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Super Bowl notebook for Wednesday

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By PFW staff

Here's a collection of the top Super Bowl XLV news stories reported on by the PFW staff from Dallas on Wednesday:

Pouncey: I'll play in Super Bowl if I practice Friday

Injured Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey said that if he practices Friday, he can play in Super Bowl XLV.

"If I can go Friday, I will play," Pouncey said, "if I can't, I won't play.

Pouncey disputed reports that he has a broken bone in his ankle, saying he has a high ankle sprain only. He had his cast removed Tuesday and has been off crutches since that point. He appeared at Wednesday's media session without his walking boot, reporting that he was "getting around pretty good" and was able to put pressure on the injured ankle (Pouncey plans to be back in the boot Wednesday night). He said he has been undergoing intense rehabilitation, spending multiple hours on the stationary bike to keep the swelling down.  

Still, it's a serious injury — and Pouncey agrees with that. "It's a big-time injury," he said.

If Pouncey is out, Doug Legursky will start at center. He started four games this season at guard and replaced Pouncey at center in the AFC championship game.

"He (Legursky) did an awesome job. … He's a great player playing on a great team."

Pouncey said that the fact it's the Super Bowl has no effect on whether he'll play or not.

"If it was the preseason, I would try to play," he said. "I am not a quitter."

Much like Hines Ward was two years ago during pre-Super Bowl week, Pouncey has been peppered during the team's two media sessions about the injury and whether he plans to play or not. Head coach Mike Tomlin disputed earlier reports that Pouncey had definitely been ruled out and gave his rookie Pro Bowl center a "75 percent chance" to play in the game.

"It is probably the most attention any offensive lineman has gotten for an injury in the history of offensive linemen," Pouncey joked.

                                                                                       — By Eric Edholm and Arthur Arkush


Pash: Incentive for new, timely CBA is high

The NFL and the players' union can agree on at least one thing: There is significant incentive to get a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before it expires on March 4.

Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead negotiator, emphasized that point in a session with the media on Wednesday.

"The time has come for both parties to make a shared commitment to devote all their energy to accomplishing a successful negotiation by the beginning of March," Pash said. "We need intensive, serious, ongoing negotiations that are characterized by a commitment to reach an agreement.

"If we can do that we will honor the commitment our fans have made, we will spare ourselves and our players extraordinary losses and we will have a game and an economic structure that we can all look back on some years from now and say 'We did a pretty good job, we got it right and it's better for everyone.'"

Where the NFL and its owners disagree is how a deal should be reached. Although Pash admitted that progress has been made in negotiating sessions and that further negotiations — the next session is slated for Saturday — could move progress quickly at any point, he defiantly stressed that the current parameters of the CBA overly favor the union.

"Everyone on both sides realizes it's unbalanced and one-sided," Pash said. "I don't think there's a serious debate about that."

The owners opted out of the current CBA, a deal that originally was struck back in 2006 under similar stress. The union has made sure to note that the owners have opted out and are preparing as if a lockout could happen, and that it is happy with the deal they signed at the time.

But Pash said the league is not looking to get even — just get the best deal for everyone.

"We are not looking to replace one unbalanced and one-sided agreement with another," Pash said. "We are not looking to swing the pendulum as far to our side as it's now swung toward the players. We have said to the players, 'We do not want you to feel about the agreement four or five years from now what our clubs now feel about this agreement.'"

Both sides appear somewhat flexible. When asked if an 18-game season would be a requirement to get a deal done, Pash left the door open.

"An 18-game season could be a part of a new business model," Pash said, "it doesn't have to be. The best reason to have an 18-game season is (that) it would be a response to fan interest. The fans ­have made clear they don't want four preseason games."

The union contends this latter point, saying fans merely do not want to pay for four preseason games and that the call for expanding the regular season simply isn't the mainstream voice from the paying fans they are interacting with. Pash said there are many solutions toward solving the schedule issue but that a two-preseason, 16-regular-season model was a "less favorable" option of the ones that are being discussed because it would bring in even less revenue.

Pash also noted that a salary-cap system is one that the owners and the NFL favor. "We think moving away from a cap would not be constructive," he said.

Although the players' union knows the NFL's revenues down to the penny, it contends that the league has not been transparent enough about the rising costs that led to the owners opting out in the first place.

Bob Batterman, the NFL's outside labor attorney, told the media that the union isn't looking for "cost," they are looking for the amount of profits the teams are making. There is a difference, Batterman said.

Why not share the profit margins then?

"Because that's never, never solved a labor dispute," he said. "It just ups the rhetoric."

                                                                                                                     — By Eric Edholm


Helmets on the minds of players at Super Bowl XLV

Rodgers took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears DE Julius Peppers in the NFC championship game, but he stayed in and Rodgers said, despite speculation to the contrary, that he didn't suffer a concussion on the play.

"It was a group decision when we decided to change helmets," Rodgers said Wednesday. "Obviously, every helmet that is used in the NFL goes through a testing policy — I'm not sure what that testing policy is, but the one I'm using has been working pretty well and I haven't lost in it yet."

Rodgers' Packers teammates made fun of how the high-tech helmet looked when he first wore it at practice, however, and there is resistance from some players when it comes to switching to newer helmets that look strange and might not feel as comfortable.

The NFL has safety standards that each helmet must meet, but it does not require players to wear the most up-to-date version available — Steelers WR Hines Ward cited that when he blasted the league, questioning the sincerity of its ramped-up campaign to protect players and prevent concussions in a recent GQ magazine article.

PFW asked Ward on Wednesday if he had changed helmets to a modern version with added safety features.

"Early in training camp I did change to a new helmet," Ward said. "I don't even know what the helmet is called. We played the New York Giants in the preseason and a great friend, a (fellow) Georgia (alumnus), (D.J.) Ware, had a pretty big hit. I was coming off the field on special teams and I looked down and he had the same identical helmet that I did. I was like 'Well that helmet didn't work.'

"If it's your time, it's your time. It don't matter what helmet they put us in. This game is a violent sport. When you go out and you play hard and you have grown men running 4.4, 4.5 (40-yard dash times) at each other, your brain is going to rattle somewhat. It's a sensitive subject. I don't want to (question) people who have concussions, but at the same time, there's nothing you can do to prevent (them) in this game of football, unless you take the helmet off. This game is a violent game."

While Ward suggested that forcing players to wear a certain helmet is far from a comprehensive solution to the issue of concussions in the NFL, his head coach, Mike Tomlin, said Wednesday that he's in favor of forcing players to wear the helmet that is believed to be most protective.

"The reality is if we have products out there that we know are safer than some of the products being used, then I don't understand why we don't mandate that people use the safest equipment available," Tomlin said. "I understand there's probably some politics and so forth involved in that, but I take a minimalistic approach to looking at some of those things. If we have products out there that are extremely safe, why don't we use them?"

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers doesn't take for granted the difference a high-tech helmet can make in the battle against concussions. Not after he credited a late-December switch to a new helmet for preventing what could have been his third concussion of the season.

                                                                                                                        — By Dan Parr

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