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Roger Goodell State of the League press conference transcript

[Editor’s note: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had his annual State of the League press conference on Friday. This is the transcript of that press conference, distributed by the NFL.]

Opening Statement:

“Good morning. This Sunday will be the conclusion of an incredible season of NFL football. Our teams this season gave fans dramatic games and amazing performances. Think about it, the inspiring comebacks of Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson; the extraordinary rookie quarterbacks; Calvin Johnson, Tony Gonzalez catching; Aldon Smith, Von Miller and J.J. Watt sacking; the fantastic final Sunday of the regular season. Everyone is buzzing about how exciting the playoffs have been. So wouldn’t it be fitting if we have that one final struggle on Sunday night? This Super Bowl matchup has it all: the Harbaughs, Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, the Pistol offense, and the list goes on. Congratulations to Steve Bisciotti, to John, Denise and Jed York. We really can’t wait to see your teams in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

“There are two important people who are not here, but very much on our minds. Art Modell, the legendary former owner of the Ravens, who passed away in September. Art’s spirit is certainly here this week. And his name will be on the Ravens jersey on Sunday, as it has all season. And this is the first Super Bowl without Steve Sabol, the creative genius behind NFL Films. His imprint is all over our game and the Super Bowl. Steve and Art were innovators. They inspire us to exceed our expectations. As a league, we have challenges. We always do, and we embrace them for the opportunity to do better.

“On and off the field in the last couple of years, we have accomplished some remarkable things that have really strengthened the very foundation of our game. We have the most talented athletes on earth, in a game that those players and fans love. Our mission is to make it even better and we are doing the work. The changes we are making are having a positive impact. The game is exciting, competitive, tough and safer. We are making the game better while also evolving into a health and safety culture. That is a big priority. We are also improving officiating, investing in upgrading the stadium experience and engaging more people in more ways than ever. Our numbers are up in overall fan engagement, in most cases, dramatically. So a big thank you to NFL fans, the best in sports.

“Interest in the NFL is expanding as we grow internationally. In fact, today we are announcing that our two games in London next season – the 49ers and Jaguars and the Steelers and Vikings – are already sold out. It is a sign that the game is growing globally. But there is more work to do and more ways to improve. The Competition Committee’s agenda will include looking at eliminating certain dangerous low blocks; further taking the head out of the game and expanding the standards for the quality of our playing fields. We will take steps to ensure more diversity in our hiring practices. The results this year were simply not acceptable.

“On the health side, we will update our injury protocols and add neurosurgeons to our game day medical resources. We are going to implement expanded physicals at the end of each season. Three days to review players from a physical, mental and life-skills standpoint, so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion. We want to pioneer new approaches to player health and safety that emphasize prevention as well as treatment. This will include our commitment to supporting our retired players. Those are some of the priorities. From the quality of our game, to growing fan interest and engagement, to our commitment to evolve and innovate, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future. I could not be more optimistic or ready to go.

“It’s also terrific for us to be back here in New Orleans. Our 10th Super Bowl here, the first since (Hurricane) Katrina. And it’s clear this city is back bigger and better than ever. Our very heartfelt thanks to Mayor Mitch Landrieu; James Carville and Mary Matalin; the Host Committee; the 7,000 local volunteers for being truly, truly great hosts this week. Also, to Tom and Gayle Benson and Rita LeBlanc, for all you have done for this community. Everybody here has done an outstanding job. You should be very proud and we are very grateful.

“Now we will get to your questions.”

The President recently said he would think twice about having a son play football, if he had a son. He also said that fans need to examine their conscience about football. Is there a deeper-rooted problem with the game and its safety than the NFL might have realized? How can the NFL deal effectively with such problems?

“Well, the issue of player health and safety has always been a priority in the NFL. We will continue to make it a priority. You have our commitment. The players have our commitment that we will do that. I started playing the game when I was in fourth grade, tackle football in Washington D.C. and I love the game of football. I started as a fan, but I wouldn’t give back one day of playing tackle football. The benefits of playing football, teaching you the values, teaching you character, teaching you how to get up when you’re knocked down, how to work with others, teamwork. They are extraordinary lessons in life that I use to this day. I welcome the President’s comments because it has been a priority and we want to make sure that people understand what we’re doing to make our game safer, not just in the NFL, but throughout sports. The changes we’re making in the NFL, I think, are changing all of sports. There is better recognition of head injuries, of treating them conservatively, and that affects every sport, beyond sports, to your children playing in the playground, to our troops overseas. What we’re doing is leading the way to try and make sure people understand that you need to treat these injuries seriously. We can make our games safer, as we have done. I believe that the changes that we’re making to our game will make football better. It will make it safer. It will make other sports safer. We’re proud of our accomplishments and we have more to do, but we will not relent on this.”

More on the same issue – Joe Flacco on Media Day said the current fine system isn’t working. It’s not changing the way that defensive players are playing. He’s going to get hit no matter what, and all that you’re doing is taking money out of their pockets. Steve Bisciotti said that he thinks maybe intent needs to be taken into consideration. Flacco also said maybe suspensions, but with pay, might get through to some of these guys. I wonder what you think about their comments and about maybe whether suspensions is where you need to go? I know that the league did try to suspend Ed Reed.

“I’m glad that you reminded yourself of that. This is something that we have seen, an escalation in the discipline, because we are trying to take these techniques out of the game. I think it was about four years ago at this very press conference, I said, ‘We have to take these hits out of the game that we think have a higher risk of causing injuries.’ The focus was on defenseless players, and I stand by our record because I think we have made those changes and made the game safer. I think we’re going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders. It’s not just the player, the defenseless player, that’s being protected; it’s the person doing the striking. We see in the injury rates that the defenseless player and the defensive back are having a higher injury rate. Taking these hits out of the game can be positive. The most effective way of doing that, and I’m not for it because we want to see all of our players on the field, is when they are repeat offenders and they are involved with these dangerous techniques, that we’re going to have to take them off the field. Suspension gets through to them. It’s gets through on the basis that they don’t want to let their teammates down, and they want to be on the field. We want to see them on the field. We’re going to continue to emphasize the importance of following those rules. When there are violations, we will escalate the discipline.”

I know that the system for discipline for on-field violations, the way the system exists now, you have neutral arbitrators in Art Shell and Ted Cottrell. Also, my understanding is that in a new drug policy, the league would be willing to have neutral arbitration in that, too. If you can confirm that, fine, but also, the NFLPA said yesterday that it is seeking to have neutral arbitration for off-the-field discipline issues. I’m wondering if you see a connection with that demand as another component to the standstill in negotiations for HGH testing?

“Well interesting, Jarrett, to that point, you are correct. In our Collective Bargaining Agreement that we signed two years ago, we did agree to HGH testing. As part of that, we agreed to neutral arbitration for drug cases. We will do that as soon as we reach agreement on the HGH, which I expect and hope will be very soon. We have moved down that path in an effective way. On the field, we have a system that I think has worked quite effectively. I don’t agree with all of the decisions, but I don’t expect to. Off the field, beyond the drug issue, it is very important for us to maintain our integrity and our brand. We expect that the people that are involved with our game from the commissioner to the players to the coaches will uphold those standards. We have three great young men here today that are finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. I’m proud of our players. I’m proud of what they do, but we always have to make sure that we’re reflecting positively on the shield. When there are violations along those lines, they impact on the integrity of the game. That is something that the commissioner has had the authority on for several decades, several versions of the CBA, and that is not something that we’re going to relent on. We’re going to always uphold the standards of the NFL because the fans deserve that, and I believe the players deserve that. That is the commissioner’s role, and you can hold me accountable for it, and I will stand by my decisions.”

I wanted to ask you about your comment about minority hiring in coaching, and you saying that you weren’t satisfied with it. What do you think are some of the issues that continue to make this a problem and what’s going to bring about real change?

“First, the Rooney Rule has been very effective over the last decade, but we have to look to see what the next generation of the Rooney Rule is. What’s going to take us to another level? We’re committed to finding that answer. That’s going to have to come from conversations with a lot of people in this league to find out exactly what can be most effective in allowing our talent to excel. And that’s what it is – we want to make sure we have the best people in the best possible positions, and give everybody the opportunity to do that. We want to focus on how do we get to a Rooney Rule, or an extension of the Rooney Rule, or a new generation of the Rooney Rule, that will allow us to do that? There was full compliance with the Rooney Rule. There were, in fact, I believe, a record number of interviews. But we didn’t have the outcomes that we wanted, and the outcomes are to make sure that we have full diversity throughout our coaching ranks, throughout our executive ranks, and throughout the league office. It’s very important to the success of the league to do that, and we’re committed to finding those solutions.”

I know you highlighted player safety in your opening statement. What was your reaction to the NFLPA’s study yesterday that said 78 percent of players do not trust their team’s medical staffs?

“I did hear that yesterday. Last week, we met for four hours with union officials. Several players were there. Several owners were there. They did raise the issue of making sure we have proper medical attention, but they didn’t raise those statistics. That was news to me as of yesterday. I’m disappointed, because I think we have tremendous medical care for our players. These are not just team doctors. These doctors are affiliated with the best medical institutions in the world – the Cleveland Clinic, Stanford, Hospital for Special Surgery. The medical care that is provided to our players is extraordinary. Now, we will always seek to improve it. We will always seek to figure out how we can do things better, provide better medical care, but I think it’s extraordinary. And as I talk to players – including one yesterday – they feel the same way, but we’ll have to address that and we’ll have to figure out what we can do to try to improve it. One of those I also mentioned in the opening. We’ll add a neurosurgeon on the field that can be there for consultation, that can be there for another set of eyes on the field, and to support the doctors in making the best possible decisions on the field, and off the field. And I believe our doctors do that.”

You went to owners meetings in Dallas last year and met with MADD. How disappointing is it that so soon after Jerry Brown’s death that his teammate is arrested for DWI, and is there something else that the league can do to tell the players that this is unacceptable?

“Well, Charean, I think we have to go beyond telling players or telling executives. The reality is we have to do a better job of educating people in the NFL that this is a priority. This is for your safety, for the safety of the people in your car, and for innocent people that are out there. There are services designed to help them make better decisions before they leave their homes. We have to make sure that they understand those services, and most importantly, take advantage of them, use them. We did meet with MADD, and I met with MADD last week. We’re going to engage in a number of programs to help educate all of our clubs – players, coaches (and) executives – on what we can do. Victim impact programs have been very effectively used with several clubs over the past several months. We’re going to do that because this is a high priority, not only for the sake of safety, but it’s part of our responsibility in the communities that we live.”

Yesterday, the NFLPA was very vocal about singling out dissatisfaction with Dr. David Chao, the Chargers’ team doctor, and said it requested the league find a ‘suitable replacement’ for him. What is your response to that request and also comments that NFL players deserve better than Dr. Chao?

“In the CBA, at the union’s request, we entered an agreement that is called Article 50. Article 50 states that if there is an issue with any medical decision, or the medical professionals of the club, there can be a solution by engaging with independent doctors, I believe three neutral doctors, including an NFL attorney, and they will review the matter. As I understand it, that is exactly what is going on in San Diego. We’ll allow the process to unfold. I’m confident our doctors make the best possible decisions for the players, and we’re going to stand behind that. We’ll engage in the process and let it unfold.”

The Rams and local stadium authority are waiting for an arbitrator’s decision on stadium improvement proposals there. Are you confident that the parties can resolve their differences and that the Rams will stay in St. Louis?

“I haven’t gotten an update on the arbitration process. I expect the possibility of a decision in the next couple of weeks. It is, as you know, a clause and a part of a contract that they initially agreed to when the Rams came to St. Louis 12-15 years ago. That is something we are engaging in. We want to make sure that the team gets the stadium issues resolved because they need to have the type of stadium that will help support them for the long term in St. Louis. I believe that the business community and the officials in St. Louis want that outcome. I believe Stan Kroenke wants that outcome. They’re all working together to try and get there. Again, the process is unfolding and I hope they’ll be able to reach that agreement. I’m optimistic they will.”

If they cannot pass the renovations, is the NFL willing to provide any stadium funding for those improvements?

“We’re willing to do that in any market where there is a public/private partnership, to allow the other 31 clubs to help contribute to financing the stadium that will help solve the problem for the long term. If we can get to the point where we have the structure of a deal, I’m very confident that the league will support that and participate.”

The 18-game schedule is still on the table. Is that a reality? And, HGH testing. is that going to happen or not?

“Let me start with the second portion of your question. I believe that HGH testing is going to happen prior to the 2013 NFL season. It’s the right thing to do for the players, for their health and well-being long-term. It’s the right thing to do for the integrity of the game. It’s also the right thing to do to send the right message to everybody else in sports. You don’t have to play the game by taking performance-enhancing drugs. The science is there. There is no question about that. Baseball, Olympics, everyone believes that the science is there and are utilizing the tests, so we need to get to that agreement. On the first part of your question, we’re always going to reevaluate our season structure. We’ve been very open about the fact that we want to address our preseason. Do we need four preseason games? Do we only need two or three? How do we continue to develop talent? How do we continue to evaluate players? The fans’ reaction to the quality of preseason is a big concern. So, we have to do that collectively. That’s what our CBA does. If we wanted to implement an 18-game schedule, we could have done that in the prior CBA. The ownership and management agreed that we would do that collectively and we would consider and balance the player health and safety issues with that. So, we’ll continue to evaluate that. I think the changes we made in the CBA, particularly in offseason training, the training camp period and even during the regular season – eliminating contact, allowing players to get away from the game – that’s been great for the players. They deserve that. Every player I talk to tells me they feel better at this time of the year than they’ve ever felt in the past. I think that’s a direct result of some of the changes in the CBA. We will continue to figure out how we can improve with our season structure, but we will not make changes if we can’t do it in a safe and effective way.”

The union yesterday advocated the appointment of a chief safety officer to overview all player safety, and that would be mutually agreed upon, whoever that person is. Also, advocated credentialing for all team doctors and trainers. Do you see anything that could stand in the way of those kinds of advancements with player health and safety?

“Well again, Albert, let me start with the fact that we spent four hours last Friday meeting with union officials, including many players and owners, and that issue did not come up. It was not raised during that entire four hours. That being said, I would tell you that I believe safety is all of our responsibilities. I can’t appoint somebody who’s going to make the game safer as an individual. That’s all of our responsibilities. I’ll stand up, I’ll be accountable. It’s part of my responsibility, I’ll do everything. But the players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it. All of us are going to have to do that. All that being said, since I just heard this in the last 12 hours, I’ll do anything that’s going to help us make the game safer and better. They have my commitment on that, so I’ll be happy to engage in the dialogue in a meeting where we can talk about the plusses and the minuses and how we make the game safer.”

First of all, I have been to 41 Super Bowls. I don’t want to brag on that, but here is what I want to ask you for all of these people. The first ticket to the Super Bowl only costs $12 and that was in Los Angeles. Now, the tickets cost $850, $950 and $1250.

“It sounds like the prices went down.” (Laughter)

Well yeah, they are down in a certain manner.

“I hear you. I understand your point.”

The thing I wanted to know, and I have asked you before, is there some way to put a cap on this thing so the ticket only sells for a certain price? The other thing I was going to say is about the Pro Bowl and that you will still leave it in Hawaii except come after the Super Bowl. A man makes the Pro Bowl, and he might make the Super Bowl, but the way it is with this arrangement is I still think it would be better after the Super Bowl the way it was before.

“OK, well let me start with your question because the second was a comment. The first part of your point was, ‘Could there be a cap on the Super Bowl ticket prices?’ I would tell you that we have worked very hard to try to keep them reasonable and to try to give access to people so they can attend the Super Bowl. It is very difficult because, as you know, they are being sold on the secondary market at multiples of the face value. So, a couple of years ago, it may have been five years ago because it was the first year I was the commissioner, we put a cap on a certain number of tickets so that they could go to the fans. I think we capped it at $500. We found that a lot of times, most of the time, those tickets ended up on the secondary market at multiples. I want our fans to be able to attend NFL games. I want them to be able to come because they want to enjoy the experience and enjoy the event and it’s affordable and that it’s safe. But the realities are that there is a market demand, and there is a limited number of tickets. Only 70,000 people are going to get into that Superdome, but there are hundreds of thousands of people here in New Orleans that are celebrating and part of the event. We work hard to try to engage fans, create the NFL Experience and allow people to be able to come and be part of the event, but there is only a limited number of seats.”

Looking back, do you have any regrets on how the Saints bounty investigation was handled? Even though the player penalties were overturned ultimately, do you feel like the message was still sent to the teams and to the players to avoid this type of behavior in the future?

“Let me just take a moment and get back and make sure everyone is clear on the record. There is no question there was a bounty program in place for three years. I think that that is bad for the players, for the game, and I think the message is incredibly clear, and I don’t believe that bounties will be part of football going forward. That’s good for everybody. I do think that message has come through clear. As it relates to the regrets, I think my biggest regret is that we aren’t all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get them out of the game to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That’s what I regret, that I wasn’t able to make that point clearly enough with the union, and with others. That is something we are going to be incredibly relentless on.”

How do you define innovation to improve the NFL? Whether it’s consumer marketing, digital media, player safety, game operations, or the fan experience, is it solving a problem or satisfying a need in a glamorous way that increases value? Within the NFL, is innovation primarily viewed as an ideology or viewed as a process that is less glamorous but more productive?

Well, innovation is something that we are proud of. I made that point in my opening remarks. It’s a philosophy. It’s about you can always get better and it’s your responsibility to seek solutions. I like solutions. I believe in solutions. You have to identify problems and find those solutions. But you also have to have a commitment to finding a better way, and that is part of innovation. What is tricky in an organization like the National Football League is we rely a lot on our tradition. That is important to us. We believe in it. It’s what we are all about. I said this when I became commissioner, I said it to the owners when they fortunately selected me for this job. I said, ‘Our biggest risk is being complacent. We cannot assume that our success is going to continue just because we have been successful.’ I think the last six years, we have continued to find ways to improve. Whether it’s player health and safety, whether it’s making the game better or more exciting, whether it’s giving the fans more opportunity to engage with the game of football closer. The NFL Network is now fully distributed. People are engaging with the NFL on their cell phones. We have more ways for fans to engage, and that’s why I like to say that there has never been a better time to be a fan. Innovation is not just some theme. ,It is something that we feel in our core and something where we are always going to live, to try to make things better.”

You’ve mentioned on previous occasions that the Competition Committee will revisit blocks toward the knee so we don’t have situations like Brian Cushing with the Houston Texans losing a season on a block like that. Is the long-term goal of player safety to create a baseball-type of strike zone, which is mid-chest to just above the knee? Have your studies shown that this is the safest way to avoid the head injuries and maybe some of the lower-limb extremity issues?

“There are several things. First, we’re going to review all low blocks. In working with our Player Advisory Committee that Ronnie Lott and John Madden chair we talked about that earlier this year shortly after the Brian Cushing injury. We need to review all of those low blocks. It’s important for us to try to find ‘Is there a better way of doing what we’re doing?’ We are focused on that with the Competition Committee. As it relates to what you call the ‘strike zone’, there is no question that there is a focus to try to get back to the fundamentals of tackling. The number one issue is: take the head out of the game. I think we’ve seen in the last several decades that the players are using their head more than they have, when you go back several decades. There are several theories on that. The helmets are better; they feel safer using their head. The facemask. You can come up with a lot of theories that we’ve discussed. But the reality is we have to get back to tackling, using the shoulders, using your arms properly to tackle. And there is a strike zone, and that’s where we are encouraging our players to focus and our coaches to coach that way, and it’s made a difference. We have seen a dramatic change in the way that’s happening over the years, so we’ll continue that.”

Vincent Gray, the Mayor of Washington D.C., recently said if the Redskins were ever going to entertain the idea of coming back to the District, there would have to be discussion about the name issue. Recently, the most recent “Indian Country Today” polls, the largest Native American magazine, they dispute and contradict everything Sports Illustrated or the NFL did about 10 years ago. They say that the overwhelming number of Indians, American Indians, do not like the name, they feel it’s offensive: Does the league try to absorb the legal costs for the team when they are sued over trademark infringement by American Indians? And, as a progressive commissioner, how do you feel about the name, and do you have any problem with it going forward?

“Well, the first part of your question, I couldn’t answer. I have no idea who pays the legal costs. I do know that, growing up in Washington, I do understand the affinity for that name with the fans. I also understand the other side of that, and I don’t think anybody wants to offend anybody, but this has been discussed several times over a long period of time. I think Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they’re proud of that heritage and that name, and I believe the fans are, too.”

The various committees that are down here for next year’s Super Bowl have talked a lot about feeling a little bit of pressure carrying the banner for cold-weather cities. Is what they do next year, and the success or problems of the logistical challenge they have, will that affect your future decisions or consideration of other cold-weather sites?

“The answer is undoubtedly the game next year is going to have an impact on future decisions for open-air, cold-weather sites. We believe, though, in the New York/New Jersey market. We think it’s going to be a fantastic event. I have said many times before, and I believe that the membership has supported this through their vote of awarding the Super Bowl there, that not only is the community prepared for this – they have a great stadium with two teams. The plans that have been developed for the Super Bowl, I think, are extraordinary, and they’re just beginning to be released, and we will be prepared for the weather factors, and this community can do that, but the game of football is made to be played in the elements. Now, we hope they’re not extreme on one hand, but we’ll be prepared for that if that’s the case. Some of our most classic games in our history were played in extreme weather conditions. We know them all, the ‘Ice Bowl,’ some of the games that I look back as a fan and say, ‘That was fun.’ So I’m confident the people of New York and New Jersey, the two teams, the host committee are going to do an extraordinary job next year, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The largest attendance in the history of the league is in Mexico. The first game outside the U.S. was in Mexico. I wanted to ask you why hasn’t the NFL gone back since 2005. Why?

“I’m proud to say I was at that game, and it was a great event. And you could see the passion of the fans in Mexico for that game, and we would like to be back there. Our focus in the last couple of years has obviously been on trying to prove the model works in the UK. We have to make sure that whenever we do come back to Mexico, and I expect we will, that we do it successfully, with the right kind of television support, fan support and sponsor involvement. The stadium will be the kind of stage that we want for that game. So I would expect if we are successful in the UK, where we thankfully are continuing to grow, that we’ll have the opportunity to get back there. And the sooner, the better for me.”

Any time frame?

“No.”

Yesterday the union talked about filing multiple grievances against the NFL, and it recently appealed its collusion loss in the Minnesota federal court to the eighth circuit. Are you disappointed the relationship with the union has remained so litigious?

“Well, Dan, let me start with, the point is I don’t really control that. What I think disappoints me is that we reached a very comprehensive agreement a couple of years ago for 10 years to take the game to another level, and unfortunately we’re spending most of our time focusing on issues that we had agreed to. As you point out, collusion charges, which were very clearly dealt with in the agreement. HGH was agreed to and we should have gotten to the point where we solved our differences and gotten that resolved. Commissioner discipline – I can go on. These are things that were resolved and are clear in the document and in our partnership. What we need to do is get back to focusing on how do we all work together to make the NFL better? I understand we’re going to have differences, I understand why there are grievances, I understand why there are lawyers, but we have to find solutions for the best interests of the game, and that’s my commitment and that’s what we have to work towards.”

Addressing the player safety issue, you said it’s a shared responsibility. Well, earlier this year Alex Smith sustained a concussion, was forthcoming about his condition and while he was out, he lost his starting job. My question for you is, how concerned are you that going forward players are going to be less honest about their condition after seeing a situation like that?

“I believe very strongly that there’s a difference between a medical decision and a football decision. I’m glad that he came forward and identified that he had an injury. That wouldn’t be in the best interest of Alex in the short term or the long term, so players need to do that. I also believe, and he’s been healthy for several weeks, that those are football decisions that the coach has now made. He’s healthy enough to return to play, but the coaches made a decision that they’re going in another direction, and that’s something that the coaches have to do. So while I understand somewhat the dilemma, the highest priority you can have is for players to make sure that they raise their hands when there’s an injury and so that they can get the proper treatment, because they’re not going to be effective as players if they have lingering problems, if they have lingering issues with a concussion. They need to be as healthy as possible to compete in this league, and we all want to see the players on the field, but we let the coaches make the football decisions and the medical personnel make the medical decisions.”

First of all, do you feel welcome here in New Orleans given the way people feel about you in light of the bounty scandal? We have establishments that have your picture that say, ‘Do not serve this man,’ or do you feel somewhat like you’re behind enemy lines? Secondly, Saints fans want to know why you won’t return that second-round draft choice in the next draft?

“Let me take the first part of your question first. I couldn’t feel more welcome here. You know when you look back at it, my picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll. I’m serious, really, the people here have been incredible. The last couple of nights I’ve been out with a lot of the people that I worked very closely with following the Katrina tragedy, and we celebrated the work that we did then, but what we did is we all reflected on how great that was that we worked together, and they couldn’t be nicer. They couldn’t be more welcoming, and the same is true with fans. Now, I understand the fans’ loyalty is to the team. They had no part of this. They were completely innocent in this. So I appreciate the passion. I saw that for myself when we were down here for Katrina, and it’s clear that that’s what they’re all about. So I support the fact that they’re passionate in supporting their team. On the last point, the reason there won’t be any change in the second-round draft choice is what I said earlier. There are clear violations of the bounty rule for three consecutive years. That’s not going to be permitted in the NFL. That’s not just my judgment. Commissioner Tagliabue reviewed this, and had his own process and came to the same conclusion that there were violations. So, the reason why we’re not returning any of the draft choices or any of the discipline is because it occurred, and it should not have occurred.”

Kind of piggybacking off that question, yesterday I talked with NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth, and he said because of the bounty scandal and everything that’s happened, trust has been fractured from the players within the league. How do you fix that considering penalties were levied, and then they were vacated twice by parties other than you?

“Let’s make sure the record is clear that the first penalties were vacated only briefly to make sure that there was a distinction between what was a salary-cap violation and what was discipline on the field. That body, the panel that was established by the CBA, made it very clear that that’s the authority of the commissioner. The second issue is Commissioner Tagliabue and I agree on the facts. There was no difference in the findings of the facts with respect to the investigation done by the league overseen by Mary Jo White, verified by Commissioner Tagliabue’s process. The only difference was that he vacated the disciple from the players. We disagree with that. I disagree with that. I believe that we’re all responsible for what goes on in our locker rooms, on the field, as part of our game. That’s a collective responsibility. We’re not going to hide from that. That will be something that – and I said it to our clubs in December when we met – everyone here should understand the responsibility for our rules will be enforced as fairly and as clearly as possible. So I’m going to have to work harder to try to make sure that we can work together; we can trust one another. But we also need to make sure that we understand that we’re going to have differences from time to time, and that’s OK. But there needs to be a fair resolution and move forward in a positive way for the game of football.”

Could you tell us what the selling out of two games in London for 2013, what kind of message that says to your ownership with regard to potential UK franchises?

“I think the message is very clear. There are passionate fans that love the NFL in the UK and, I believe, globally, and that there is another step that we need to look forward to in London. We’re already beginning that process. What’s the next step, beyond the two games? Should we move to three? Should we consider other alternatives to continue to accelerate the growth of the game in the UK? But I think that’s a positive reaction from the fans and our ownership understands this is a market where we need to be more active, and that we need to continue to grow our game. Thank you.”

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Bengals tryout player held in custody in Cleveland murder investigation

during the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Huskies 27-17. Getty Images

Arizona State linebacker Antonio Longino was supposed to be in camp with the Bengals this weekend for a tryout.

Instead, he’s in jail.

Via NewsNet5 in Cleveland, Langino has been arrested for tampering with evidence in a homicide investigation.

Police found a vehicle with two bullet holes at Longino’s aunt’s house, and a search warrant was served and several bags of evidence were taken from the scene. Police sources told them it was related to an investigation of a murder that happened at the Sunny Spot Lounge. A 24-year-old man was found shot in a vehicle nearby, and died later at the hospital.

Longino is being held on $100,000 bond, pending a first appearance in court. The logistical issues aside (players were reporting for the rookie minicamp today), it’s easy to guess that his first appearance in an NFL camp might be delayed as well.

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Nelson Agholor: I need to prove I can help this team win

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:   Nelson Agholor #17 of the Philadelphia Eagles carries the ball in the third quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 35-30.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles took wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round of the 2015 draft and gave him plenty of snaps over the course of the season, but, much like everything else Eagles-related last year, Agholor’s season was a disappointment.

Agholor caught 23 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown and missed three games in the middle of the season with an ankle injury that teammate Jordan Matthews says robbed Agholor of his explosiveness. The combination of injury and the overall shortcomings of the Eagles offense could explain Agholor’s ho-hum production, but Agholor knows that whatever went wrong last year has to change this time around.

“We need to win football games, and I need to prove that I can help this team win football games. So that’s what I have to prove,” Agholor said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Only people I have something to prove to are the guys in this locker room, this organization, and this team.”

The Eagles added Chris Givens and Rueben Randle as free agents this offseason, which means competition for snaps but Agholor should still be in line for plenty of time with Riley Cooper out of the picture. How long that remains the case with a regime that didn’t make him a first-round pick will come down to Agholor’s ability to make a leap in his second season.

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Seahawks add former college basketball player George Fant

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Aaron Brown #2 of the Saint Joseph's Hawks drives past George Fant #44 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks have a fondness for undrafted players as they had 24 of them on their 53-man roster at one point last season.

They also showed a fondness for former college basketball players who decided to make the switch to football when they traded for tight end Jimmy Graham before the start of the 2015 season. In George Fant, they’re getting one of both.

Fant finished his basketball career at Western Kentucky ranked 13th all-time in scoring and eighth in rebounding and then chose to continue his athletic career with a year on the football team. The 6’5″ Fant bulked up from 250 pounds, played 12 game and did well enough at his pro day that the Seahawks have signed him to their 90-man roster.

“We’re not sure if he’s going to play tackle or tight end, but that’s a 285-pound man that ran like 4.82 and is working out,” General Manager John Schneider said during an interview with 710 ESPN Seattle. “He has really good hands.”

The Seahawks have gone the non-traditional route to find offensive linemen in recent years with varying degrees of success. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Fant join that group if he shows well in the coming weeks.

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Russell Wilson advocates for return of NBA to Seattle

465686071 Getty Images

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, whose carefully-manicured public persona steers him away from saying controversial things (except when hawking magic water), has taken a public stance against City Hall.

Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council denied a request by entrepreneur Chris Hansen to build an arena in the vicinity of the venues that house the Seahawks and baseball’s Mariners. Via NBCSports.com, the move means that the attempt to bring an NBA franchise back to town nearly a decade after the Sonics moved to Oklahoma is dead at worst, seriously delayed at best.

Wilson pushed back with a pair of tweets. He said it’s “baffling” that this “amazing city” doesn’t have the Sonics.

“Bring them back! Seattle Loves Basketball!” Wilson said.

Wilson, who loved baseball enough in past years to participate in spring training with the Texas Rangers and openly muse about playing baseball (it’s funny how a $20 million-per-year contract can bring that stuff to an abrupt end), then agitated for a showdown.

“Let’s stand up & fight to get our team back!” Wilson said.

Strong words from a guy whose public comments typically land in the milquetoast category. So what kind of battle is he advocating?

“Let’s start a petition Seattle!” Wilson declared.

While that’s hardly a fire-and-brimstone attack, the mere fact that Wilson has waded into what has become a hot-button political issue in Seattle is definitely out of character for him.

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Thursday morning one-liners

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 04:  (L-R) Carolina Panther player Luke Kuechly caddies for teammate Greg Olsen in the pro-am ahead of the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 11, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills RB Jonathan Williams thinks they can have the best backfield in the NFL.

Former Dolphins coach Don Shula’s hospitalization became a time to reflect on a legendary era.

The Patriots have a number of big contract issues to deal with this offseason.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s cousin hopes to impress in his Jets tryout.

Sports books apparently liked the Ravens’ draft class, improving their odds.

Grading the Bengals’ 2013 draft, because that’s something you can do.

Browns QB Robert Griffin III, looking a little stiff.

A Pitt DL is among the Steelers rookie camp invitees.

Local P Cory Carter is excited for the chance to try out for the Texans.

The Colts are moving DE Earl Okine to OLB.

The Jaguars will bring in 25 players for rookie orientation.

Titans QB Marcus Mariota said the team has to “keep finding ways to get better.”

The Broncos’ rookies selected their jersey numbers (why hasn’t this become a three-hour special yet?).

The Chiefs released WR Fred Williams again.

The Raiders showed some confidence in existing LBs with their year’s draft.

The Chargers are first on the G Matt Slauson tour.

The Cowboys have a guy ready to volunteer to be their veteran backup QB — Roger Staubach.

Giants first-rounder Eli Apple’s mom wouldn’t let him wear a Rolex to the draft because he was “an unemployed college dropout.”

Eagles QB Carson Wentz: Already jinxed.

Washington third-round CB Kendall Fuller will get a chance to win the nickel job.

There might be more Bears made expendable after the draft.

The Lions made some quick moves to fill out their scouting staff.

Drafting LB Blake Martinez could allow the Packers to put Clay Matthews where he fits best.

Former Vikings coach Bud Grant must have one hell of a garage, to keep having all these garage sales.

The Falcons got some Navy SEAL training and inspiration.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen: Good at football, less so at golf.

Taking a look at the Saints defense, post-draft.

Not everybody hated the Buccaneers trading up to take a kicker in the second round.

The Cardinals put first-rounder Robert Nkemdiche in a room with Tyrann Mathieu before the draft.

The Rams think they’ve strengthened their TE position.

The 49ers have been impressed with QB Colin Kaepernick’s arm.

The Seahawks signed a former college basketball star.

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Hue Jackson: Browns’ running backs are “as good as I’ve seen”

Duke Johnson, Tyrann Mathieu AP

Browns coach Hue Jackson loves what he inherited at running back.

Jackson said on 92.3 The Fan that last year’s 1-2 punch of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are good enough that the Browns didn’t need to sign or draft another running back.

“Those two guys are as good as I’ve seen in a while,” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “Their talent is extreme.”

So far they haven’t shown that extreme talent: Crowell carried 185 times for 706 yards and four touchdowns last season, while Johnson added 104 carries for 379 yards, with no touchdowns. That’s why Jackson is getting a lot of questions about why the Browns didn’t upgrade at the position.

“I’ve been getting so much mail or phones calls with people saying, ‘Well wait a minute, why don’t you guys have a running back?”’ he said. “I really think Isaiah Crowell is a really good running back. I think he’s going to have a sensational season, I really do.”

Crowell is 23 years old and Johnson is 22, so both players have plenty of time to improve. Jackson sounds confident that they will.

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Rams taking a look at former Auburn wideout Duke Williams

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 04:  D'haquille Williams #1 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates with fans after their 41-7 win over the LSU Tigers at Jordan Hare Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rams are going to take a look this weekend at one of the year’s more talented wide receiver prospects, who didn’t play much after getting kicked off his team in October.

According to Rich Hammond of the Orange County Register, the Rams will try out wideout D’haquille “Duke” Williams, who was kicked off the team at Auburn’s team last year.

Williams was a talented and productive player his junior year at Auburn, in which he caught 45 passes for 730 yards and five touchdowns. But he caught just 12 passes last season, after being busted for a bar fight which was the final straw after other suspensions and rules violations.

He admitted at the Scouting Combine he was risky because of those off-field issues.

“If I didn’t get in any trouble, I know I’m a legit first-round pick,” he said. “But God got other plans. I’m a first-round pick no matter what, but off the field I’m a seventh-round pick. My character is a seventh-round pick. I mean, I’m just happy to be here. It’s a blessing to be here.

“Whatever team picks me, first through seventh round, it doesn’t really matter. Undrafted. Whenever I get my opportunity, I’m going to just prove to them that I belong.”

No one drafted him, but it appears the Rams are willing to give him a quick look, to see if he’s actually learned his lesson.

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Mike Maccagnan, Jason Licht join Thursday’s PFT Live

PFTLive

Our series of post-draft conversations with the guys who made draft picks last week continues on Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.

Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan and Buccaneers G.M. Jason Licht join the program, which gets rolling at 6:00 a.m. ET. The full three-hour show replays at 9:00 a.m. ET.

So dial us up on Sirius 213, XM 202, NBCSportsRadio.com, the NBC Sports Radio app, and/or any of our fine-to-very-fine affiliates throughout the country for one hour, two hours, three hours, or all six.

You also can (should) download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Von Miller declares he’s “going to be a Denver Bronco for life”

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 25:  Honoree Von Miller attends the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular at W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills on March 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Sports Spectacular) Getty Images

Having a Super Bowl MVP award in your back pocket apparently makes you confident.

But while it didn’t necessarily help Von Miller on “Dancing with the Stars,” it does extend to his looming contract situation.

Via Cameron Wolfe of the Denver Post, Miller told an appreciative crowd at a promotional appearance yesterday that he didn’t envision any drama in terms of his contract.

“I’m going to be here in Denver no matter what,” Miller said. “The contract is going to take care of itself. I’m going to be a Denver Bronco for life.”

Of course, he’s not showing up for workouts, and there’s been no reported movement of a long-term deal since the Broncos used the franchise tag on their star outside linebacker. Miller did say last week he expected a deal “any day,” but that might be more of his bubbly enthusiasm than a reflection of a negotiation.

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Schneider: Seahawks will place Marshawn Lynch on retired list by June 1

Marshawn Lynch AP

Marshawn Lynch cryptically announced his retirement during Super Bowl 50 with a tweet showing a pair of sneakers hanging from a telephone wire. However, he still hasn’t officially filed the paperwork and the Seahawks haven’t placed him on the retired list.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said following the conclusion of the draft on Saturday that Lynch remains “committed to being retired.”

“He’s riding camels and stuff, man,” general manager John Schneider joked when asked if he saw a scenario where Lynch would play for Seattle in 2016.

Schneider expanded on the Lynch topic in an interview with Mitch Levy on Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle. The Seahawks could spread out the cap hit from Lynch’s retirement by waiting to place him on the reserve/retired list until after June 1. The $5 million cap charge could be split into equal $2.5 million shares in 2016 and 2017. However, Schneider said they aren’t looking to do that.

“If we place him on reserve/retired, then we accept that cap hit this year and we’d rather do that than do it after June 1,” Schneider said. “That’s the situation for us. We’d rather pay as we go, so we’d rather do it right now.”

Seattle prepared for life after Lynch through last weekend’s draft. They selected three running backs and three offensive linemen among their 10 selections. Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise, Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Clemson’s Zac Brooks will join Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael as the group to take over the rushing attack for Seattle in the post-Lynch era.

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Colts sign first-round pick Ryan Kelly

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The Colts announced Wednesday night that they’ve agreed to terms with their first-round pick, Ryan Kelly.

The Colts selected Kelly with the 18th pick last Thursday. He was a three-year starter at Alabama who did not allow a sack in his final two college seasons.

Kelly won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center last fall. He was a second-team All-American, a first-team All-SEC pick and a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy that’s awarded to the nation’s top lineman.

He started 36 of 46 career games at Alabama and figures as the immediate starter at center for the Colts.

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Mathis tutoring potential replacement as Colts switch DE to OLB

Robert Mathis AP

The Colts used four draft picks on offensive linemen last week, addressing one major area of need.

That means the team still has a pretty glaring need for pass-rush help, and Zak Keefer of the Indy Star wrote Wednesday that one way the Colts are addressing that is switching second-year player Earl Okine from defensive end to outside linebacker.

In making the switch, Okine is following and learning from veteran pass rusher Robert Mathis, who learned the outside linebacker spot in 2012 after nine years as a 4-3 defensive end. Mathis, 35, shared the team lead with seven sacks last season.

He’s probably a pretty good teacher for Okine, 26, who played just 59 snaps last season. Mathis has 118 career sacks in 178 games.

Okine called Mathis the greatest pass rusher of all-time said learning from Mathis “is all I do in meetings. I ask him everything.”

Okine has played in the CFL, the FXL and the Arena League over the last three years. He was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster by the Colts last October, and now he’s looking at a four-month trial period that could determine whether he’ll stick around.

“I’m pretty confident in myself,” Okine said. “I’m ready.”

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Adrian Peterson partners with Salvation Army to raise funds for Palestine, TX floods

Zz1mN2U3NGMwMzVjZDI4MTQwMzdhODY2ZTQyYzhlMTgyZQ== AP

The most famous native of Palestine, Texas is doing what he can to help his hometown in an hour of need.

Flash flooding in Palestine over the weekend killed six people, including four children. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who went to school with one of the adult victims, has partnered with the Salvation Army to raise awareness to the problem and funds for those in need.

Peterson has donated $100,000. He’ll also match all fan donations on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to another $100,000.

Fans can donate by texting “AP28” to 51555 or by visiting the Salvation Army page created for contributions.

Every dollar you give gets doubled, up to $100,000. Any amount helps.

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Former NFL wide receiver Brett Perriman hospitalized

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 collapsed and was taken to a Miami-area hospital Tuesday night, per multiple reports.

CBS Radio in Miami reported that Perriman, 50, collapsed due to “extremely high blood pressure” and quoted an unnamed family member as saying Perriman had shown “small signs of progress” from Tuesday into Wednesday.

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.

His son, Breshad Perriman, was a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2015. Also a wide receiver, Breshad Perriman was injured early in training camp last summer and did not play as a rookie.

CollegeSpun.com collected some tweets showing support for Perriman, including one from his son.

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.

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Eagles sign five picks

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 07:  Wendell Smallwood #4 of the West Virginia Mountaineers rushes for a 16 yard touchdown in the first half during the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The bad old days when it took weeks or months to sign a draft class are long gone.

The latest reminder of that came on Wednesday when the Eagles announced that they’ve signed five players they selected last week.

Running back Wendell Smallwood is the highest pick to agree to a deal. He was drafted in the fifth round after leading the Big 12 in rushing last season. He’ll try to earn time on offense along with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.

The Eagles also signed two safeties, sixth-rounder Blake Countess and seventh-rounder Jalen Mills. Seventh-round defensive end Alex McCalister and seventh-round linebacker Joe Walker round out the group.

That leaves three players unsigned, including second overall pick Carson Wentz. Once upon a time that contract negotiation could drag into camp, but Wentz will be joining today’s quintet soon enough.

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