Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that with two years left on the collective bargaining agreement and the final year with a salary cap about to begin, NFL Players association head Gene Upshaw said any deal with the owners must include more than 60 percent of total gross revenues going to player salaries or the union is ready to proceed to an uncapped 2007 season and whatever chaos follows. "What's keeping us apart is the owners can't agree among themselves how to share revenue or on what our percentage of gross revenues should be," Upshaw said. "But that [last] number has to begin with a 6." The players currently receive 64.5 percent of designated gross revenues in salary and benefits. Under the union's proposal, all revenues would be used to arrive at the salary cap figure. Both sides agree a change needs to be made. The sticking point is the owners are in disagreement with the union over the percentage of total gross revenue that should go to the players.
Susan Bickelhaupt of the Boston Globe writes that the ABC broadcast of Sunday's Super Bowl will be a swan song of sorts for the network, which aired its last "Monday Night Football" game at the end of the season. ESPN, also owned by Disney, will take over the "Monday Night Football" game, with NBC airing the game the NFL wants to showcase on Sunday nights.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that Richard Seymour expressed optimism yesterday that he and the Patriots will come to terms on a new contract, avoiding the events of last year when the four-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman sat out mandatory spring minicamp and then held out the first few days of full training camp in July. "At this point I can't say what I'm going to do, just see how it plays out," said Seymour, in town for the Super Bowl. "In a perfect world we'll get it done. Period. In a perfect world, that's what I want to have happen. And I'm pretty optimistic and hopeful that it will happen. Now, if (a new deal doesn't get done), then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it." Seymour is entering the final year of his six-year, rookie contract. And even though he is scheduled to make around $5 million in base salary in 2006 (thanks to bonuses reached earlier in the deal), Seymour is looking for a new multi-year deal. Unlike last year, he's hopeful he'll get it.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that former Patriots quarterback Jim Plunkett offered praise for what Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has accomplished in only his second season. The former Patriots' No. 1 draft choice said he doesn't think he was ready to lead a team to the Super Bowl in his second season, as Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger has in getting the Steelers to Super Bowl XL. Plunkett threw 25 interceptions in 14 games in his second season with the Patriots. "In my second year, I was running around all over the field in New England, so it was a little different situation for me," Plunkett said. ''Ben is surrounded by a very good offensive unit, they run the ball extremely well, they play great defense, and they give him the ball in good field position and if he [doesn't move the ball], that's OK, they can just punt it away. He's got a unique situation. He's able to not take the whole burden on his shoulders. He can rely on a lot of other people to help him, and they do. I think that's really helped him develop. The mistakes haven't cost him nearly as much as they might cost somebody playing for a team that's not as good."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played three games against the two-time defending Super Bowl champs and all three marked significant moments in his career. He ended the Pats' record 21-game winning streak, absorbed a 41-27 pummeling in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, and lost earlier this season. Each game meant something different. The first legitimized him. The second humbled him. And the third included a behind-the-scenes moment that made him a leader.
Scott Brooks of The Union Leader writes that without a personal connection to this year's contenders, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, New England fans are grasping for reasons to care about this weekend's big game in Detroit. Some are moved by the story of Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, a future Hall of Famer who could be retiring ringless without a victory on Sunday. Others will cheer for Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who went to Boston College and is the son of former Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald reports that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will participate in the coin toss for Super Bowl XL this Sunday. The league said yesterday that the Patriots quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP will become the first active player - who's not playing in the game - to participate in the toss. Brady and Pats receiver Deion Branch will be among 30 past Super Bowl MVPs honored in pregame festivities. Tomase also reports that Brady will be in Detroit today to co-host a show from 5-7 p.m. on Sirius satellite radio Ch. 124 with fellow Super Bowl MVP John Riggins.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.