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SUPER BOWL NOTEBOOK: Goodell wants HGH testing to be implemented soon

NFL commish Roger Goodell answers questions from the media Friday during his annual state-of-the-league address.

NFL commish Roger Goodell answers questions from the media Friday during his annual state-of-the-league address.

NFL Hall of Famer Rice doesn’t back down, reiterates something was fishy about Oakland’s Super Bowl loss to Bucs

NEW ORLEANS — Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice reiterated how he and his teammates were caught off guard when Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan changed the game plan less than two days before Oakland’s 48-21 loss in the 2003 Super Bowl.

They planned on a running attack, then it switched to a heavy passing game.

Callahan vehemently denied the allegations last week by Tim Brown and Rice that the coach had “sabotaged” the Raiders because of his close friendship with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden by altering the game plan less than two days before

“I have played under Bill Walsh, many, many years,” Rice said. “When you prepare for a game a certain way, you don’t change anything on that given Friday. Maybe the word is not sabotaged, but you look at it and you can put whatever words you want to it, but you do not change the game plan on a Friday, two days before the Super Bowl.”

Rice provided a quick rundown of the runners they had: Tyrone Wheatley, Charlie Garner and fullback Zack Crockett.

“We were averaging over 300 something yards a game,” Rice said. “We had planned to run the football. All of a sudden, Friday, now you decide we’re going to throw the ball 60 or more times. That, to me, leaves the players a little hesitant. Because now all of a sudden we don’t know we’re going to attack that football team. Maybe sabotaged is not the word, but this is something Tim and I, we talk about. We both agreed that it was just very unusual for that to happen. Under Bill Walsh, that wouldn’t have happened.”

NEW ORLEANS — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday during his state of the league address that he believes there will be an agreement soon with the players’ union for testing for human growth hormone.

And he’s also tired of waiting for it to happen.

Goodell said he expects an agreement for the tests to be reached in time for the start of the 2013 season, despite the fact the measure was passed two years ago and no testing is being done.

Goodell noted that the league and union agreed to the testing two years ago in the collective bargaining agreement. He said it is important to have testing to retain the integrity and the brand of the league.

Goodell also said he is not going to give up his authority to discipline players for various offenses, something he said has served the league well over the years.

GOODELL ON PLAYER SAFETY: Goodell says the league will look at eliminating certain low blocks and improve the quality of playing fields as part of a program to improve player safety.

In his annual message on the state of the league two days before Sunday’s Super Bowl, Goodell said neurosurgeons will also be added to game day medical staffs.

Goodell pledged to pioneer new approaches to safety and will continue to make it a priority.

He said he welcomed recent comments by President Barack Obama about football safety, and said there are improvements constantly in treating head injuries. He said the game can be made safer while making football better.

GOODELL ON BOUNTIES: Goodell says his biggest regret about the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal is that he can’t get everyone to recognize bounties need to be eliminated from the game.

Goodell said he hasn’t been able to make the point clearly enough with the players’ union and others that the league will not tolerate pay for hard hits.

He said the league, coaches, executives and players all share the responsibility for eliminating bounties from football.

He vowed to be “incredibly relentless” about pushing the point moving forward.

MAN WHO REPORTEDLY SUPPLIED LEWIS WITH BANNED SUBSTANCE CLAIMS HE NEVER SAW RAVENS’ LB USE IT: The man who reportedly supplied Ray Lewis with deer antler spray can’t confirm the Baltimore Ravens linebacker ever used the stuff.

Sports Illustrated reported Tuesday that Lewis sought help from a company called Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (SWATS), which says its deer-antler spray and pills contain a naturally occurring banned product connected to human growth hormone.

Mitch Ross spoke for nearly an hour outside the Super Bowl media center Friday in a bizarre session that revealed very little about his connection with Lewis. The linebacker has denied ever using the substance.

Asked if Lewis ever tried deer antler spray, Ross said, “I never saw him put it in his mouth.”

Ross said some Ravens players used his “performance chips” in the playoffs. Those are not banned by the NFL.

$100M COIN TOSS: The stat of the day today is about gambling on a simple question: Heads or tails? Bettors worldwide are expected to wager $100 million on that coin toss outcome at the Super Bowl.

That’s according to gambling expert R.J. Bell of Pregame.com, which tracks betting trends in casinos in Nevada and elsewhere.

Bell says in the past 46 Super Bowls, the coin has fallen heads 23 times and tails 23 times. But the NFC has won 14 of the past 15 Super Bowl tosses.

Suckers might think that means the Ravens are due for the AFC, but Baltimore’s chances of winning the toss this time: Still 50 percent.

ROONEY RULE DEBACLE: Despite eight coaching vacancies and openings for seven general managers, no minorities were hired for the NFL’s most high-profile positions this off-season. Goodell says that’s unacceptable.

“There was full compliance of the Rooney Rule. In fact, I believe there were a record number of interviews,” Goodell said. “But we didn’t have the outcome we wanted. It’s very important to the success of the league to do that, and we’re committed to find that solution.”

Goodell said the league needs to look at whether the rule needs to be expanded or adapted.


Nearby Eufaula has another presence in Super Bowl XLVII

EUFAULA, Ala. — One Southwest Alabama town that sits just 70 miles from Albany will again have a presence in the Super Bowl.

Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw will play for Baltimore on Sunday against San Francisco. Last year another former Eufaula High standout, Jerrel Jernigan, was a rookie return man for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs said Friday his town of about 13,000 residents is “known for our fishing, but we’re quickly becoming known for our football.”

Eufaula held a parade last July to honor three former Eufaula athletes who won titles. Upshaw was defensive MVP of Alabama’s BCS Championship game win last January. Jernigan got a Super Bowl ring and Terran Condrey helped Baylor win a national title in women’s basketball.

Tibbs says the town will likely have another parade even if the Ravens lose.

HOF DEBATE: One of the liveliest debates this weekend in New Orleans could be not about the Super Bowl itself, but on whether late Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell should be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of fame.

In Cleveland, many fans haven’t forgiven Modell for deciding to relocate his Browns franchise to Baltimore 17 years ago. But his supporters contend he helped create America’s most popular sport.

Modell will be considered for enshrinement along with coach Bill Parcells, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., single-season sacks leader Michael Strahan, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, running back Jerome Bettis, wide receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed, defensive standouts Charles Haley and Kevin Greene, guard Will Shields and defensive back Aeneas Williams.

Also up for consideration, two senior nominees: defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.

Voters will select between four and seven new members.