Philadelphia, PA (Worldwide Gamble) - 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
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
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
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."