Paul Domowitch | Jones wired up about state of NFLN

Posted: November 16, 2007

COWBOYS OWNER Jerry Jones is logging more miles than a presidential candidate as the NFL tries to turn up the heat on Comcast, Time Warner and other cable operators who refuse to include the NFL Network with their basic or digital service.

With NFLN scheduled to broadcast the first of eight regular-season games on Thanksgiving night, Jones, the chairman of the league's NFL Network committee, has been traveling around the country trying to persuade people to ditch cable and switch to satellite, where NFLN and the NFL "Sunday Ticket" both are available. He's also been lobbying legislators and regulators to force the cable companies to put NFLN on their basic service.

Whether Jones and the league are having any success depends on who you talk to.

Appearing on WIP's "Morning Show" yesterday, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said the cable giant has "experienced virtually no pushback" from their customers over their decision to remove NFLN from its digital package, where it was last year, and put it on a sports tier, where viewers now have to pay an additional $5 per month to get it.

"Jerry Jones is out there almost in near-hysteria about the NFL Network," Cohen said. "I think they're baffled that there hasn't been a fan uprising to be able to get these games."

Jones said it kind of depends on what your definition of a fan uprising is. He said he has spoken to dozens of regional associates of both Comcast and Time Warner who have acknowledged that they are losing "serious subscriptions" to satellite suppliers.

"Look at Comcast's stock," Jones told the Daily News yesterday in an interview from his plane. "It's gone down because of the subscriptions they've lost. If they're saying they're just losing them because of competition, then the people are probably going to satellite or some other form that does carry the NFL Network.

"They're going to have to be shown that we're a difference-maker."

Cohen told WIP that Comcast put NFLN on a sports tier so that "the vast majority of people who don't want to see those eight extra NFL games, their cable bills won't go up and don't have to go up as a result of the existence of the NFL Network."

That's touching and there's probably even a little bit of truth to it. But there's a bigger motivation at work here than that. It's the "Sunday Ticket" package. Comcast and Time Warner want it. The NFL doesn't want to give it to them.

The league sold it exclusively to DirecTV. Cohen admitted yesterday that if the league would let Comcast in on the "Sunday Ticket" package, it would be willing to reconsider taking the NFL Network off its sports tier.

But Jones said that's not going to happen.

"That's not in our best interest," he said. "In our basic managing of our games, we like exclusive carriers for exclusive packages. Monday Night Football. Sunday Night Football. The AFC package with CBS. The NFC package with Fox.

"We want to have a niche of how it's distributed. We want 'Sunday Ticket' going with satellite and we want the NFL Network on basic or digital cable. That's the best way for us to get exposure.

"We can't accept tiering it. Because if you tier it, that value that we need is going toward the value and the building of the tier for the cable company as opposed to going to our network to build content. That money that goes to the network builds content. That's where our fans get their value."

Around the league

-- When you're hot you're hot. Not only are the Patriots probably going to win their fourth Super Bowl title in 7 years, but they also have a pretty good shot at winding up with a top-five pick in April's draft. Yes, the league stripped them of their own first-round pick as part of their punishment for Spygate. But they still have the first-round selection they got from the 49ers in a draft-day deal. They gave the Niners, who currently are 2-7, their '07 first-round pick in exchange for an '07 fourth-rounder and the Niners' No. 1 pick in '08. Oh, and that fourth-round pick they received? Traded it to Oakland for a guy named Randy Moss.

-- The Colts picked up veteran defensive end Simeon Rice this week after Dwight Freeney went down with a season-ending Lisfranc fracture in his left foot. But not many league personnel people think he's going to provide much help. "He's a shot fighter," an AFC West scout said. "Maybe in a very limited pass-rushing role, he might give them something. But I doubt it." Rice, who has 121 career sacks, was granted his release by the Broncos last week after playing in just six of their first eight games. He didn't have any sacks this season and had just two last year.

-- With Ravens quarterback Steve McNair out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, Kyle Boller takes over the starting duties and rookie Troy Smith moves from No. 3 to the backup role. Look for Ravens coach Brian Billick to find occasional ways to take advantage of Smith's running ability. "Troy offers some resources to us now as a second quarterback," he said. "You could put him in for a play and take him out without any penalty in that regard. And he does some things that might be worth capitalizing on."

-- Linebacker Jon Vilma might have played his final game for the Jets. Vilma, the Jets' first-round pick in '04, will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. The team is expected to shop him in the offseason, although that won't be easy with him coming off major surgery. He's not really a good fit for coach Eric Mangini's 3-4 scheme.

-- Not everyone wants to play for America's Team, even when they're 8-1. This week, the Cowboys attempted to sign fullback/running back Jason Snelling off the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad. But Snelling, a seventh-round pick out of Virginia, turned down their offer and opted to sign with the Falcons and join their 53-man roster.

By the numbers

-- Adam Vinatieri's 29-yard field goal miss in the Colts' loss to the Chargers Sunday marked just the fifth time in his 12-year career that he has missed a kick under 30 yards.

-- The loneliest job in the world is no longer a Maytag repairman. It's punting for the Patriots. Chris Hanson has just 21 attempts in nine games, which isn't even enough to qualify among the league's punting leaders.

-- If the Patriots defeat the Bills Sunday night, they will become only the 10th team since 1970 to start the season 10-0. Four of previous nine teams to do it - the '05 Colts, the 1990 49ers, the '84 Dolphins and the '75 Vikings – didn't win the Super Bowl.

2-minute drill

From the Lip:

-- "I understand the fans' anxieties, but this man has been an incredible athlete and an incredible force in the NFL. He's been a class act. I hope people keep that in mind in the way that they deal with him." – Ravens coach Brian Billick, on the booing injured quarterback Steve McNair has received from fans

-- "I try to win every single time I take the field. Every time I try to win in backgammon. I try to win in cards. I try to win driving to the [practice] bubble when we practice in the bubble. That's what competition and being an athlete is all about. If you don't want to be in that position, you might as well quit the game because, if it's too much that you're winning and all of a sudden there's pressure, this probably isn't the right sport for you." – Patriots QB Tom Brady, on whether he feels pressure from being 9-0

-- "It was almost like Brett Favre had our defensive playbook in his hands or something. In this league, guys make adjustments. Those guys were smart over there." – Vikings cornerback Marcus McCauley, after last week's 34-0 loss to the Packers

-- "In this business, it's about winning and the bottom line. We're still 1-8 and that's a bad football team, in my opinion.'' – Rams QB Marc Bulger

-- "I think someone is going to beat the Patriots. The decision is going to come at the end of the season when they've clinched the playoffs and have clinched homefield and everyone tends to rest their players. That's going to be the dilemma for them. Do you go for the all-time record or do you go for the championship? In my mind, you always go for the championship." – NBC analyst John Madden

THUMBS DOWN:

To Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who returned to curmudgeonly form after Sunday's 31-20 loss to the Cowboys. Coughlin, who has received a lot of positive pub this season for being a kinder, gentler coach, stalked out of his postgame news conference after answering just two questions. Good to have you back, Terrible Tom.

Domo's ranking

1. Patriots 9-0 (1 last week)

2. Cowboys 8-1 (3)

3. Steelers 7-2 (4)

4. Colts 7-2 (2)

5. Packers 8-1 (5)

6. Chargers 5-4 (9)

7. Jaguars 6-3 (17)

8. Giants 6-3 (6)

9. Titans 6-3 (7)

10. Seahawks 5-4 (12)

11. Saints 4-5 (8)

12. Lions 6-3 (10)

13. Browns 5-4 (13)

14. Bucs 5-4 (14)

15. Bills 5-4 (15)

16. Eagles 4-5 (24)

17. Redskins 5-4 (11)

18. Broncos 4-5 (20)

19. Ravens 4-5 (16)

20. Cardinals 4-5 (21)

21. Chiefs 4-5 (18)

22. Bears 4-5 (23)

23. Panthers 4-5 (19)

24. Texans 4-5 (25)

25. Bengals 3-6 (26)

26. Vikings 3-6 (22)

27. Falcons 3-6 (29)

28. Jets 1-8 (28)

29. Rams 1-8 (31)

30. Raiders 2-7 (27)

31. 49ers 2-7 (30)

32. Dolphins 0-9 (32)

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