Week In Sports: The NFL Begins Hunt For New Talent
DON GONYEA, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea. Time now for sports.
It is officially springtime in the world of sports. Baseball is back. And the NFL Combine has commenced, plus the justice department makes a big move in the case against disgraced cycling star Lance Armstrong. NPR Sports correspondent, Tom Goldman, joins me now. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi Don, how are you?
GONYEA: Good. The Department of Justice announced yesterday it's joining a federal whistleblower case against Lance Armstrong who confessed to doping recently. The Justice Department made this move after settlement talks broke down with Armstrong's lawyers. Do we know what was being discussed and why they couldn't settle, at least for now?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. One of Armstrong's lawyers says the talks failed because there was disagreement about whether the US Postal Service, which sponsored Armstrong's racing team, was damaged by the team's doping. Armstrong's side says the USPS benefited by more than $100 million because of the team's success; Tour de France victories in each of the sponsorship years, 1999 to 2014.
Now the feds disagree, say there was damage and they'll join the law suit filed in 2010 by former Armstrong teammate, Floyd Landis, try to reclaim over $30 million in sponsorship money, and maybe much more. In a case like this, Don, the potential is for triple damages, meaning between $90 and $100 million if the feds and Landis win.
GONYEA: So in other news, the NFL Combine field workouts start today. Apparently, people watch this thing? Guy's working out. And does this really matter?
GOLDMAN: Well, that's been debated over the years. There are stories like the 1985 Combine where wide receiver Jerry Rice was downgraded because of a sub-par performance. He was drafted after two other wide receivers. He ends up in the Hall of Fame, considered the greatest ever. There are success stories. Defensive end Mario Williams had a great 2006 Combine. He scored very well in the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, the bench press. And it was reportedly a big reason why Houston made him a number one pick in the draft.
GONYEA: It's not all feats of physical strength though, I understand. Over the past few days, there have been some other kinds of tests going on behind the scenes. What are they and do they ever mean anything?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, insiders will tell you this is where the important stuff happens, especially the psychological testing. The main exam is the Wonderlic test, and that's been used in the NFL since the 1970s. It's a lot of math problems. It's 50 questions that have to be answered in 12 minutes, seeing basically how your brain responds in a pressure situation, which Don, I thought I would try with you. Are you game?
GOLDMAN: OK. Do you have a pencil and paper?
GONYEA: I do.
GOLDMAN: All right. And for the listeners, we have not discussed these beforehand, scout's honor. All right. Now, here we go. Tell me what number comes next in the following sequence. Here we go. Eight, four, two, one, one-half, one-fourth. What's next?
GOLDMAN: Nice. Another, quickly. A boy is 17 years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23 years old, what will be the age of his sister?
GONYEA: Oh, she'll be 40.
GOLDMAN: Don, whoa, man. I tell you what? Improve your 40 speed and you may be able to make that career change you've been talking about forever.
GONYEA: I did okay on the ACT.
GONYEA: OK. Lastly, it's spring, it's time for baseball. Yesterday, the MLB played the first games of spring training. This week, the new Tops baseball cards hit the shelves.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, and they created a minor stir with a player we all know for controversy. Pete Rose, the all time hits leader, who's banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame because of betting on the game. The new cards have omitted references to Rose. They mention his records, like his 4,256 hits, but they don't say who did it.
Now, Don, I'm in Las Vegas where Rose works publicly signing autographs, meeting with fans, and I spent a few hours with him yesterday. He wasn't pleased by this new situation with the baseball cards.
PETE ROSE: I think it's called piling on. Seems kind of strange that they're - so many years all of a sudden no longer associating my name with the record I got.
GOLDMAN: Now, Don, the top spokesman is quoted as saying about the omissions, "It was a simple decision." Pete Rose told me, although it's annoying, it won't change his life, which at 71, he describes at full and happy, despite his continuing ban and - I'm going to have more about Pete Rose; what he's doing right now and where he's at next week on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.
GONYEA: Excellent. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thank you, as always.
GOLDMAN: You bet.