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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: Chris Johnson will start for Cardinals Thursday

Chris Johnson AP

Chris Johnson is set to debut with the Arizona Cardinals Thursday night, and per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Johnson will be the team’s starting running back in the preseason finale.

Johnson signed with the Cardinals Aug. 17, before the second preseason game, but has been slowed by a hamstring injury. The Cardinals know that Johnson, who’s three weeks from turning 30, isn’t the same player who had six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in Tennessee to start his career but they hope he can still provide some big-play pop and catch up to a new offense.

Johnson’s contract option wasn’t picked up by the Jets after he rushed 155 times for 663 yards last year. He was shot in the shoulder last March in an incident during which his friend was killed in Florida.

The plan, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Wednesday, is for Johnson to get 10-12 carries as the Cardinals evaluate him. Arians has said he believes Johnson can help the Cardinals but is guaranteed nothing.

The Cardinals won’t play their starters Thursday, so it will be Chris Johnson and rookie David Johnson getting the carries early. They’re competing for touches behind the team’s current starter, Andre Ellington.

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Redskins deny that G.M. Scot McCloughan’s wife sent vulgar tweet

McCloughan AP

Several websites have published a tweet today that originated with a Twitter account purportedly belonging to the wife of Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan. The tweet in question directed a vulgar message and alleged improper behavior by an ESPN reporter who has reported on the team.

But the team says McCloughan’s wife did not send the tweet in question. Redskins Senior Vice President Tony Wyllie tells PFT that Jessica McCloughan did not post the tweet, it came from a fake account, and it has been forwarded to the NFL’s security department. The Twitter account has since been deleted.

We’re choosing not to publish the identity of the ESPN reporter named in the tweet, or the specific contents of the tweet. We initially thought we’d just ignore the tweet entirely, but it’s been picked up in enough places that we decided we’d publish what we know.

And what we know is that the team is adamant that the tweet is a fake.

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Phil Taylor visits Steelers

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills 10-3-2013 Getty Images

On Tuesday, the Browns gave defensive tackle Phil Taylor $5.477 million to not play for the Browns. The Steelers may now be paying Taylor even more to not play for the Browns.

Per a league source, Taylor visited the Steelers on Wednesday.

It was only a visit, but it could lead to something more, given that the Steelers could use any help they can get on defense.

A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor asked to be released by the Browns after Danny Shelton emerged as a starter. The Browns made no request that Taylor reduce the money he’s owed or agree to provide any offset in exchange for his freedom.

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Peyton Manning visits Wednesday’s PFT on NBCSN

Denver Broncos v Houston Texans Getty Images

Peyton Manning doesn’t have (so far) a commercial in which he’s a really hip and cool Peyton Manning who has DirecTV and a dorky, undesirable Peyton Manning who has cable. But he was nevertheless hip and cool on Wednesday, because he visited Pro Football Talk on NBCSN via satellite as part of his annual preseason DirecTV promotional tour.

A clip from the interview appears below. For the whole thing, tune in to NBCSN at 6:00 p.m. ET. Rodney Harrison (who has caught a couple of passes from Peyton Manning that weren’t intended for Rodney), Paul Burmeister (crack about Paul throwing interceptions while playing quarterback at Iowa has been omitted), and yours truly will get you caught up on all the latest news in the NFL.

Including a full assessment of the #DeflateGate ruling. (There hasn’t been one yet; I’m just seeing whether you’re paying attention.)

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Raiders sign former Cards linebacker Lorenzo Alexander

Lorenzo Alexander,Devonta Freeman AP

Veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander wasn’t out of work long.

The Raiders announced that they had signed Alexander, a day after he was cut by the Cardinals.

Alexander had officially qualified as a journeyman long before he made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer with Washington. He’s also had practice squad stints with the Panthers and Ravens, back when he was a defensive tackle.

The former Cal standout grew up in Berkeley, so getting back to the Bay Area made sense. But he adds a stable, adult presence for a Raiders team that seems to have made strides toward stability this year.

They waived linebacker Horace Miller to make room for Alexander.

 

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Report: Dolphins shopping Will Davis

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Texans were able to get a 2017 sixth-round pick for tight end Khari Lee in a trade with the Bears on Wednesday and they won’t be the only team trying to see if they can shake loose something in return for a player that might not be in their plans for the 2015 season.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that Dolphins cornerback Will Davis is such a player. Salguero reports that the Dolphins are shopping the 2013 third-round pick around the league ahead of Saturday’s cut to 53 players, although it is “unclear” if the team will cut him if they can’t find a trade.

Davis doesn’t have the most appealing profile as a trade target. He’s played just 15 games over his first two seasons because of injuries, including a torn ACL that ended his 2014 season after 10 games. He’s played in all three preseason games this summer and coach Joe Philbin said recently that the team is trying to gauge where he is now against where he’ll be down the road.

“I think there’s a little bit of both,” Philbin said. “Obviously, he is coming off of an injury and we’ve seen development over the last five weeks and so we think there will be some more development there from a physical standpoint. Then obviously the performance, you’ve got to weigh all those things when you make a decision.”

That’s the same determination any team considering a deal for Davis will have to make, although it’s hard to imagine any evaluation resulting in more than a late-round pick coming back to Miami.

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Lance Briggs takes TV job, hasn’t “officially” retired

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Getty Images

After a 12-year NFL career, former Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is moving on to a job in TV.

Briggs announced today that he is retiring from football and taking a job as a Bears analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

This was the right decision for me,” Briggs said.

Briggs later said on Twitter that he hasn’t “officially” retired, although at this point it’s extremely unlikely that any team is going to sign him.

A third-round pick of the Bears in 2003, Briggs spent his entire career in Chicago. At his best, Briggs was one of the top linebackers in football, making seven consecutive Pro Bowls from 2005 to 2011. After an injury-plagued season last year, the Bears weren’t interested in bringing him back.

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Concussion director fires back at New York Times

Peter+Landesman+I2oYAhwshTam Getty Images

Well, the Concussion movie is getting plenty of free publicity.

In response to a New York Times article that created the impression that Sony revised the script for the film due to concerns that it would antagonize the NFL even though Sony has no business relationship with the league, writer/director Peter Landesman accuses the New York Times of unfairly making Sony look worthless and weak.

“It does seem to me like the New York Times is working for the NFL,” Landesman tells Deadline.com. “That’s how it seems to me. It seems like a hatchet job has been done here, and came out of the NFL’s offices, that’s how it seems to me.”

Landesman’s assessment is likely wrong. Ken Belson, who wrote the first story criticizing the Hall of Fame and the NFL for trying to silence the daughter of Junior Seau at the August 8 induction ceremony, wouldn’t be trying to make the NFL look good. If anything, Belson and the Times would be trying to make the NFL look bad by painting the league as sufficiently powerful and intimidating to compel Sony to spontaneously slash portions of the Concussion script and to prompt Landesman to attempt to kiss the ring of Roger Goodell until the studio angrily told Landesman to not meet with the Commissioner.

“In the end even Sony, which unlike most other major studios in Hollywood has no significant business ties to the N.F.L., found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game,” Belson wrote in the second paragraph of the story.

So the agenda, if there was one, was to make NFL look strong enough to bully even those companies with which it has no business relationship. Making Sony look lame was collateral damage.

The truth, as previously explained, seems to be that Sony was committed to telling the truth about a supposedly true story that makes necessarily the NFL look bad. Certain techniques that make movies more entertaining, like a real sense of physical peril for the protagonist and/or his family members, need to be used carefully — or not at all — when the goal is to tell a true story that does not make inaccurate claims.

“When you are telling a true story about something this controversial, it’s incumbent on us, it’s our responsibility to be as fair an accurate as possible,” Landesman said. “We don’t want to defame anybody, we don’t want to injure anybody. We just want to tell the truth, and that’s all we’ve done.”

The key words in that comment are “defame” and “injure.” Sony’s lawyers reviewed the script for any scenes or dialogue that would tell a story other than the truth, in a way that would unfairly characterize the actions and words of NFL officials. It wasn’t the result of Sony running scared from the NFL, or of the NFL thumping its chest. It was the result of good and prudent lawyering, the kind of lawyering that happens in the crafting of any movie based on a real people and actual events.

“This movie is about an underdog, a David and Goliath story of telling the truth, against all odds,” Landesman said.  “About a thing that is such a sacred cow to America, that in its core, on this particular issue, is corrupt. Isn’t it ironic that another American institution, a newspaper, seems to be trying to damage that effort? In a way, it seems to be a strange self-fulfilling prophecy, or a weird mirror of the reality of this film.”

That comment shows that Landesman has no fear of the NFL (or, for that matter, of the New York Times). But it also suggests that Landesman doesn’t understand what the Times was actually doing — or that he does but is choosing to advance a narrative that makes himself and Sony seem like the David for which people will choose to cheer.

Or, more specifically, to surrender $10 for the purposes of sitting in a chair and staring at a screen for two hours.

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NFLPA files injury grievance on behalf of Taylor Thompson

Titans at Chiefs Getty Images

The Titans said Taylor Thompson was fine when they cut him.

He and the knee surgery he’s about to have disagree, so the union is going to bat for him.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, the NFLPA recently filed an injury grievance on behalf of the former Titans tight end.

Thompson worked during OTAs, but didn’t take part in minicamp because of knee problems. The Titans released him in June.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know what to tell you,” Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said then. “When [Thompson] left here, however many weeks ago, he was healthy. We communicated, he said he was fine, no issues, other than some personal matters. He shows up, says there’s something wrong with his knee, and I have no idea what he is talking about.”

When they released him, there was no injury designation, despite the fact he had played just three games because of a knee problem last year.

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Larry Foote sticking with coaching

Washington Redskins v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Larry Foote took a job coaching with the Cardinals this offseason, but didn’t close the door on returning to the field.

In April, Foote described himself as being “50-50” about continuing his career as a linebacker and said that there were a number of factors, including his health and the health of the Cardinals linebacking corps, that would determine his final decision. That decision would be made by the time the Cardinals made their initial cuts.

Those cuts came on Tuesday when the roster dropped to 75 players and Foote isn’t among them. He confirmed with ESPN.com that he will spend the 2015 season as the team’s inside linebackers coach and presumably will continue in a coaching capacity rather than attempting a comeback in 2016 unless he has a serious change of heart as the year plays out.

Foote entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Steelers in 2002, spent most of his career playing for the team and won two Super Bowl rings in Pittsburgh. He spent the 2009 season with the Lions and played for the Cardinals last year.

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Aaron Rodgers hopes Packers aren’t in Hall of Fame Game next year

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptuwm2rintg0mdlimtgzogflnzqwzwrlmwnkngfiywzi AP

Unless the Hall of Fame voters have a collective case of amnesia when it comes time to cast ballots for next year’s class, Brett Favre is going to be among those elected to take their place in Canton.

Given the recent trend of pitting teams with connections to inductees against each other in the Hall of Fame Game, that makes the Packers a good bet to open up the preseason schedule in 2016. Their quarterback would prefer that two other teams get the nod, however.

“We hope we don’t get it,” Aaron Rodgers said, via Alex Marvez of FOX Sports. “But we know it’s going to be tough because No. 4 is going to be going in.”

Rodgers hasn’t been shy about sharing his disdain for summer football. He lamented the loss of Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL in a “meaningless” game last month and told Marvez that he doesn’t think they are a particularly good way of preparing a team for the regular season.

“There are a lot of things that need to get looked at. The number of games is obviously one of them,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think we need four. Two teams have to play five. That’s tough on everybody. Obviously, it’s important for young players to show what they can do. But a lot of times there’s agreements between coaches to maybe not pressure the [quarterback] during a game or do a certain type of coverage, or there are agreements within organizations in game plans that you’re not going to show different plays. How much of a real game are you really simulating? I’d say a lot less than people think.”

Rodgers makes some valid points about the shortcomings of preseason football as have many others, but there doesn’t seem to be much chance of a change as long as NFL owners are collecting money for the tickets, parking and concessions sold at those games. If the Packers are selected, at least Rodgers can take some solace in the fact that he’s about as likely to play in next year’s Hall of Fame Game as he would be if two other teams were selected for the contest.

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Giants sign kicker with Josh Brown hurting

Josh Brown AP

The Giants did better than meet the 75-man roster limit on Tuesday when they went down to 74 players ahead of the deadline.

They’re back up to 75 on Wednesday after re-signing kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell spent time with the team this summer and played in their first preseason game before being released on August 16.

Boswell’s return isn’t tied to dissatisfaction with Josh Brown’s work. It’s about Brown’s health as the veteran suffered a leg injury against the Jaguars in the Giants’ second preseason outing. Brown went on to kick against the Jets last Saturday, which suggests that the injury isn’t a great concern and that Boswell’s stay with the Giants will be limited to their preseason closer against the Patriots on Thursday night.

Boswell didn’t try a field goal or an extra point for the Giants in their game against the Bengals and made two field goals for the Texans during the 2014 preseason.

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Eddie DeBartolo Jr. to be contributor candidate for Hall of Fame vote

DeBartolo AP

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s new contributor category saw both longtime personnel men Ron Wolf and Bill Polian rubber-stamped for induction last year.

The next candidate in that pipeline might face a tougher road.

The Hall announced that the subcommittee of Hall of Fame selectors has forwarded former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. as this year’s contributor candidate. To be inducted, he’d have to receive 80 percent of the votes in a  simple yes-no ballot.

DeBartolo Jr. was a finalist in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but was eliminated from consideration each year during the vote from 15 to 10.

While his success as the owner of the 49ers during their heyday in the 1980s and 1990s is unquestioned (winning five Super Bowls takes care of that), there are also questions about his resume.

After he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of failing to report an extortion attempt during his attempt to acquire a riverboat gambling license in Louisiana, he was suspended for a year by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue. He never regained control of the team.

DeBartolo has been a regular in Canton, however. When he presented Charles Haley last month, it was the fifth time he took the stage to introduce a Hall of Famer.

The day before next year’s Super Bowl, he’ll find out if he ever gets to join them.

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Seahawks need to find face-saving solution to Chancellor holdout

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The importance of safety Kam Chancellor to the Seahawks can’t be disputed. If there was any doubt following the comments of former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson on NFL Network, that doubt should be fully erased given the comments of receiver Doug Baldwin to SI.com regarding Chancellor’s role in helping the team get past the loss in Super Bowl XLIX.

Kam was pivotal,” Baldwin said. “He’s like the godfather of the locker room. Any problems, any issues, you go to him.”

So why can’t the Seahawks and Chancellor find a way to settle their differences and get Kam back in the fold? Currently, the two sides remain to be dug in, with no apparent middle ground.

The two sides need to find a way to save face. And it shouldn’t be that hard.

On Tuesday, the Steelers made receiver Antonio Brown happy by simply taking $2 million he was going to make in 2016 and sliding it to 2015.  The Seahawks did a similar thing last year with running back Marshawn Lynch. Why not do something like that with Chancellor?

Chancellor is due to make $4.55 million this year, $5.1 million in 2016, and $6.8 million in 2017. So take $1 million from next year and $1 million from 2017 and move it to 2015.

Alternatively, the Seahawks could give Chancellor more guaranteed money in 2016 and/or 2017, since those seems to be the seasons about which he’s more concerned than 2015.

At some point, the Seahawks have to quit reopening deals. But given Chancellor’s importance to the franchise, he doesn’t seem to be the best guy to start the process with.

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Pylon cameras coming to Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

In August, ESPN used pylon cameras in their broadcast of a preseason game between the Bills and Browns.

Unlike many of the players in that game, the cameras have made the cut for the regular season. CBS announced that they will be using the cameras on some of their broadcasts this year. In addition to their slate of Sunday games, CBS will televise nine Thursday night games in concert with NFL Network.

In the release about using the cameras, CBS says they may also be used during the playoffs and during Super Bowl 50 from Santa Clara.

While CBS touts the cameras as a way to give “NFL viewers the most field-level view of critical plays,” the application may go beyond a cool view of a player diving into the end zone. Those cameras could be used as part of the replay review process to determine whether a touchdown has been scored, assuming that no players are blocking the camera’s view and that they can also capture if a runner’s knees are down before the ball crosses into the end zone.

Those issues could limit the cameras’ effectiveness for reviews, but that’s hardly a reason not to see if they make the replay process better in addition to offering networks another angle to use for an entertaining broadcast. If they prove useful this year, it probably won’t be long before the pylon camera is a fixture on all NFL broadcasts.

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