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Today in sports: James Harrison is voted the NFL's dirtiest (or "meanest") player by his peers, how the Red Sox slime their own, and the NFL and the players union are headed to Washington tomorrow.

  • Sports Illustrated has released its annual list of the 15 "meanest" players in the NFL. This used to be a ranking of the 15 "dirtiest" players in the NFL, but the name was changed last year, lest anyone think the magazine was endorsing chop blocks or late hits on the quarterback. The results, based on responses from 287 active NFL players:
  1. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison
  2. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis
  3. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh
  4. Oakland Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour
  5. Miami Dolphins offensive guard Richie Incognito
  6. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs
  7. St. Louis Rams offensive guard Harvey Dahl
  8. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward
  9. Washington Redskins strong safety LaRon Landry
  10. New Orleans Saints center Olin Kreutz
  11. Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen
  12. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith
  13. Detroit Lions running back Jerome Harrison
  14. Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan
  15. Buffalo Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman

Harrison, Kreutz, Allen, Merriman, Ward, Incognito, Finnegan, Dahl, and Lewis have all made the list in the past. [Sports Illustrated]

  • English soccer fans won't have to worry about striker Wayne Rooney letting his father's arrest in connection with a match-fixing investigation impact his play in the Euro Cup. He's been suspended for three 2012 Euro Cup matches after kicking Montenegro defender Miodrag Dzudovic in a match Friday. [The Daily Mail]
  • The quotes in yesterday's Boston Globe from anonymous Red Sox "team sources" and "top executives" suggesting manager Terry Francona's marital problems and alleged abuse of painkillers played a role in the team's September collapse are still being digested in New England, but ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes says the story serves as another reminder that "the slime bucket is never far from reach on Yawkey Way" when ownership wants to tarnish someone's image on the way out of town. Former Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who was labeled a malcontent and malingerer after being traded to the Cubs in 2004, agreed. "I think people are starting to recognize there's a pattern here," Garciaparra said. "All of a sudden it becomes personal, especially with guys who have had so much success in that uniform." After the Francona leaks, it's going to be tough for the team to tell potential players that their medical records will kept secret when they come to Boston, observes Edes. "Such information," he writes, "could only have been known by a very few -- Francona's employers, and his doctors and trainers. That either party would share such sensitive material certainly smells like a breach of patient confidentiality; Francona's lawyer might one day argue as much." [ESPN Boston]
  • HBO has poached Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Ken Hershman to take over as president of HBO Sports. He replaces Ross Greenburg, who left HBO in July after 33 years with the network, the last  11 of which were spent running the sports division. The most immediate impact from the hire may come in the network's boxing coverage, which has been an HBO staple since the cable channel debuted in 1973. Hershman is widely credited with bringing MMA Strikeforce to Showtime, and it's been the backbone of the network's resurgent sports division. Greenburg was seen as lukewarm at best on getting the TV rights to mixed martial arts bouts. In another interesting bit of timing, Showtime's deal to broadcast Strikeforce bouts reportedly expires next month.  [Variety and Broadcasting & Cable]
  • NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and members of the league's players association are going to meet with a House subcommittee on Friday to discuss testing for human growth hormone. The players agreed to blood screening as part of the new collective bargaining agreement negotiated over the summer, but the tests aren't being administered this season after the NFLPA raised questions about the reliability of the tests and the chance of false positives. 23 scientists and lab directors signed a letter sent to the NFL and the players association assuring them that the current tests are safe and reliable, though the NFLPA wants more data. Specifically,  "the data from the athletes who were used to originally set thresholds as to what constitutes a positive test," says the Associated Press, That would enable the NFLPA to perform its own  "population study on football players," who the union suggests "could have naturally-high HGH levels, above those of other athletes.," which could lead to more false positives. The same tprocess is used in minor league baseball and the Olympics, which is making it hard for the union to keep questioning the test's effecacy. At the same time, their position can't really be considered a stall tactic to let players clean-up before the first round of tests: HGH clears the system and is undetectable 24 to 48 hours after being injected. Expect House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and Elijah Cummings to be on the league's side. In a statement last month explaining why they asked the NFL and NFLPA to appear, the congressmen said they were concerned about the "status of [the testing] efforts" and made it clear they intended to "strongly convey our universal interest in protecting the health of millions of younger athletes across the country" during the meeting. [AP]

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