Goodell: Changes making NFL safer

NEW ORLEANS — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he believes there will be an agreement soon with the players’ union for testing for human growth hormone.

At his annual state of the NFL news conference on Friday, Goodell said he expects an agreement for the tests to be reached in time for the start of the 2013 season.

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 touched on a number of topics Friday, including player safety. He said he intends to keep pursuing suspensions to discipline players who violate player-safety rules with actions such as hits to the head.

“Suspensions get through to the players,” Goodell said. “We have seen an escalation in the discipline because we are trying to take these techniques out of the game. I stand by our record, because I think we have made those changes and have made the game safer. But I think we are going to have to see discipline continue to escalate, particularly on repeat offenders.”

Goodell said he welcomed President Barack Obama’s comments in the Feb. 11 issue of The New Republic about player safety because he believes the league is making strides to make the game safer. Goodell said the NFL would have neurosurgeons on the sidelines at games and will expand postseason physicals to make them extensive three-day procedures.

Goodell also said the league is at work on establishing higher standards for playing surfaces — likely a reaction to the terrible condition of the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field in the wild-card playoff game Jan. 6 against the Seattle Seahawks.

“I believe the changes we’re making to our game are making football safer and making it better,” Goodell said.

Other topics included:

• Goodell said the No. 1 issue in the game is taking the head out of tackles.

He said players are using their heads more than in the past, perhaps because better helmets and face masks lead them to take more risks.

Goodell said progress has been made in the past couple of years in eliminating helmet-to-helmet hits, but that players need to get back to using shoulders and arms properly in tackles.

In his words, there is a strike zone in football, and coaches and players need to recognize it.

• 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, and vowed to be “incredibly relentless” about pushing the point moving forward.

Goodell also said the league is at work on establishing higher standards for playing surfaces — likely a reaction to the terrible condition of the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field in the wild-card playoff game Jan. 6 against the Seattle Seahawks.

“I believe the changes we’re making to our game are making football safer and making it better,” Goodell said.

Other topics included:

• Goodell said the No. 1 issue in the game is taking the head out of tackles.

He said players are using their heads more than in the past, perhaps because better helmets and face masks lead them to take more risks.

Goodell said progress has been made in the past couple of years in eliminating helmet-to-helmet hits, but that players need to get back to using shoulders and arms properly in tackles.

In his words, there is a strike zone in football, and coaches and players need to recognize it.

• 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, and vowed to be “incredibly relentless” about pushing the point moving forward.

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Chris Culliver sorry for ‘ugly’ remarks

NEW ORLEANS — San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver apologized Thursday for anti-gay comments he made to comedian Artie Lange during Super Bowl media day, saying “that’s not what I feel in my heart.”

“I’m sorry if I offended anyone. They were very ugly comments,” Culliver said during an hour-long media session. “Hopefully I learn and grow from this experience and this situation.”

A league official told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder that Culliver is unlikely to face discipline because of his inappropriate remarks.

Culliver on Thursday said he would welcome a gay teammate to the 49ers, a reversal of his remarks to Lange two days earlier during an interview at the Superdome.

“I treat everyone equal,” Culliver said. “That’s not how I feel.”

He added that he realized his comments were especially offensive to many people in San Francisco and the Bay Area, which is home to a large gay community.

“I love San Francisco,” Culliver said.

49ers CEO Jed York told reporters that he met with Culliver regarding his comments.

“All I said was, it’s up to you to live up to your apology,” York told reporters. “… He made a very bold statement that he wants to get to know the LGBT community. And I said, ‘it’s up to you. You can either live up to that, and if you don’t, people are going to vilify you and probably rightfully so.’ And I don’t think that’s what Chris is going to do. I think he’s going to step up and be a man about it.”
During the interview with Lange, Culliver responded to questions by saying he wouldn’t welcome a gay player in the locker room. He also said the 49ers didn’t have any gay players, and if they did those players should leave.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh met privately with Culliver to discuss the remarks.

“I reject what he said,” Harbaugh said. “That’s not something that reflects the way the organization feels, the way the rest of the players feel.”

The coach would not discuss if Culliver would face discipline from the team, such as a fine or loss of playing time.

“He pledged to grow from it,” Harbaugh said.

Culliver’s remarks came one day after a pretrial hearing for former 49ers offensive lineman Kwame Harris, who was charged with felony domestic violence and assault charges from an August beating involving a former boyfriend.

The interview began with Lange asking Culliver about his sexual plans with women during Super Bowl week. Lange followed up with a question about whether Culliver would consider pursuing a gay man.

“I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that,” Culliver said during the one-minute taped interview. “Ain’t got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”

Lange asked Culliver to reiterate his thoughts, to which the player said, “It’s true.” He added he wouldn’t welcome a gay teammate — no matter how talented.

“Nah. Can’t be … in the locker room, nah,” he said. “You’ve gotta come out 10 years later after that.”

The 24-year-old Culliver, a third-round draft pick in 2011 out of South Carolina, made 47 tackles with two interceptions and a forced fumble this season while starting six games for the NFC champion Niners (13-4-1).

He had his first career postseason interception in San Francisco’s 28-24 win at Atlanta for the NFC title.

The 49ers participate in the NFL’s “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign. Three organizations working for LGBT inclusion in sports — Athlete Ally, You Can Play, and GLAAD — reacted to Culliver’s remarks and later acknowledged his apology.

“Chris Culliver’s comments were disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him,” said Athlete Ally executive director Hudson Taylor. “His words underscore the importance of the athlete ally movement and the key role that professional athletes play in shaping an athletic climate that affirms and includes gay and lesbian players.”

Meanwhile, Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin is adding his voice to the number of NFL athletes who are combating homophobia in sports. Athlete Ally announced that Barden would be the fourth NFL player on a roster of over 6,000 college and professional athletes who have pledged to support fellow athletes regardless of sexual orientation.

“My older brother is gay, and I was raised to respect and value all people. Embracing diversity is something I was always taught to do,” Barwin said. “Becoming an Athlete Ally Ambassador gives me a great opportunity to engage other players, coaches and fans about the importance of inclusiveness. It’s about sportsmanship.”

Other NFL players who have done the same are Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. The goal of the group is to show that athletes like Culliver don’t speak for everyone, and to provide a voice for inclusion in the locker room.

“It’s disappointing to see Culliver’s remarks about gay rights, but it reminds us all that we need to continuously strive for compassion, tolerance, and respect toward everybody,” Kluwe said. “Hopefully we can use this as a learning experience to create a much better atmosphere in the league so every player can feel free to be who they are.”

Culliver had made it clear to Lange that he would not accept a gay teammate.

Ayanbadejo, who made headlines this season with his vocal support of a gay-marriage initiative in Maryland, said Culliver’s comments to Lange were reflective of how many players in the NFL feel, even if they don’t express it publicly. He hopes the 49ers cornerback will learn from this experience and become a positive role model in the quest for equality.

“You can’t fight hate with hate,” Ayanbadejo said. “You’ve got to fight hate with love.”

Culliver, calling Lange’s questions “real disrespectful,” said he realized he was speaking to a comedian and not a journalist.

“That was pretty much in a joking manner,” the player said. “It’s nothing about how I feel.”

49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said Thursday he believed that Culliver’s apology was sincere.

“He said what he said yesterday and I know that’s not his heart. Culliver is a great kid, great guy. I love having him on our team. He’s really helped our team be what we are. He’s just young and it’s unfortunate that he came off the way that he came off. But like I said, I know he didn’t mean it in his heart,” he said.

Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said Culliver should be allowed to express his views, even if some people found them offensive.

“The guy’s entitled to his own opinion,” said Pollard, who has acknowledged that he disagrees with Ayanbadejo’s stand on gay marriage. “I’m not going to sit here and knock him. I’m not going to sit here and judge him. It’s freedom of speech. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.”

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Donald Driver to retire from NFL

Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver announced on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” Thursday that he is retiring after 14 seasons.

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Mike and Mike in the Morning

Packers WR Donald Driver says he will retire from the NFL on February 6 in Green Bay. Driver dishes on how difficult the decision was, his career, Super Bowl XLVII and more.

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“I’m going to officially put the cleats on the shelf. I’m going to walk away from the game,” the four-time Pro Bowler said.

The Packers announced that he will take part in a formal news conference at Lambeau Field on Feb. 6 at 12 a.m. ET.

“I played my entire career in Green Bay and have always enjoyed a special bond with the fans,” Driver said in a statement released by the team. “I can think of no better way to retire than to celebrate with them and the Packers organization.”

Fans are invited to attend Driver’s retirement news conference and tickets will be distributed free of charge.

“I’m going to open my retirement up to the fans … give them everything they deserve,” Driver told ESPN Radio.

Taken in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL draft out of Alcorn State, the 37-year-old Driver retires as the Packers’ all-time leader in receptions (743) and yards (10,137). He also had 61 touchdown receptions (third on Packers’ all-time list) in 205 career games, all with the Packers.

Seifert: Driver’s Farewell

seifertThe most striking thing about Donald Driver may be the fan loyalty he inspired, Kevin Seifert writes. Blog

He’s one of only 18 wide receivers in NFL history with 700-plus career catches and 10,000 or more receiving yards in 200 games.

There were three wide receivers taken in the first round of the 1999 draft — Torry Holt, David Boston, and Troy Edwards. Driver had 225 more career receptions, 3,034 more yards and 25 more touchdowns than Boston and Edwards, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Only Brett Favre played more games in a Packers uniform.

“All 14 years. Every day,” Driver told ESPN Radio. “That’s a special place to walk out of, and that’s something I’ll never forget.”

He had seven 1,000-yard seasons, also a Packers record for a receiver. He had six straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2004-09, averaging 14 yards per catch during the stretch. He made at least one catch in 133 straight games from 2002 to 2010, another franchise record.

“It was a pleasure to share the field with you for 4 years! Great player, tremendous person. #retire80,” offensive guard T.J. Lang said on Twitter.

Aaron Rodgers added, “Thanks for the memories quickie, you will be missed #Packer4Life.”

Quickie is Driver’s childhood nickname

He turns 38 on Saturday.

It wasn’t just his performance on the field that made Driver one of the most beloved players in Packers history. Fans were charmed by his bright smile and infectious laugh, and moved by his story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. Growing up, Driver and his family were so poor that he, his mother and siblings sometimes spent the nights in a U-Haul. He and his brother stole cars to get money, and Driver sold drugs, too.

Driver never forgot that tough childhood, remaining active in the community throughout his career.

“His contribution to the history of the Green Bay Packers has been extraordinary,” Bart Starr said in the Packers’ statement. “I am honored to congratulate him on all of his achievements on and off the field.”

Though Driver had said he hoped to play until he was 40, his retirement was hardly a surprise. He had restructured the final year of his contract to come back this season, but played only a bit role in the offense with Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb ahead of him on the depth chart. Driver’s eight catches for 77 yards were his lowest totals since his rookie season, and he was inactive for four games, including the NFC wild-card game, his final contest at Lambeau Field.

“It’s always difficult, especially when you feel you can still play the game,” Driver told ESPN Radio. “There’s other things out there. There’s the next chapter of your career and I’m ready for it.”

Driver said he is eager to spend more time with his family. Driver and his wife, Bettina, have three kids.

“Someone is always going to be able to tell my kids that their dad was a great football player,” Driver told ESPN Radio. “But no one will be able to tell my kids that their dad was a great dad and a great husband, so I have to be able to show them that.”

Information from ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Randy Moss: I’m greatest WR ever

— Randy Moss

“Now that I’m older, I do think I’m the greatest receiver to ever do it,” Moss said at Super Bowl media day in New Orleans.

Moss acknowledged that this season with the San Francisco 49ers “has been a down year for me statistically” as was his 2010 season before he retired for a year and his last season with the Oakland Raiders (2006) before his trade to the New England Patriots. He said, however, that he doesn’t think statistics should determine greatness.

“I don’t really live on numbers. I really live on impact and what you’re able to do out on the field,” he said Tuesday. “I really think I’m the greatest receiver to ever play this game.”

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, now an ESPN NFL analyst, holds all-time records with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards and 197 touchdown receptions.

Rice said Tuesday he was surprised by Moss’ comments.

“I impacted the game by winning Super Bowls,” Rice said. “… Randy is still trying to win his first one, and I wish him the best, but I was very surprised that he said he’s the best receiver to ever play the game. I leave that up to my fans to make that statement.”

Moss, 35, will be a free agent after this season., citing a source familiar with the receiver’s thinking, reported Monday that he plans to play at least one more season.

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Sando: Rice Or Moss The Greatest?

SandoIf Jerry Rice had the greatest career of any receiver in NFL history, Randy Moss at his best was arguably the most feared at the position, writes Mike Sando. Blog

• Vote: Moss the best WR?

Moss had 28 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season for the NFC champion 49ers. He has five receptions for 71 yards in San Francisco’s two playoff victories.

Moss enjoyed his best season with the Patriots in 2007, when he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and a single-season record 23 touchdowns in helping New England to a 16-0 regular-season record.

He has 982 catches for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns in his 14-season career.

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President questions safety of football

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says he’s a football fan but that if he had a son, considering the impact the game has on its players, he would think long and hard before allowing his son to play.

Obama tells The New Republic that football fans are going to have to wrestle with the fact that the game will probably change over time to try to reduce the violence.

The president says that some of those changes might make football, in his words, “a bit less exciting” but that it will be much better for players.

“And those of us who are fans maybe won’t have to examine our consciences quite as much,” he said.

The interview appears in the Feb. 11 issue of The New Republic.

Obama says he worries more about college players than those in the NFL because the pros have a union, are well-paid and are grown men.

“They can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies,” Obama said of NFL players. “You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about.”

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Titans eye Gregg Williams

Suspended former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has already met with the Tennessee Titans and is on the verge of becoming the Titans’ assistant head coach, according to league sources.

Before Williams can finalize a contract with the Titans, however, he first must be reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — a move that could come as early as this week.

Should Williams be reinstated, no obstacles are expected on the contractual front, according to sources. The two sides are familiar with each other, with Williams having worked in Tennessee from 1993-2000.

Williams already has met with Titans officials, including head coach Mike Munchak, who is said to be in favor of Williams’ addition to the staff, according to sources.

Additionally, former Titans and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher has endorsed Williams to his former employer. Fisher hired Williams to lead St. Louis’ defense this season, but Williams’ suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal lasted the entirety of the 2012-13 season. Williams was not retained by the Rams at season’s end.

Neither Williams nor his representatives could be reached for comment.

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Michael Crabtree avoids charges

SAN FRANCISCO — Criminal charges won’t be filed against 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree after an alleged sexual assault in a hotel after the team’s playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco’s district attorney said Friday.

After examining information submitted by police, district attorney George Gascon said his office determined that no charges would be filed “at this time.”

“The San Francisco Police Department — Special Victims Unit completed and submitted a thorough investigation of the allegations against Michael Crabtree,” Gascon said.

Crabtree’s attorney, Joshua Bentley, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

San Francisco police said Crabtree was never detained or arrested in the matter, and that he cooperated fully with their investigation.

The 49ers are preparing to meet the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team was pleased that the district attorney decided to not file charges after reviewing the matter.

“Michael and the team can now put this behind us and move forward,” Baalke said in a statement.

During the regular season, Crabtree became the first San Francisco wide receiver with more than 1,000 yards in a season since Terrell Owens in 2003.

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Jets to shop Darrelle Revis

Pessimistic about his chances of re-signing Darrelle Revis before he becomes a free agent next year, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is open to trading the star cornerback, a person familiar with Johnson’s thinking said Wednesday night.

Revis’ contract will void after the 2013 season, and there is a clause in the deal that prohibits the Jets from using the franchise tag.

If they don’t sign Revis to an extension, the Jets could lose him as a free agent.

The fact that Revis is just three months removed from major knee surgery complicates the matter. There also are salary-cap ramifications that could hinder a potential trade.

Johnson has “no confidence” in the Jets’ ability to re-sign Revis, the person familiar with his thinking said. Despite the knee injury, he could seek more than $16 million per year, which could be prohibitive for the cap-strapped Jets. They’re already $19.4 million over the 2013 salary cap.

The Jets could gauge interest around the league, hoping to receive fair-market value for Revis. But that will be difficult, considering the nature of his injury and his steep contract demands. first reported that Johnson wants to explore a possible trade involving Revis.

The development came on the eve of John Idzik’s formal introduction as the Jets’ new general manager. The former Seattle Seahawks executive has the final say on personnel matters, and the Revis showdown looms as one of the most pressing items on his offseason agenda.

The Jets consider Revis one of the best players in team history, but they’ve previously engaged in two acrimonious negotiations with his agents.

Revis sat out the 2010 preseason in a contract dispute, eventually signing what was described as a short-term, “Band-Aid” deal. It was a one-year extension to the remaining three years — a total of $46 million.

Coming off a 6-10 season, the Jets need to replenish their roster and solve their salary-cap issues. Johnson may see Revis as a bargaining chip that could accomplish those goals.

Despite his contract issues, Revis never has expressed a desire to play elsewhere.

“I definitely want to be here,” Revis said the day after the season. “This is where I live, this is the team I got drafted by.”

In recent days, however, Johnson has talked privately about life without Revis, expressing concern about what it would cost to keep him.

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Tim Brown calls out Bill Callahan

According to receiver Tim Brown, Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers thrashed the Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII because Oakland was “sabotaged” by Bill Callahan, the team’s head coach at the time, who changed the game plan at the last minute.

Brown’s comments to SiriusXM NFL Radio on Saturday were earlier reported by, which was provided audio of his remarks.

Brown said that when the Raiders got the game plan on the Monday before the Super Bowl, it was a run-heavy attack taking advantage of Oakland’s size advantage on the offensive line. However, Brown said Callahan scrapped the plan on Friday to the shock of the team.

“We all called it sabotage … because Callahan and Gruden were good friends. And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years.”

Gruden had been the head coach of the Raiders from 1998-2001, and Callahan was his offensive coordinator. When Gruden moved on to Tampa for the 2002 season, Callahan was made head coach, and the two wound up in the Super Bowl against each other.

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice, the Raiders’ other starting receiver in the Super Bowl and now an ESPN analyst, backed Brown on his claims in comments to ESPN’s “NFL Live” on Tuesday. He said the players found it “very unusual” to change everything at the last minute.

Rice said the Raiders’ game plan did change on the Friday before the Super Bowl and the team was surprised by that, “because you worked all week long on running the football.” On Friday, Callahan put in a new plan that had the team throwing the ball more than 60 times.

“sabotage” Tuesday in an interview with “The Ben and Skin Show” on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM but still implied the facts of the situation leave many questions about Callahan’s loyalty at the time to the Raiders.

“I don’t think he would have sabotaged the Super Bowl but … this is the problem we have, because of his relationship with Gruden, because of his disdain for the Raider organization; that’s what makes people get to that conclusion,” Brown said Tuesday.

Brown said “sabotage” was the word that was thrown around the Raiders’ locker room.

This isn’t the first time Brown has made these accusations against Callahan. The receiver also made these claims four years ago on the morning of the Super Bowl.

“I’ve been talking about this for 10 years,” Brown said in his interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM.

Brown stressed that he was expressing his opinion and had no proof that Callahan intentionally doomed his own team.

“You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl,” Brown said. “He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.

“But the facts are what they are, that less than 36 hours before the game, we changed our game plan. And we go into that game absolutely knowing that we have no shot. That the only shot we had if Tampa Bay didn’t show up,” he said.

Brown said center Barret Robbins, who disappeared from the team in the days before the game and did not play, begged Callahan not to change the game plan.

“Barret Robbins begged coach Callahan, ‘Do not do this to me. I don’t have time to make my calls, to get my calls ready. You can’t do this to me on Friday. We haven’t practiced full speed, we can’t get this done,'” Brown said.

Brown wouldn’t correlate Robbins’ absence from the team with Callahan’s decision, however.

“I’m not saying one had anything to do with the other. All I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened Super Bowl week. So our ire wasn’t towards Barret Robbins, it was towards Bill Callahan. Because we feel as if he wouldn’t have did what he did, then Barret wouldn’t have done what he did,” Brown said.

Brown said “everybody knew Barret was unstable anyway” but the team couldn’t fathom Callahan would change plans at the last minute.

“So to put him in that situation — not that he was putting him in that situation — but for that decision to be made without consulting the players the Friday before the Super Bowl? I played 27 years of football. The coaches never changed the game plan the Friday before the game.

“I’m not trying to point fingers at anybody here, all I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened. So people look at Barret and they say all these things, but every player in that locker room will tell you, ‘You’d better talk to Bill Callahan.’ Because if not for Coach Callahan, I don’t think we’re in that situation,” he said.

Rice confirmed that Robbins was surprised by the change in the game plan and “he said you can’t do that to us now, and maybe that was one of the reasons why he ended up going over to Mexico and being a no-show for the game.”

Brown said in his interview with ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM that he made his comments, not to disparage Callahan, but to defend Robbins.

Jon Ritchie, the starting fullback for the Raiders in that game and a former ESPN NFL analyst told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen in a text that he agrees with Brown’s comments.

“I’ve said it for years. What we practiced heavily during the week is not what we ran in that game. Could have been due to Barrett’s absence. It was never explained to me. I believe I said it on the record every year we talked about the Super Bowl (when he was with ESPN for four years). I always thought it would get sensational like this,” Ritchie wrote in the text.

However, another former Raiders offensive player who didn’t want to be named, disagreed with Brown.

“No, he (Tim) isn’t right. While there was always dysfunction, that didn’t happen. If anything Bill wanted to kick Jon’s a–. Nobody would do that. Brutal. We got out-played and out-coached. Period,” the former player wrote in the text to ESPN.

Running back Zack Crockett, who also was on that Raiders team and is now a scout for the team, said he thought Callahan changed the game plan only because of Robbins’ disappearance.

“He may have known something we didn’t know,” Crockett told ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” of Brown.

Crockett said “everybody was in shock” when Robbins left the team because he made all the offensive calls. He agrees with Brown that “with the offensive line we had, it was going to be a downhill game” if the original game plan was used.

Bill Romanowski, a linebacker on that Raiders team, blasted Brown for his comments.

“What is he trying to do? He absolutely couldn’t be further from the truth. So you’re saying that a man has a chance to cement himself in history with winning a Super Bowl and he wants to hand it over to his buddy? Give me a break, OK? It couldn’t be further from the truth. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m blown away that something like that would come out of an intelligent man’s mouth,” he said in an interview Tuesday with 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.

Former Raiders running back Charlie Garner, however, didn’t dismiss Brown’s remarks.

“There may be something to what Mr. Brown has been saying. I really don’t know the validity of which (Callahan) despised the Raiders but I also know that he didn’t want to be there, too,” he said in an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic. “What we were doing in the game we never practiced.”

Oakland rushed the ball only 11 times in the Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers, and two of those attempts were by quarterback Rich Gannon. Gannon attempted 44 passes in the loss.

Gannon on Tuesday defended Callahan.

“In terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this: He was a good football coach, he was a good man,” Gannon said Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We all wanted to win.”

Gannon said he believes the fact that the Raiders didn’t change the verbiage on offensive calls that Gruden installed for the team big factor in Oakland’s loss.

“So much of our verbiage and terminology was a carryover from what Jon Gruden had installed in terms of our run checks, and so we were calling certain plays and guys like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks were calling out the runs. So it kind of took us out of our no-huddle plan at the line of scrimmage,” Gannon said in the interview.

Robbins was diagnosed as bipolar after that incident but regained his spot in the starting lineup the next season after undergoing treatment at an alcohol rehabilitation center. However, the Raiders released Robbins in 2004 after he tested positive for steroids.

In addition to stays in alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs, Robbins has had several run-ins with law enforcement since the 2004 season.

Brown’s comments about Callahan came just days after he questioned the Bears’ hiring of coach Marc Trestman, who was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator when Brown was on the team.

“I don’t want to say it was a joke, but I just never saw Trestman as being a head coach,” Brown said last week on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

Brown had posted nine straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Raiders entering 2002, the year Trestman took over as the team’s offensive coordinator. In that 2002 season, Rice emerged as the team’s leading receiver and Brown finished with 930 yards.

“The year he took over as offensive coordinator is also the year my reign with the Raiders ended because he made Jerry the No. 1 receiver instead of myself,” Brown said. “The year before I made the Pro Bowl and caught [91 passes for 1,165 yards] … and the year afterwards, the year he takes over, I think I came like 50 yards from catching 1,000 yards in 10 or 11 straight seasons.

“Hey, look, I’m not a selfish player, but come on, if I put the work in, make this happen for me. We had some interesting words about that part of it.”

Brown is one of 15 modern-era Hall of Fame finalists for the class of 2013. The Hall’s 46-member selection committee will meet in New Orleans on Feb. 2 to make its selections.

Callahan is currently the Cowboys’ offensive line coach.

ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen and ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap contributed to this report.

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Tony Gonzalez ‘probably’ will retire

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said Sunday’s loss to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game was “probably” his last NFL game, echoing his thoughts throughout the season that he was 95 percent sure he would retire after this season.

It’s probably the last time I’m going to wear that uniform,” Gonzalez said after the Falcons’ 28-24 loss. “I didn’t want to take it off, to tell you the truth. All good things come to an end, and like I said all season long, this is probably my last one. What an unbelievable ride.”

Gonzalez had eight catches for 72 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons didn’t score again.

The 36-year-old tight end was voted to his third straight Pro Bowl in four seasons with the Falcons, but said Sunday he’s unlikely to play in the game. His 2012 selection was the 13th time he’s been voted to the league’s all-star game.

He said he will discuss his plans with his family before making his final decision on retirement.

“I’m not going to cry about it,” Gonzalez said after the conclusion of his 16th season. “I walk away with the satisfaction I left everything, absolutely everything, every time I was on the field.

“I wish it would have culminated with the Super Bowl, but it didn’t.”

Drafted 13th overall by the Chiefs in 1997, Gonzalez is second on the career receptions list with 1,242 and is the most decorated tight end in NFL history, ranking first at the position and sixth overall with 103 touchdown catches. At 14,268 yards, he’s seventh on the career receiving list.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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