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Extra Points: 'Humane' Goodell, NFLPA could send players to WWE

2:21 PM, May 22, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At first glance Roger Goodell's latest proclamation was one of those politically correct empty statements that could make embattled White House press secretary Jay Carney blush.

Speaking at a press conference held in conjunction with the league's quarterly ownership meetings in Boston, Goodell said the NFL is interested in making the process of roster cuts more "humane."

"We look at our players from a total wellness standpoint," Goodell said. "It's not just a physical wellness, it's a mental wellness. And what can we do to try and make sure that we're helping our players make the transitions through life and to make sure they're getting the kind of help they need at any point."

Nearly 40 players from each and every NFL team are handed pink slips late in the preseason when clubs are forced to cut their offseason rosters of 90 down to the mandated 53-man regular season limit.

Think finding a gig in the real world is tough? Try being one of 1,200 players flooding a market with few job openings.

Sure, 256 of those guys will be brought back to practice squads, and the AFL and CFL are also options, but all of those opportunities include drastic pay cuts and a certain transition period.

Goodell wants to create some kind of post-cut program for young men who are faced with the daunting task of moving on from their dream and finding employment in the real world, a stark contrast from the thank you followed by the plane ticket home that "the Turk" currently provides.

"Today one of the focuses was the cutdown process as an example," the commissioner said. "How do we make the process more dignified? It is in some cases the last experience a player has with a team or any team in the NFL. So we have to do a better job of doing that in a humane way and a way that will make sure they understand the respect we have for them and the pride we have in what they accomplished.

"Make sure they understand what they'll be experiencing as they separate from an NFL team and make sure they have the services that are available to them, which we provide and we think can be incredibly valuable to them."

Jim Ross believes he can help.

Most of you know Ross as "good ol' J.R," the legendary voice of World Wrestling Entertainment. But, Ross was once the right-hand man of Vince McMahon in WWE talent relations and still helps with the company's developmental talent program today. He also happens to be a huge football fan.

Ross scheduled a meeting Wednesday with NFL Players Association officials in Washington, D.C., in hopes of carving out a working relationship in which the NFL and NFLPA would encourage outgoing players to look at WWE as a career alternative moving forward.

"Everybody doesn't make the 53-man roster," Ross told Alex Marvez and Jim Miller and on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Some guys are going to be looking for work, and we've got some job openings."

Professional wrestling has a long and storied history of plucking stars from the world of football dating back to the 1930s when Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski was recognized as world heavyweight champion.

Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd was a huge AFL star for the Chargers, Chiefs and Oilers, and was an even bigger name in wrestling, often headlining against Andre "The Giant" Roussimoff.

Andre once won a battle royal at Wrestlemania II in 1986 which featured NFL stars Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, William "The Refrigerator" Perry and Russ Francis, the former All-Pro tight end with the New England Patriots who was a grappling star in his home state of Hawaii, where his dad Ed was a promoter.

The two iconic defensive stars of the 1980s and early '90s, Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White, also dipped their toes into the world of "sports entertainment." L. T. was in the main event of WrestleMania XI against Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow, and White wrestled one match against former Chicago Bears standout Steve McMichael.

Others football players found far more success in wrestling after flaming out in football. Ed "Wahoo" McDaniel was a fan favorite with the New York Jets in the 1960s before becoming a main-eventer in pro wrestling. Bill Goldberg had a short stint with the Falcons before turning into World Championship Wrestling's top star during their war with WWE.

Jim Duggan, Larry "Lex Luger" Pfohl, Paul Orndorff, Ron Simmons and Leon "Vader" White also tried the professional ranks in football before turning to wrestling and becoming main event-caliber stars.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has headlined the two biggest grossing shows in pro wrestling history and is perhaps Hollywood's biggest box office draw right now, was a defensive tackle at the University of Miami and had a brief stint north of the border with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League before turning into the "most electrifying man in sports entertainment."

Other current WWE superstars with backgrounds in football include Johnson's main foil, WWE champion John Cena, who was a first-team Division III All- American center at Springfield College in 1998, and tag team kingpin Joe "Roman Reigns" Anoi'a, who was a first-team All-ACC defensive tackle at Georgia Tech before being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007.

WWE recently made a substantial investment by committing to build a 26,000 square-foot training center in Orlando, Fla., one modeled after a high-level NFL training facility and something Ross has been pushing for over the years.

"Maybe we can put the synergies of those two entities together and create something wonderful some day," Ross concluded.

Perhaps, but WWE can be just as ruthless and competitive as the NFL.

Despite glowing reviews, Nick McNeil, a three-time All-Southern Conference selection at Western Carolina who had a cup of coffee with the Redskins in 2005 and was wrestling under the name Percy Watson, was released by WWE last Friday.

WWE's creative department has no idea for McNeil, so he was given the pat on the back and plane ticket home.

There is one guy who will never need help from Goodell or Ross -- "the Turk."

The Sports Network

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