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Full text of Roger Goodell’s presentation at the Harvard School of Public Health

[Editor’s note:  On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke at the Harvard School of Public Health. The full text of his prepared remarks, as distributed by the NFL, appears below.]

Let me begin by thanking Dean Julio Frenk for inviting me to speak here today.  It is truly an honor to discuss two topics that I am passionate about: the game of football and its future.

The history of football is closely connected with the history of Harvard. Football has been played here with distinction since 1873. Professor Paul Weiler of Harvard Law School persuasively argues that the first college football game took place in Cambridge between Harvard and McGill University.

President Faust paid eloquent tribute to Harvard’s football legacy in a speech the night before last year’s Harvard-Yale game. She mentioned the university’s landmark innovations in the game – uniforms, a team doctor, a trainer, a kicking specialist. Harvard’s legacy includes eight national championships and 20 College Football Hall of Famers. Also the current starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick – and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk – who last year won the Walter Payton Award as the NFL Man of the Year for his service on, and especially, off the field.

Football is embedded in your traditions, and your contributions have defined and changed how we play the game. We are proud of the connection. And we know that Harvard is proud of your team and players for their extraordinary accomplishments on the football field, in the classroom, and in life. From Harvard’s first African-American football captain, William Lewis in 1893, to Coach Murphy’s fine team this year, you have given so much to the sport we love. And good luck to the Crimson this Saturday in “The Game” against Yale, one of football’s grandest traditions.

Harvard and the NFL both stand for something else – leadership. Others in education, sports, and countless places beyond the playing fields look to us to influence their own decisions. We embrace our leadership position. And leadership means certain things, whether in sports, academia, or public health. It means thinking about the long term. It means listening and learning from people, including your critics or those who may be telling you what you don’t want to hear. It means facing up to your challenges and working tirelessly to make sure you make the right choices, for the right reasons, based on science and facts, not speculation.

So today, in this place of leadership, I want to speak about our role in protecting the health and safety of athletes – not just in the NFL and football, but in all sports and all levels of play. Our nation is experiencing a public health crisis fueled by growing levels of obesity, particularly in children. You understand the consequences and what needs to be done to reverse the trend. We know kids need to exercise – put simply, to play. And we know that whatever they play, they need to do it safely – with respect for the rules and other competitors, and in support of teamwork and sportsmanship.

Other than my family, my passion in life is football, and always has been. As a kid, it seemed like I was always either playing or thinking about football. The values I learned from the game are central to who I am. I learned about commitment, communication, sacrifice and determination. It was fun, exciting, and the ultimate team sport.

Thirty years ago, I joined the NFL as an intern in Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s office. I was Pete Rozelle’s driver at Super Bowl XX in New Orleans in 1986. I couldn’t believe my luck and couldn’t imagine a better job. It was the beginning of a dream I am still living. It has been, at times, a humbling journey.

I have been fortunate to preside over the National Football League for seven seasons now. As a league, we continue to achieve great success. A growing number of fans – more than one million a week – attend games at our stadiums. The 16 most-watched TV shows this fall are NFL games – that is, aside from the presidential debates. And they were almost a contact sport, too.

A recent Harris Poll indicated that the NFL’s popularity is rising, at an all-time high, and up 12 percent from just 10 years ago. The second most popular sport is college football. The interest is simply amazing – driven by the character of the game, the talent and hard work of our athletes, the dedication of coaches, and the passion of our fans.

I don’t need to tell you that our nation is sharply divided on many issues. But, as President Obama said just last week, “One of the big unifiers in this country is sports, and football in particular. You don’t go anyplace where folks don’t talk about football.”

Football connects generations. Many of us remember watching games with parents and grandparents. We’ve experienced the joy of introducing the game to our own children. It inspires us to rally around our players, teams, and cities. It brings together families, friends, and communities. And on a few occasions every year, it brings together the entire country.

Football has earned a vital place in the rhythm of American life. Nearly 6 million kids play flag or tackle football; another 1.1 million play in high school; and 75,000 play in college. For many reasons, I have never been more optimistic about football’s future or more confident about its place in our society. Optimistic, but not complacent.

The game of football is thriving. It is more compelling than ever. But it is also seen by some as a game at a crossroads. And not for the first time. We are well aware of social commentators who now question our future. And I am here to tell you: If we are at another crossroads, we have already taken the right path. We took it a long time ago, and our commitment to stay on it will not waver.

The risk of injury in football is well known. Throughout history, football has evolved; it has become safer and safer again. President Faust talked last year about eliminating the dangerous “flying wedge” in the college game more than a century ago. In recent years, there has been a much sharper focus on concussions in football and other sports. There are still unanswered questions, but scientists and doctors know more about concussions and their long-term potential effects than they did even a few years ago. The key issue for us is how we use this new understanding to make the game even safer and more exciting in the future.

I can say in no uncertain terms that this is our biggest challenge: Changing the culture in a way that reduces the injury risk to the maximum possible extent – especially the risk of head injury. We want players to enjoy long and prosperous careers and healthy lives off the field. So we focus relentlessly on player health and safety, while also keeping the game fun and unpredictable.

My most important job is to protect the integrity of the game – but it goes beyond that. It is also to protect the 1,800 professionals who choose to play and who make our game so great.

The responsibility to our players does not end when they hang up their uniform for the last time. The health and safety of former, current, and future players involves many facets, not just head injuries. It includes the quality of playing fields, the equipment players wear, rules to protect them from unnecessary risk, programs to support their lives off the field, and post-career benefits.

At one time spinal cord injuries were considered a greater risk than they are today. But after changes in rules and techniques, those injuries have been dramatically reduced. We also have addressed the impact of heat and hydration, better educating our medical staffs and players and supporting the outstanding work of the Korey Stringer Institute. Now we are devoting more resources to the well-being of players as they transition away from the game, including their mental health.

We more than accept this responsibility on total health and safety. We seek it; we pursue it; we honor it. We do it to make a difference in football, in all sports and, we hope, beyond.

I’m sure some of you have asked yourselves the same tough questions others ask: When there is risk associated with playing tackle football, why do people continue to play? And for parents, should I let my kids play tackle football?

These are valid, important questions. Answers can differ from person to person – and especially from parent to parent.

In trying to respond to these concerns, we have looked to the realities of football. We have established an open dialogue – speaking frankly and engaging our critics directly – so that we can improve the safety of football. Whether to play football or any contact sport is a highly personal choice for kids and parents. It must be a thoughtful, informed decision.

The simple truth is that any physical activity comes with risk and reward. Head injuries occur in sports. Earlier this month, many of the world’s top sports concussion experts convened in Zurich, Switzerland. It is the leading conference on concussion in sport. In attendance were experts from the International Olympic Committee, international soccer (or as they say “football”), rugby, equestrian competition, Australian Rules Football and many other sports, including the NFL. The chief medical officer of the international soccer federation noted that 300 million people around the world play soccer. Concussions are hardly an issue limited to football or the NFL.

The conference reached a thoughtful consensus on how to advance safety – teach proper techniques and fundamentals; educate coaches, parents and players about concussion recognition and management; eliminate unnecessary contact; and continue to research the unanswered questions surrounding concussions.  At the same time, these international experts recommended that sports be played actively, but safely, without regard to age. These few steps will make sports safer for all.

There is no question that there are tremendous benefits to playing team sports like football, whether it’s tackle, flag or touch football in the backyard – benefits such as physical fitness, self-discipline, friendships, leadership opportunities, self-esteem, college scholarships, and, most importantly, just plain fun.

Presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to John Kennedy to Gerald Ford played and loved football. Business leaders like Jeff Immelt and military leaders like General Ray Odierno learned important lessons from playing football. At West Point, the cadets are required to play a team sport because the experience is fundamental to leadership development.

Is playing tackle football worth the risk? For some, the answer may be no. But millions say yes. We emphatically say yes. And I pledge that the NFL will do everything in its power to minimize the risks and maximize the rewards of this great and increasingly global game.

The way I look at it: Football is always at a crossroads, facing challenges that require leaders to act with courage and purpose to secure and advance its future.

Let’s look back at one issue that involved Harvard more than a century ago, in 1905, before the NFL even existed. This was a time when football was extremely dangerous and violent. More than 150 college players suffered serious injuries and 18 players died in 1904 alone – – at a time when far fewer athletes played football.

Just think about that for a moment … 18 student-athletes died … in one season, primarily from skull fractures.

The nature of the game at that time led to widespread criticism. In 1903, The New York Times stated that football was trending toward “mayhem and homicide.” Some called for ending the sport, including Harvard President Charles Eliot.

The future of football was very much in doubt.

But a Harvard graduate, who happened to be the President of the United States, loved football. And Teddy Roosevelt came to football’s rescue.

He had not played football at Harvard, but he loved the game. He saw the merit in the lessons and principles that make football compelling. And in December of 1905, he brought the Big Three – Harvard, Yale and Princeton – to the White House. He convinced them that something had to change. President Roosevelt recognized that the game did not need to end. It needed to evolve.

As a result of President Roosevelt’s initiative, and the leadership of Harvard, key rules and the equipment of the game were changed and what became the NCAA was created. This led to modern football, one that included the forward pass, 10 yards for a first down, and the elimination of the flying wedge. These changes led to a more wide open, safer game.
Teddy Roosevelt helped transform a sport in trouble into something better – a game that has helped shape the lives and careers of generations of young men in so many positive ways.

In 1910, President Woodrow Wilson observed that the changes were working. “The new game of football seems far more enjoyable than the old one,” he said. “The new rules are doing much to bring football to a high level as a sport, for its brutal features are being done away with and better elements retained.”

So it was that a Harvard graduate and the university itself played a pivotal role in transforming football and paving the way to its future success.

The game has continued to evolve. Not long ago, the game allowed the head slap, tackling by the face mask, horse collar tackles, dangerous blocks, and hits to the head of defenseless receivers and quarterbacks. All of that has changed.

“The war against roughness in pro football is a continuing one,” said the NFL commissioner. That was Pete Rozelle in 1963.

“An Unfolding Tragedy.” That was a headline. The story said, “As football injuries mount, lawsuits increase and insurance rates soar, the game is headed toward a crisis, one that is epitomized by the helmet, which is both a barbarous weapon and inadequate protection.” It was a Sports Illustrated cover story in 1978.

Protecting the health and safety of players has included taking drug abuse and steroids out of the game. We have randomly tested year-round for steroids since 1990, the first league to do so, with immediate suspensions for any violations. Next we need to implement testing to make sure human growth hormone is out of the game. Performance enhancing drugs are dangerous. They also present unknown risk that may be seriously impacting an athlete’s health in ways he or she never considered. Some have suggested that there may be a link between performance enhancing drugs and concussions and brain disease.

Football has always evolved, and it always will. Make no mistake: change does not inhibit the game; it improves it.

It’s with Teddy Roosevelt in mind that we embrace today’s challenges. I learned a long time ago that you don’t do things because they are popular in the short term. You do them because they are right for the long term. And this is the right conversation to be having.

My commitment has been and will continue to be to change the culture of football to better protect players without changing the essence of what makes the game so popular.

It has been done. And it will be done.

As stewards of the game, it is our responsibility to promote a culture of safety. To be leaders. So let me share with you some specifics on how we are leading.

(Leadership)

Leaders do not sit and wait for others to provide answers. We will continue to make rule changes, invest in innovative protective equipment, and provide our medical staffs the tools and authority to protect players on the field.

The rule in our league is simple and straightforward: Medical decisions override everything else. There has been attention this week on the fact that three NFL quarterbacks sustained concussions last Sunday. The positive development was that all three were taken out of the game as soon as they showed symptoms. The team medical staff then diagnosed a concussion, and each player was out of the game. That is progress. That is the way it should be in all sports at every level.

We know that our actions set an example. The concussion awareness material and training videos we developed with the Centers for Disease Control were used by the U.S. Olympic team this past summer. The United States military, NASCAR and college conferences have adopted our concussion protocols.

The Ivy League this year adopted rules similar to the ones in the new agreement with our NFL players, limiting contact in practices and emphasizing taking the head out of the game – as we have been doing.

High schools and colleges must take leadership roles as well with their coaches and athletes. An aggressive dialogue and educational efforts at all levels will raise awareness and change the culture to more strongly emphasize safety. We challenge everyone in sports to be agents of culture change. And we will learn from each other.

There is more to be done. And we will continue to lead by example.

(Research)

Second, leaders base decisions on facts. We actively support independent and transparent medical research. Much of this focuses on the brain, sometimes called the last frontier of medicine and a public health issue that affects millions. Most of them do not even play sports.

We hope our focus on brain injury and the discoveries ahead will benefit the broader population. We recently committed $30 million to the National Institutes of Health for research on the brain. The agreement with our players sets aside an additional $100 million for similar medical research over the next decade. We have invested millions more in medical research through our charitable foundations, including at the Boston University Center for the Study of CTE. The center’s co-director, Dr. Robert Stern, is here today.

We may learn through breakthroughs in science that there are genetic or other factors that make certain individuals predisposed to concussions or brain disease. If an athlete has repeated concussions or takes longer to recover, it may signal a problem unique to that individual. Such individuals will benefit from advances in the science of concussion. They will be able to make more informed decisions about whether to accept the risk of playing a contact sport.

We support research into new helmet designs and have sponsored independent helmet testing to provide better information to players on helmet performance. One of the helmets our players wear was designed by a former Harvard quarterback, Vin Ferrara.

We may see a day when there are different helmets for different positions, based on which helmet can best protect players at their position.

As a sport that is on the national stage and under the spotlight, we are working to make a difference. Innovations in research today will improve safety in the sport tomorrow and for future generations in all sports.

(Rules)

Third, we are committed to strengthening our playing rules – and insisting on strict enforcement. Preserving the essence of the game, while reducing unnecessary risk, means we have to constantly reevaluate and refresh our rules reasonably and responsibly.

Strategy, strength and speed are what make the game great. We don’t want to take physical contact out of the game. But we must ensure that players follow rules designed to reduce the risk of injury. Enforcing rules on illegal hits to the head with fines and suspensions has changed tackling for the better. Players and coaches have adjusted. They always do. We now see fewer dangerous hits to the head and noticeable changes in the way the game is being played.

We continue to look for other ways to take the head out of the game. Two years ago we moved the kickoff line five yards forward to the 35. That reform yielded real benefits – a 40 percent reduction in concussions last year on kickoffs. College football then adopted our rule. Some think that the kickoff – the play with the highest injury rate – should be eliminated from the game or modified even further.

Here’s an idea I’ve heard from an NFL head coach: put a weight limit on players for kickoffs. Smaller players against smaller players would mean less severe collisions.

We will monitor the data on kickoffs, and all plays, with an open mind toward change.

Our Player Safety Panel, co-chaired by Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott and John Madden, has recommended that our Competition Committee carefully review the rules on all blocks below the waist. Protecting “defenseless” players started decades ago by banning the hitting of kickers. We now have nine separate categories of defenseless players in our rule book. All players can be defenseless in certain situations and we must address it comprehensively.

The right safety equipment is also crucial. Next year NFL players will be required to wear knee and thigh pads, as players are required to do at every other level of football. Many NFL players haven’t been wearing them. Getting them into the right equipment is part of changing the culture.

Technology is also helping us. Recent developments include new protocols, certified athletic trainers in press boxes to serve as spotters for team medical staffs, and the use of iPads and cell phones by medical staffs on the sidelines. We allow this technology for medical reasons, but not for competitive purposes.

We are testing accelerometers in helmets. They are sensors that determine the impact of a hit. We are also testing sensors in shoulder pads which could provide important information.

The most significant innovation may be the use of video by medical staffs on the sidelines to evaluate the mechanism of injury. We started it late last season and now use it for every game. It allows team doctors and trainers to more quickly understand and better treat an injury. Our team medical staffs are raving about it.

(Advocacy)

Fourth, we use our leadership position to advocate for safety in sports. We took a lead role in supporting the Zackery Lystedt Youth Concussion Law. It applies to all sports. It requires education for coaches, players, and parents, removal from games or practice for any school athlete who suffers a concussion, and clearance by a medical professional before the athlete can return to play. This law has now been passed by 40 states and the District of Columbia. Our goal is to secure approval in all 50 states. And I am confident that we will get there.

We are committed to the safety of young athletes, starting as soon as they step on the field. My twin daughters in middle school play lacrosse and soccer. Girls’ soccer has the second highest rate of concussions in youth sports. I am concerned for their safety. I want them to play, but I want them to play for coaches who know how to teach proper techniques and who are trained in the safety of their sport.

Ten years ago, we helped endow a non-profit organization called USA Football. With the CDC and other medical and football experts, USA Football created the only nationally accredited coaching course in the history of football. Tens of thousands of coaches have completed the course. Better certification and background checks of all coaches must be among the highest priorities for all youth sports.

USA Football has commissioned an injury study – research that the youth game has never seen. It also established a pilot program this year called “Heads Up Football.” This program invites parents to participate and delivers training and education for safer tackling, practice regimens modeled on the NFL, and a safety coach whose sole task is to monitor and ensure player safety in practices and games.

In fact, there is a critical need for more certified athletic trainers for youth and high school sports. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, in 2010 only 42 percent of high schools had access to certified trainers who were trained in concussion care.

There is more we can do to make youth sports safer. And again, we stand ready to lead.

(Partnerships)

And finally, we know we can’t do it alone. To learn what needs to be learned and do what needs to be done, we need partners with expertise to make things happen.

We will continue to work with leading organizations to support independent research. One day we hope that will include the Harvard School of Public Health.

We have assembled an all-volunteer advisory panel of doctors, scientists, and thought leaders in brain injury from academia, sports medicine, engineering, the NIH, CDC, and Department of Defense. It includes some of our earlier critics. This group has four subcommittees and is directing discussion and research – ranging from long-term outcomes to education to making safer equipment. It includes another Harvard graduate and former Crimson football player, Dr. Mitch Berger. Dr. Robert Cantu, long respected in this area, is here today and he is an advisor to our committee.

We have eight other medical advisory committees within our league, comprised mostly of doctors plus other experts from inside and outside the league. These committees are overseen by a committee of owners chaired by an NFL owner who is also a physician, Dr. John York of the San Francisco 49ers.

Earlier this year, with the help of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, we launched a pilot program to replace helmets in underserved schools.

We need to be driven by facts and data, not perceptions and suppositions. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has done studies on NFL players. This summer NIOSH exploded a myth that has been circulating for years that the life expectancy of NFL players was 55 years of age. That caused many NFL players to make a bad decision to take their pension early at a much lower rate. NIOSH found that the true life expectancy of an NFL player is actually longer than the general population. There are real-life consequences when working off bad facts.

One of our most exciting and innovative new partnerships is with the Army, helping to change the culture in both organizations. Too often, bravery and commitment to the unit or team stand in the way of safety. In this new partnership, NFL players and service members are working together to put in place a culture of safety. It is helping players and soldiers identify the signs and symptoms of brain injuries, and empowering them to make better decisions. We are working cooperatively to make soldiers and athletes safer.

We are proud to be leaders in sports health and safety. Members of Congress, former critics, influential members of the news media, and others have praised our initiatives. But while we have worked hard throughout our history, the right road is never ending. Evolution, by nature, does not stop. Football will always continue to evolve.

The culture of the athlete is still too much of a play-through-it, rather than player safety mentality. Many players have publicly admitted to hiding concussions and other head injuries.

I was recently at dinner with family friends. Their 15-year-old daughter plays field hockey and told me how during a recent game she hit her head on the turf and blacked out for a moment. She didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t want to come out. The next day she was diagnosed with a concussion. It’s the warrior mentality – in a 15-year-old girl. This is unfortunate, but we are working with players, team doctors and coaches to change that culture. It is changing, but will take more time, resolve, patience, and determination.

Let me conclude with a question: What is our goal? I can answer in one simple word: Safety.

A safer game for all who play at every level of football. A safer game made even more exciting through thoughtful adjustments of the rules, next-generation equipment, pioneering research, and transparent partnerships with the best minds.

The road may be long and twisting. But I have no doubt we will reach our destination – a culture of safety for every sport so our world continues to be blessed by the vital and vibrant rewards that come uniquely from sports. For football, I can say with humility, resolve, and confidence: the best is yet to come.

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Jets take their Fitzpatrick case to the media

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets walks off the field after throwing his third interception of the day in a 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the lingering standoff involving the Jets and free-agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick now spreading to other key members of the offense currently under contract, the Jets have begun to take their case public.

Specifically, the Jets have made their standing offer to Fitzpatrick known to multiple media outlets: A three-year deal that would pay Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016.

Curiously (or not), the Jets aren’t leaking the details as to the second and third seasons of the offer. A league source with knowledge of the talks told PFT weeks ago that the problem isn’t the compensation in the first year but the pay to Fitzpatrick in the next two.

Indeed, the fact that the Jets are leaking only the $12 million total compensation for 2016 (which presumably includes a signing bonus spread over all three years) suggests that the last two years of the package don’t mesh with the team’s agenda of coming off as reasonable in the stalled negotiations.

The compensation for the final two years directly impacts the quality of the proposals. If, for example, the Jets are offering three years and $36 million, that’s $12 million per year. But if the $12 million offer for the first year is part of, for example, a three-year, $24 million deal, the pending offer suddenly doesn’t look so good.

Instead of attempting to apply pressure to Fitzpatrick by leaking details that make the Jets seem reasonable, the Jets and Fitzpatrick should get together in a room, shut the door, lock it from the outside, and stay put until their find an acceptable middle ground. Both sides should be willing to yield as to their current positions, since each side needs the other. And both sides need to get this deal done, sooner than later.

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Bears sign Leonard Floyd

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 28: Leonard Floyd #84, Sterling Bailey #58, Jordan Jenkins 59, and Malcolm Mitchell #26 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate after the game by planting the Georgia Bulldogs flag on the field after the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears signed their first-round pick, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, on Friday.

The Bears traded up two spots to No. 9 — specifically to get ahead of the Giants — to select Floyd last month.

An early entry to this year’s draft, Floyd had 17 sacks in three seasons at Georgia. He played both defensive end and outside linebacker in college. The Bears list Floyd at 6-foot-6, 244 pounds.

Lamarr Houston led the Bears with eight sacks last season, their first in a 3-4 base defense, and Floyd was drafted to immediately boost the pass rush.

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Brett Perriman transferred to Atlanta hospital

2 Nov 1997:  Brett Perriman of the Miami Dolphins in action against the Buffalo Bills during a game at Rich Stadium in  Orchard Park, New York.  The Bills defeated the Dolphins 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport

Former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman has been transferred to an Atlanta hospital, where he’s continuing to recover from a stroke he suffered earlier this month.

Per a release from the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Perriman, 50, was transferred there from a Miami-area hospital. He was admitted into the intensive care unit, but Perriman will soon transition into the hospital’s acquired brain injury unit for evaluation, care and observation.

Initial reports said he’d been hospitalized due to high blood pressure.

His son, Breshad Perriman, was drafted in the first round in 2015 by the Ravens. Breshad Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury but is progressing well, and he tweeted some encouraging words earlier Friday about his father.

Brett Perriman had a career-best 1,488 receiving yards in 1995 with the Lions. In that season, Perriman and Herman Moore became the first teammates in NFL history to each record more than 100 receptions and more than 1,400 receiving yards in the same season.

Perriman played 10 NFL seasons and played for the Saints, Lions, Chiefs and Dolphins. He was a second-round pick of the Saints in 1988.

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Tony Horton hopes to do more work with Eddie Lacy

i Getty Images

When Packers coach Mike McCarthy fat-shamed running back Eddie Lacy after the 2015 season, the tailback with the bulging midsection eventually landed under the supervision of Tony Horton, the man behind the P90X series of workout videos. Horton has whipped Lacy into shape, and Horton hopes to continue his work with Lacy after the offseason program ends in Green Bay and before training camp commences.

“Ideally, what I’d like to do — he’d have to be in L.A. for it to work — but I’d like to see him play [basketball] one day, [go to] boxing class one day and I could work with him for three as opposed to six or seven like before,” Horton told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “It would give him more freedom, and the beautiful thing is he wouldn’t have to relearn everything again. I would really love the plyometric day and the cardio was essential for him.”

Anyone who has ever done P90X knows all about plyometrics and the advice to bring “your little bucket” and the annoyingly compelling “get ready, ’cause it’s coming” warning during the warmup phase. While its value to professional football players is still undetermined, P90X (and the 30-minute sibling P90X3) definitely helps get and keep middle-aged dudes who sit around and type and talk all day long in shape. Or at least in the shape of something other than a pear.

Horton preached more than exercise to Lacy. To get the most out of the program, nutrition is critical.

“We didn’t talk weight. We didn’t talk inches. We didn’t get on a scale,” Horton told Demovsky. “It was about lifestyle and performance and being healthy. He’s genetically gifted. He just had a misstep the last season and a half. So I just redirected him into a lifestyle that’s going to help him be productive and give him more energy and more stamina, and I know how to do those things. And I did them in a way he’s never done them before.”

For running backs who routinely take a pounding during games, it’s important to have some bulk. Lacy clearly had too much last year, and he should be better off for it when the season starts.

And if the changes stick, Lacy will be in position to avoid the thing that happens to plenty of football players when their careers end — the gradual growth of their bodies in the horizontal direction.

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Blake Bortles working to “grow together” with Julius Thomas

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes against  Dwight Lowery #33 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

For the second straight season, the Jaguars made a splash in free agency by signing a player away from the Broncos.

They’ll be hoping for a smoother start from defensive tackle Malik Jackson than they got from tight end Julius Thomas. Thomas broke a bone in his hand in the preseason, missed the first four games of the regular season and went on to average under 10 yards a reception while catching five touchdown passes.

Thomas averaged 11.8 yards per catch and scored 24 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Broncos and the Jags would like to see something more in that arena in Thomas’ second season in Jacksonville. Quarterback Blake Bortles said that he and Thomas have been working to develop the kind of chemistry that leads to a spike in production.

“We had a chance this offseason to sit down multiple times, watch film and talk about things,” Bortles said, via ESPN.com. “Talk about what he wanted from me and what I wanted from him and how we can quickly get on the same page to grow together. He’s been unbelievable. He’s obviously a freak athlete and he’s continued to prove that and make plays.”

A major statistical leap may not be in Thomas’ future. With Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns at receiver, the Jaguars don’t need to force the ball in anyone’s direction to move it in the air. There’s also a hope that the ground game and defense will improve enough to keep the team from throwing the ball quite as often as they did in 2015.

If he can be more productive around the end zone, though, that will likely be enough to make his second year with the team a more successful one.

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Lions giving Taylor Decker a shot at left tackle

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Taylor Decker of Ohio State holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #16 overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Lions are likely to leave Riley Reiff at left tackle, where he has started every game but one the last three years. But when Organized Team Activities opened this week, Reiff wasn’t playing left tackle with the first-string offense.

Instead, first-round draft pick Taylor Decker was playing left tackle with the first string. Reiff was at right tackle with the first-string offense.

Decker started 28 games at left tackle at Ohio State, and by putting him there at the start of OTAs, the Lions are showing that they believe he has the potential to start there in the NFL.

When the season starts, however, Reiff is likely to be back in his familiar spot as the starting left tackle, while Decker is likely to line up on the right side.

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Ricky Williams opening a marijuana-friendly gym in San Francisco

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If you ever wanted to combine your “wake and bake” with your “rise and grind,” Ricky Williams has an idea for you.

The former NFL running back and marijuana enthusiast is launching a weed-friendly gym in San Francisco this fall, according to Time magazine.

Granted, the 49ers better not be caught there, since the NFL and NFLPA’s collectively bargained drug policy prevents players from enjoying that which is legal in two NFL cities.

But if the idea of a little pot with your kettle bells appeals to you, you now have an option.

The gym will be called Power Plant Fitness, and encourages customers to vape cannabis or consume edibles, though there are plans for a smoking area on an outdoor balcony.

“It won’t be a place to get high and just screw around,” said Jim McAlpine, founder of the 420 Games and Williams’ partner. “We are focused on the athletic side, not the cannabis side.”

McAlpine is also pushing some science, offering a “cannabis performance assessment” to determine how marijuana affects workouts.

“We will be helping our members figure out how is best for them to ingest their cannabis,” McAlpine said.

There’s no word as of now whether Williams and McAlpine will also be opening a Taco Bell next door.

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Keenan Reynolds’ service deferred, cleared to play this season

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen celebrates after scoring a first half touchdown against the East Carolina Pirates on September 19, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens were hopeful that sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds was going to be given clearance to play for them this season, and they got final word today.

The Ravens announced that the former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds has been cleared by United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to play this season.

Like all graduates of the Naval Academy, Reynolds has a military service commitment, but that has been deferred so he can play this year.

The Ravens list the versatile Reynolds as a receiver/return man, and his background as a passer/runner/receiver makes him an intriguing chess piece.

“It is a blessing to hear the news from Defense Secretary Carter today,” Reynolds said. “I am truly excited to proudly serve my country while having the ability fulfill my dream of playing for the best organization in the NFL.

“I would like to thank the Navy for allowing me to represent them while taking advantage of this unique opportunity. I would also like to thank Mr. Bisciotti and the Ravens organization for believing in me and giving me this chance.”

Having players such as Reynolds playing their sport at the highest level is also a valuable public relations tool for the armed forces, one that the government doesn’t have to pay for, either.

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Breshad Perriman: The last year made me a better person and player

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 30:  Breshad Perriman of the UCF Knights holds up a jersey after being picked #26 overall by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 30, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman’s rookie season was over before it started thanks to a knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp that was initially shrugged off as nothing serious.

The knee never improved and Perriman wound up missing the entire regular season, something that left him in what he described as being in a “dark hole.” Things didn’t get much better for Perriman in the offseason as teammate and friend Tray Walker was killed in a dirt bike accident and his father Brett was hospitalized this month after collapsing, but Perriman says that things have brightened.

His father is feeling better and Perriman says that staying on top of his playbook while he was injured has helped him hit the ground running now that he’s healthy enough to resume football activities.

“I feel much stronger,” Perriman said, via the team’s website. “I feel like I went through a lot last year, and it made me a better player and a better person. … It’s been crazy. I’ve been through a lot this offseason, but it’s just making me stronger again and just learning to keep faith and pray a lot more. It’s been rough. It still is rough from time to time, but I’m steady getting through it, pushing through it and keeping faith.”

With Perriman back on the field, Mike Wallace joining the team, Steve Smith putting off retirement and tight end Dennis Pitta potentially coming back to join new arrival Benjamin Watson, the Ravens passing game is going to have a different look than it did last season. Assuming they remain on the field, it should be a better one as well.

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How much public money will be available for Vegas stadium?

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With Raiders owner Mark Davis committed to exploring opportunities in Las Vegas, the question becomes whether Las Vegas will provide Davis with the kind of opportunity he wants. And that question hinges on whether and to what extent the powers-that-be in Las Vegas will cough up the cash to build a stadium.

During a Thursday meeting of local tourism experts, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman made clear the reality that things are currently very unclear regarding finances.

“We’re a little bit in the weeds right now talking about the numbers,” Goodman said, via News3LV.

The city’s contribution would come from increased hotel taxes on visitors to Las Vegas.

“Can we afford an increase to the room tax so the tourists still keep coming here?” Goodman said. “Those are the dollars we’re talking about strictly for the stadium and the Raiders.”

The loose formula currently consists of the Raiders and the NFL kicking in $500 million, the Las Vegas Sands paying $150 million, and the taxpayers picking up the remaining $750 million.

By August, more information is expected regarding the taxes necessary to meet the public portion of the project. In theory, a stadium could be completed by 2020.

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Chris Johnson: Cardinals can have best RB tandem in league

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22: Running back Chris Johnson #23 of the Arizona Cardinals runs past defensive end Will Clarke #93 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half of the NFL game at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before breaking his tibia in Week 12, running back Chris Johnson turned in a strong performance for the Cardinals that showed he had something left in the tank after less impressive seasons for the Titans and Jets.

The Cardinals offense didn’t miss him all that much, however. Rookie David Johnson picked up the torch by running for 442 yards and scored five of his Cardinals rookie record 13 touchdowns. The elder Johnson re-signed with Arizona as a free agent this offseason and believes that having both Johnsons could leave the Cardinals with the best running back duo in the league.

“I feel like me and him can probably be the best tandem in the NFL this year,” Chris Johnson said, via ArizonaSports.com.

With 1,038 yards from scrimmage last year, David Johnson showed signs that he can be one of the most productive backs in the entire league so it stands to reason that the Cardinals’ 1-2 punch will be an effective one. There are several other strong tandems around the league, but being in the conversation should be enough to keep the Cardinals offense humming at a level that keeps them in the hunt for bigger team honors in 2016.

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Memorial Day weekend is here; will there be a bad news dump?

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It’s Friday afternoon of the first three-day weekend of the (unofficial) summer. And so before it’s (officially) OK to wear white, the NFL has a prime opportunity to bury some bad news in the sweater drawer.

The NFL at times insists that there is no habit of dumping bad news on a Friday afternoon. If there isn’t, there should be. Why not air the dirty laundry at times when the fewest people possible are paying attention? By Tuesday, there will be plenty of other things to talk about, especially in the aftermath of Game One of the Stanley Cup Final and in anticipation of Game One of the NBA Finals.

Some would say that the NFL made its Memorial Day bad-news dump a day early, with the revelation of the penalties imposed on the Ravens for violating the offseason workout rules. If the league had made the announcement today, it would have been too obvious.

That doesn’t mean other bad news is or isn’t coming later today. Regardless, it makes sense for the NFL to consider doing it. And it makes sense for the rest of us to be on the lookout for it.

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Russell Wilson says “collective” leadership necessary to replace Marshawn Lynch

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Sure, the retirement of running back Marshawn Lynch makes quarterback Russell Wilson the focal point of the Seattle offense. But Wilson, who always says all the right things, can’t say that. Instead, Wilson needs to project the notion that not having Lynch is a bad thing.

Which is what Wilson did on Thursday.

“Well, obviously, losing Marshawn is one of the hardest things that can happen because he was one of the most talented players in the National Football League when he was playing,” Wilson told reporters on Thursday.

So how will the team respond to Lynch leaving?

“I think the biggest thing is everybody stepping up, everybody leading, very similar to when we couldn’t have Marshawn last year when he was battling through his injuries,” Wilson said. “Guys stepped up and were leaders. Guys like Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, Kam Chancellor, all the way down the line – Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett. There’s so many guys I could name – [Richard Sherman], Earl [Thomas]. So we’re going to have to have that collective group of leadership. That’s going to be a great thing. I think it makes the team really focus on each other and really get stronger too in that way.”

Apparently, it’s working. So far.

“The energy out there is unbelievable,” Wilson said regarding the team’s OTA sessions. “It feels like we’re in midseason [form], just how we’re practicing. All the receivers, the tight ends making plays. And the running back group, even though they’re young, they’re really catching on quickly and the offensive line too. And then the defense, they just bring so much energy too. So it’s really competitive out there in a good way and that’s what we’re loving about it.”

Some think the window is closing on the Seahawks, but they continue to be one of the best teams in the league. Although Lynch helped make them better, they were better than fine without him for much of 2015, and they’ll be better than fine without him in 2016.

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Fourth-round safety signs with Browns

FORT WORTH, TX - DECEMBER 06:  Safety Derrick Kindred #26 of the TCU Horned Frogs scores on a 44 yard touchdown interception during the third quarter of the Big 12 college football game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Amon G. Carter Stadium on December 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Horned Frongs defeated the Cyclones 55-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns announced the signing of fourth-round safety Derrick Kindred Friday.

Kindred was a 30-game starter and played in 50 games over four years at TCU. He had eight career interceptions and was an All-Big 12 pick last season.

With the Browns releasing veteran safety Donte Whitner and letting Tashaun Gipson leave for Jacksonville via free agency, Kindred should immediately compete for playing time with the Browns.

Kindred’s signing comes a day after the Browns signed second-round linebacker Emmanual Ogbah. The Browns have now signed eight of their record 14 draft picks.

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Roger Goodell encourages New Orleans to keep bidding for Super Bowls

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NFL owners did not bestow upon New Orleans another Super Bowl, but commissioner Roger Goodell wants to make sure they keep trying to get one.

According to Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Goodell sent Saints owner Tom Benson a letter this week congratulating him on an impressive bid, one which fell to “strong and unique” competition.

“Thank you to you and your team for the hard work and impressive bid by New Orleans to host Super Bowl 53 in 2019,” the letter reads. “The vision for a ‘Big, Easy, Super Bowl’ was well articulated and presented. It is clear to all owners that New Orleans is a top-notch Super Bowl city with talented leadership representing the Saints and the community.

“Although you did not secure the 2019 game against unusually strong and unique competition, we would look forward to working closely with you and your community in bringing a Super Bowl back to New Orleans soon. There is a reason New Orleans has been the home of 10 Super Bowls, and we know that it is in a strong position to host more in the future.

“Thank you for your leadership and your many contributions to the success of the league. Our office and the Super Bowl Advisory Committee will continue to support your efforts.”

While New Orleans is one of the easiest places to have a good time at a Super Bowl (not to mention among the most logistically convenient), the city is falling behind in the stadium arms race.

While they poured $336 million into the Superdome beginning in 2011, it’s still among the league’s oldest stadiums. And the memory of the lights going out in the middle of Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 isn’t something people are going to forget.

So with new buildings or dramatically renovated ones being rewarded with Super Bowls, the Saints are faced with a long drought between games. They’re already promised out the next five games through 2021, and Dallas is already planning a bid for one of the games in the next wave. Tampa will possibly join them, having not hosted since 2009.

But there were people who liked the New Orleans bid — and love having competition to create better value — so making sure the Saints stay in the loop is clearly in the league’s best interest.

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