teammate and fifth-year strong safety Roman Harper finds himself in a similar position as Moore. Harper, too, is a restricted free agent under the 2010 CBA and was offered a one-year tender by Saints officials before the lockout. Â
â€œMy parents didnâ€™t have me earlier enough; I was one year off,â€™â€™ Harper quipped with a straight face. â€œItâ€™s just one of those things, man. Itâ€™s a process. Everybody has to go through it. I promise you Iâ€™m not the only one who has to deal with this. Lance (Moore) is having to go through it. Pierre (Thomas) went through it last year. Jahri (Evans) went through it for two years before he got his deal. Â
â€œItâ€™s OK,â€™â€™ Harper said. â€œIâ€™m not too worried about it. Everything will be handled when it needs to be. The game is bigger than me. No one player makes this game what it is. Itâ€™s a team game. We got to handle it as a team. We got to stick together as players and donâ€™t turn our backs on anybody. Itâ€™s a process. Nothing happens overnight. United States wasnâ€™t built overnight. Nothing was done overnight. Â
â€œWeâ€™re going to play football. Thatâ€™s all we want to do â€¦ is play ball.â€™â€™ Â
NOTES: Drew Brees won the pre-game Home Run Derby, besting backup QB Chase Daniel in a sudden death swing-off. Each player ended the 10-out format tied with 11 HRs apiece, forcing extra swings for the fences. â€¦ RB Reggie Bush flew in Tuesday from Los Angeles for the game and hit a HR. â€¦ Free agent FS Darren Sharper is leaving Wednesday for Europe and will be out of the country for the rest of the month. â€¦ There is no "Town Hall'' conference call scheduled today betweenÂ NFL CommissionerÂ Roger Goodell and selected Saints fansÂ as SportsNOLA.com reported Tuesday night.Â The commish recently has held such calls withÂ fan bases of numerous NFL teams, including Indianapolis, the site of Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5, 2012.Â At some point in the coming weeks, Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said,Â a conference call might take place between fans and Goodell, but not Wednesday. Also, former Saints QB and local radio personality Bobby Hebert said unspecified logistics prevented him from talking with GoodellÂ on behalf ofÂ Who Dat Nation but that day, too, might come. ... Because of the lockout, the Saints wore Black and Gold nameless jerseys Tuesday night minus the team's signature trademark Fleur de Lis.Â Â
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