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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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Report: Ryan Mundy suing Schutt for injury suffered from helmet

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 08:  Ryan Mundy #21 of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on August 8, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Eagles 34-28.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Chicago Bears safety Ryan Mundy is suing helmet manufacturer Schutt due to a head wound suffered in a 2014 preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks left him with permanent scarring.

According to TMZ, Mundy is alleging that the helmet he used sliced open a five-and-a-half inch gash in his forehead that required 17 stitches to close. The wound has left a permanent scar above his right eye that is visible on a recent instagram photo. The lawsuit claims Mundy has suffered physical and mental pain, and a lessened capacity for the enjoyment of life due to the injury.

After starting all 16 games for the Bears in 2014, Mundy missed all of last season while on injured reserve. For his career, Mundy has appeared in 96 games with the Bears, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers with 30 starts. He’s recorded 310 tackles, six interceptions and two sacks in six seasons.

Mundy is currently an unrestricted free agent.

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Broncos playing it safe with Ware’s back issues

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware #94 of the Denver Broncos rushes the line of scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 23-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is sitting out the start of the Broncos organized team activity (OTA) practices with a back issue, and given his history that’s probably both a smart move and something worth keeping an eye on.

Back issues sidelined Ware twice last season, and he missed a total of five games. The Broncos figure to be counting on their loaded defense as much as they ever have at the start of the 2016 season given their quarterback situation, so having Ware healthy and available will be a priority.

“I would tell you it’s probably more preventative than anything,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Tuesday. “He’s going to be a day-to-day participant. I’m going to have about 10 guys that are going to go every other day. We’ll probably make decisions on DeMarcus day to day based on how he is feeling.”

Ware had 7.5 sacks last season, 4.5 in the first four games before the back flared up. He’ll be 34 this summer, so the idea of limited practices and selected days off may extend into training camp as well.

Ware took a pay cut to stay with the Broncos but is still seen as an important part of what could be the league’s best defense. He recovered well enough last year to have two sacks in the Super Bowl.

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Owners think NFL’s concussion message needs to be delivered better

New York Jets Introduce General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles Getty Images

The NFL obviously has a concussion problem.

But as the league’s owners meetings ended today in Charlotte, the guys who write the checks also made it clear they think their public relations problem is significant as well.

The common theme from owners discussing recent criticisms from Congress and elsewhere about the league’s funding of CTE studies or other safety issues was not that the NFL has a bad message, but that they’re not delivering their message well enough.

“You have to explain to mothers and people who watch football, they want to know that we’re doing our job and that we take this seriously,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said.

When asked if the league had convinced them of that, Johnson replied: “No we probably have done not a very good job. I think we can do better.”

Asked whether he thought people trust the league, Johnson shrugged and said: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Owners voiced support for commissioner Roger Goodell, whose job is to be the face of such issues and take such heat. At the same time, they know there are certain segments of the population who simply don’t or won’t trust him. But they’ll also circle the wagons, as 49ers owner Jed York noted of yesterday’s news: “I don’t think it’s Congress, it’s one Congressional staffer. You have to put that into perspective.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted that his own background as a player made him want to shout the league’s message from the hilltops, but admitted he wasn’t always the best to do so.

 “I think where we are remiss, is making our case for what we are doing and our sensitivity regarding concussions and what we are doing,” Jones said. “We need to say that more often, and we need to say it louder, and we need to not hurt it with being the wrong messenger. It doesn’t need to be self-serving, when at the end of the day it really is to make the game safer, make kids safer who play the game and benefit from playing the game.

“I think we need to say it better, we need to articulate it better and say it more often.”

Their critics will suggest that the problem has grown beyond one of perception, and remains one of its real medical issues. But with the league making major changes at the PR level in recent months, it’s clear that they plan to attack the problem by talking about it themselves, and trying to frame the argument as they see it.

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Lions waive rookie offensive lineman

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions waived-injured rookie offensive lineman Darius Johnson Tuesday.

Johnson had attended the team’s post-draft rookie minicamp as a tryout player and then signed a contract on May 8, at which point the Lions cut offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson, a 2015 draft pick of the Vikings.

Johnson was a four-year starter at Middle Tennessee State. He played guard as a senior after starting his career as a tackle.

The waived-injured designation means Johnson will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list if he clears waivers on Wednesday.

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Gary Kubiak is “really excited” about Trevor Siemian

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Trevor Siemian #3 of the Denver Broncos looks for a receiver against the Arizona Cardinals during preseason action at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 3, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 22-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

With all the chatter regarding Denver quarterbacks focusing on the guys who left (Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler), the broken-glass emergency addition (Mark Sanchez), the flirtation gone nowhere (Colin Kaepernick), and the first-round rookie (Paxton Lynch), no one is talking about the guy who, in theory, could end up winning the job.

He’s Trevor Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 from Northwestern who has a season in the system and a year of learning from Manning and Osweiler.

“Not many guys are asking about him, but I’m really excited about Trevor,” coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He basically took the first group today. With what you guys got to see, he’s practiced very well. I think Trevor has a lot of confidence in himself right now.”

If Siemian has plenty of confidence, he’s keeping his cards close to the vest.

“I tried to learn a lot last year,” Siemian told reporters. “I wasn’t playing a ton but I had 18 in the room and I had Brock, so I was learning from those guys. . . . I’m ready to get back to it and knock a little rust off but I feel good.”

It could be a good thing for Siemian to fly under the radar. There’s a chance he won’t be for long.

There’s a chance he’ll be the starter when the Panthers come to town to start the season.

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Roger Goodell makes NFL’s strongest statement yet on NC’s HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NBA has been quite forward with their criticism of North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law, going so far as to threaten pulling the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.

But the NFL has been more careful in its public relations efforts, though commissioner Roger Goodell offered the league’s firmest stance yet as he closed today’s owner’s meeting.

“Anything that discriminates, we oppose,” Goodell said when asked about North Carolina’s House Bill 2. “We will continue to fight that. We have a franchise here. The Carolina Panthers play here, they operate here, and we want to work with the community. We’re not going to threaten a community.

“We’re going to work with the community to make the effective changes necessary long term.”

So far, the league hasn’t done all that much, beyond the normal proclamations of inclusiveness.

Earlier Tuesday, 49ers owner Jed York made a $75,000 donation to Equality NC, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. He also called for North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial measure that requires people to go to the bathroom of their birth gender rather than as they identify.

While Panthers owner Jerry Richardson didn’t talk to reporters at these meetings, team spokesman Steven Drummond said the team’s position was clear: “Our organization is against discrimination and has a long history of treating all of our patrons at Bank of America Stadium with dignity and respect. The Panthers have and will continue to engage key stakeholders on this important issue.”

Other owners, however, are more careful. Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s city just won a Super Bowl bid, in part because Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a “religious liberty” bill, which opponents claimed was discriminatory. But when asked Tuesday if the league was comfortable doing business in North Carolina because of their law, Blank replied: “You’d have to ask the commissioner that.”

Goodell said he talked to Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts Monday, saying he supports her efforts as the league tries to walk a political line which some find more fine than others.

But Tuesday’s statement was as much as they’ve said so far.

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Maurkice Pouncey “doing everything” in return from broken leg

Maurkice Pouncey, Marcus Gilbert AP

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey missed all of last season after breaking his leg in the preseason and coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this offseason that he wasn’t sure if Pouncey would participate in OTAs as a result.

Pouncey’s rehab appears to have gone well because he took every snap with the first-team offense as the Steelers kicked off the final segment of their offseason work on Tuesday. Pouncey said his leg feels 100 percent healthy and he isn’t planning to hold anything back in practices after his long stay on the shelf.

“I’m 26 years old, man,” Pouncey said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m doing everything. I don’t need time off. I’m [ticked] off I missed a lot. I’m ready to go.”

Pouncey also confirmed that he required multiple surgeries to repair the leg, adding that he’s “happy to be out here now.” Happy will likely be a fitting description of the Steelers’ mindset if Pouncey remains on the field for the entire 2016 season.

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Goodell: Standard practice to have dialogue back and forth with NIH

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gestures during a press conference at the NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez) AP

Monday’s release of a Congressional report critical of the NFL for allegedly trying to influence the direction of a National Institutes of Health study about detecting Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in living brains has led to a variety of responses from the league and its medical advisors.

Commissioner Roger Goodell echoed many of those previous responses during a Tuesday press conference when he was asked about the report.

“I take a much different position to that on several fronts,” Goodell said. “One is our commitment to medical research is well documented. We made a commitment to the NIH. It is normal practice to have discussions back and forth with the NIH. We have several members that are advisors on our committees — Betsy Nagel, Rich Ellenbogen —who have had experience with NIH or worked with NIH. It is very important to continue to have that kind of dialogue through appropriate channels, which our advisors have. That’s a standard practice. We have our commitment of $30 million to the NIH. We’re not pulling that back one bit. We continue to focus on things our advisors believe are important to study. Ultimately it is the NIH’s decision.”

Goodell went on to say that he did not think it was “appropriate” for the report to be released without speaking to those aforementioned medical advisors and took issue with the report referencing Ellenbogen and others as reaching out on behalf of the NFL.

In a follow-up question about NFL players not trusting the league on concussion issues, Goodell said that it was something the league has to do better at and pledged to “continue to find ways to make our game safer.” He also said that the league has to “make sure people understand the facts” about the effects of head trauma, something that’s been difficult given how often the league and outside groups find themselves on opposite sides of the issues raised by research.

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Mark Davis says Las Vegas will “unite the Raider nation”

LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 28:  Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis attends a Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee meeting at UNLV on April 28, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Davis told the committee he is willing to spend USD 500 million as part of a deal to move the team to Las Vegas if a proposed USD 1.3 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium is built by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corp. and real estate agency Majestic Realty, possibly on a vacant 42-acre lot a few blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip recently purchased by UNLV.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell said little on Tuesday about a potential move of the Raiders to Las Vegas. Raiders owner Mark Davis said plenty.

“I’m excited about it,” Davis said in comments televised on NFL Network. “It’s a new market. It’s got the potential to be a really exciting market. . . . The Raider fan in Northern California get upset a little bit when we talk about going to Los Angeles, and the L.A. fans get a little ticked off at the fans in Northern California, so it seems like Las Vegas is a neutral site that everybody’s kind of bought into. It will unite the Raider nation more than divide it.”

Asked if this means he’s given up on staying Oakland, Davis said, “No.”

And then he said this: “I’ve given my commitment to Las Vegas, and if they can come through with what they’re talked about doing, then we’ll go to Las Vegas.”

So, yeah, it looks like Davis is ready to leave. And it looks like the only way he’ll stay is if Oakland wakes up and puts together a plan sufficiently viable to get at least nine owners to vote against approving a move to Las Vegas.

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Jameis Winston is glad to have Roberto Aguayo in Tampa

roberto-aguayo-tampa-bay-buccaneers Getty Images

Last year, the Buccaneers not surprisingly made a former Florida State quarterback the first overall pick in the draft. This year, the Bucs surprisingly used a second-round pick to acquire kicker Roberto Aguayo.

“It’s special to have another Seminole on the roster,” quarterback Jameis Winston told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve got a lot of Gators on this roster so I’m glad we’ve got Roberto with me.”

So why is Aguayo such an attractive option?

“Other than he’s automatic, he’s competitive as well,” Winston said. “He’s always having fun out there. He has a different swagger for a kicker. He’s always focused but he likes to have fun doing it.”

This doesn’t change the fact that the Bucs are bring criticized for taking Aguayo so high in the process.

“Opinions are always going to be out there,” Winston said. “I’m just happy to have Roberto on this team. Just like a lot of people had opinions about me when I first came out and first started the season, like Roberto’s going to do, he’s going to shut them up. . . . We came in together at Florida State so we always were close. I always knew he was good because we always used to say that Florida State 2012 class was the best class to ever come through Florida State, so we always stood by that. We always were good buddies.”

Winston’s comments come a day after the man who put that recruiting class together once again said “never say never” about making the leap to the NFL. With team ownership showing increasing impatience with the team’s inability to contend on a regular basis, there may eventually be one more addition to the Tallahassee reunion.

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Mike McCarthy on Eddie Lacy’s progress: So far, so good

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 16:  Running back Eddie Lacy #27 and defensive end outside linebacker Mike Neal #96 of the Green Bay Packers walk off the field after losing in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals 26-20  in the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers coach Mike McCarthy ensured that running back Eddie Lacy’s physical condition would be a running storyline this offseason when he said shortly after the team’s playoff loss to the Cardinals that Lacy “cannot play at the weight he did” in 2016.

There were varying reports and responses from the Packers about how much of that weight the team wanted Lacy to lose, but the mandate for the third-year back was a clear one. On Tuesday, McCarthy was asked about how the process has gone.

“So far, so good,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I don’t know [how much work Lacy has left to do]. Eddie will be fine. I believe he’ll hit the target that we’re looking for when the lights come on.”

One of the ways that Lacy worked to drop weight was by hooking up with P90X founder Tony Horton. Horton told the newspaper that Lacy reached out to him early in the offseason and that he agreed to it despite having “never done anything quite like that before.”

“But I knew I could help him, and I knew what he was struggling from, and I think we both agreed in our meeting that he needed sort of a new perspective and a new approach,” Horton said. “And we got along really great. We just met each other up in San Francisco the week before the Super Bowl. And we said hey, let’s give this thing a try. Come hangout with me in Jackson Hole and then after that stint is done we’ll come back to LA and continue it there. We just got along, you know what I mean? We laughed a lot and we worked hard and we ate clean food and just took care of business, you know?”

Horton said Lacy made dietary changes and started taking supplements for the first time. Should Lacy bounce back with a big 2016 season after that offseason work, Horton will probably be getting more calls from NFL players in offseasons to come.

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Leary absent from OTAs, wants Cowboys to trade him

Ronald Leary AP

Cowboys guard Ronald Leary is staying away from the team’s organized team activity (OTA) practices because he wants to be traded, per multiple reports.

Leary signed his restricted free-agent tender worth $2.553 million in hopes of facilitating a trade, possibly during the draft, and the Cowboys took some calls from interested teams. But no deal got done, and Leary has remained away from the team’s offseason program.

Leary was the team’s starting left guard in 2013 and 2014 but made just four starts last season. He was inactive for the 12 games he didn’t start.

If no trade is made, Leary would have to show up for the team’s mandatory June minicamp or risk being fined because he signed his tender in April. Leary, 27, broke into the league as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and became a starter after spending his rookie season on the practice squad. Maybe the Titans losing starting guard Byron Bell to an injury at the start of their OTA workouts will eventually give him the trade he’s seeking.

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Dolphins sign a pair of draft picks

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 10:  Leonte Carroo #4 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights celebrates his touchdown in the second quarter against the Michigan State Spartans on October 10, 2015 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Super Bowl will be coming back to Miami in 2020 and the Dolphins would love to play in it on their home field.

If they do, a pair of players who signed contracts with the team on Tuesday could be part of making it happen. The Dolphins announced that third-round wide receiver Leonte Carroo and seventh-round tight end Thomas Duarte have agreed to four-year deals with the team.

Carroo is the latest addition to a receiving corps that has been remade since the end of the 2013 season. Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills have all joined the team since then and Miami drafted Carroo and Jakeem Grant this season.

Duarte could factor into the receiving mix as well at some point after playing as something of a wide receiver/tight end hybrid at UCLA. With Carroo and Duarte under contract, the Dolphins only have third-round running back Kenyan Drake left to sign from their draft class.

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New Los Angeles stadium gets Super Bowl LV in 2021

This undated rendering provided by HKS Sports & Entertainment shows a proposed NFL football stadium in Ingewood, Calif. During an NFL owners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Houston the owners voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to move to a new stadium just outside Los Angeles, and the San Diego Chargers will have an option to share the facility. The stadium would be at the site of the former Hollywood Park horse-racing track. (HKS Sports & Entertainment via AP)

The NFL is back in Los Angeles. The Super Bowl is coming back, too.

League owners voted Tuesday to award Los Angeles Super Bowl LV in 2021. It will be played in the shiny new stadium being built in Inglewood for the return of the Rams.

Also Tuesday, separate votes awarded Super Bowls to Atlanta in 2019 and to South Florida in 2020.

Super Bowl LV will be the eighth hosted by Los Angeles and the first since 1993, when the Cowboys routed the Bills at the Rose Bowl. The first Super Bowl was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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Super Bowl heads back to Miami in 2020

Stephen Ross AP

With stadium renovations underway, Miami is getting another Super Bowl.

The NFL’s owners voted today to award Super Bowl LIV in 2020 to South Florida, which edged out the other finalist for that year’s game, Tampa.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has spent significant money to renovate New Miami Stadium, which has previously hosted Super Bowls XXIII, XXIX, XXXIII, XLI and XLIV (under various other names). Miami is a popular destination for the Super Bowl, but the stadium had become dilapidated in recent years and wasn’t up to the standards that the NFL looks for in a Super Bowl venue.

Now the stadium is in the process of major renovations, and the Super Bowl is on the way back. This will be the 11th Super Bowl to be played in the Miami metropolitan area, the most Super Bowls of any host city.

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