Skip to content

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.”

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features

Lack of HGH testing could contribute to Gordon suspension

marijuana-justi-sullivan-getty Getty Images

A difference of reporting exists as to whether an agreement on HGH testing would or wouldn’t result in a relaxed marijuana testing threshold for NFL players.  While no tentative agreement to use a higher limit for marijuana metabolites has been reached, it’s clear that the NFL would listen, if the NFLPA makes a request along those lines in an effort to break the lingering logjam arising from the authority of the Commissioner in PED/HGH appeals.

Regardless, the NFL’s current limit of 15 ng/ml needs to change, especially since (as pointed out by ESPN’s Bomani Jones) the World Anti-Doping Agency raised its limit by an order or magnitude in 2013, from 15 to 150 ng/ml.

A low limit of 15 ng/ml can be reached via second-hand smoke.  As pointed out by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Gordon’s appeal also will advance that argument.

No matter how or why or when the NFL adopts a higher limit, it will be grossly overdue and any positive tests or suspensions based on anything lower than the WADA limits will be grossly unfair — especially since the NFL has been consistently pointing to WADA to support its proposed HGH testing protocol.

Under the current policy as previously negotiated by the NFL and the NFLPA, arguments based on the disparity between Gordon’s “A” bottle and “B” bottle and whether the average concentration (based on the split sample) of 14.8 ng/ml in the two bottles came from second-hand smoke won’t matter.  A strict, literal application of the policy will result in Gordon being suspended for a full year, during which time he’ll be completely banished from his team and required to continue to pass up to 10 tests per months, or he won’t be reinstated.

If any notion of fairness and common sense is applied to the appeal process, Gordon won’t be suspended at all.  Especially since the NFL apparently hasn’t and won’t subject Colts owner Jim Irsay to the same kind of rigorous testing for an admitted addiction that, if it’s not cured, eventually would result in Irsay being kicked out of the league for at least a year, too.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Cardinals, Patrick Peterson close to extension

Patrick Peterson AP

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has gone a few rounds with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman this offseason about which of them is the best cornerback in the NFL and Peterson may soon have a new contract to use as further ammunition for his case.

Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports reports that the Cardinals and Peterson are close to an agreement on a contract extension that would keep Peterson in Arizona for the near future. Per Getlin, there are still some hurdles to cross but there’s a “good chance” something gets done shortly.

It’s unclear if one of the hurdles is structuring the deal so that it puts him above Sherman and Browns cornerback Joe Haden in the league’s pecking order. Sherman signed a four-year deal this year that includes $40 million in guaranteed money while Haden signed his name on a five-year deal that has $45 million in guarantees, although some of those guarantees are against injury only.

Peterson is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal, which is set to pay him more than $2.8 million, and the Cardinals exercised their fifth-year option on the 2011 first-round pick’s pact earlier this offseason.

 

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

David Wilson sent to hospital for battery of tests

David Wilson AP

After suffering a “burner” in practice Tuesday, the Giants are going to take no chances with running back David Wilson.

The team announced that Wilson was being taken to the Hospital for Special Surgery for a battery of tests and a complete workup. Wilson had neck surgery this offseason, so it’s an obvious concern.

They don’t know much at this point, but any injury anywhere near his neck is worrisome for the Giants.

We were all praying that it would be not an issue,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via Tom Rock of Newsday

Rock also points out, the other name for a burner is “transient neurapraxia,” which doesn’t fit as neatly into the world of fantasy football.

Given what Wilson has gone through already, lending some gravity to the situation isn’t the worst idea.

Permalink 1 Comment Feed for comments Back to top

Steelers seize on Ben saying, “I want to be here”

Ben AP

The not-so-subtle media tug-of-war continues between the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger regarding his future with the team, which will depend in large part on the size of the dollars the Steelers plan to pay him on his next contract.  If Ben leaves, his legacy in Pittsburgh will be adversely affected — especially if he leaves after repeatedly saying he never wants to leave.

And so it’s no surprise that Roethlisberger saying he doesn’t want to leave Pittsburgh became a headline on the team’s official website.

I want to be here,” Roethlisberger said Monday, after G.M. Kevin Colbert declared that he doesn’t envision a set of circumstances in which Roethlisberger plays for another team.  And Steelers.com pounced.

“That’s always been what I’ve said, too,” Roethlisberger said. “I said it last year when the erroneous NFL Network reports came out.”

The “erroneous” reports from NFL Network, partially owned by the Steelers, were attributed to unnamed Steelers sources.  And those leaks may have been calculated to provoke Ben to declare that he doesn’t want to leave Pittsburgh, making it easier for the Steelers to low ball Big Ben and persuade him to accept whatever their best offer is — even if it doesn’t come close to reflecting his market value or making up for the hometown discount he believes he’s already giving the team.

If it all falls apart, the team will blame the player and the player will be the team and more leaks undoubtedly will flow to NFLN and others aimed at ensuring the fans agree with the organization’s position that Ben abandoned Pittsburgh.

Permalink 17 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Rueben Randle skips practice with sore hamstring

Rueben Randle AP

The Giants trainers have been busier than they might like in the early part of training camp.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham has been out since last week with a hamstring problem, running back David Wilson’s return from neck surgery was hampered by a burner on Tuesday and wide receiver Rueben Randle didn’t take part in Tuesday’s practice because of a hamstring issue of his own.

“He was sore in the hamstring, so we held him,” Coughlin said, via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.

Graziano reports that it didn’t sound like something the Giants think is a serious problem, but they need only look to Beckham for an example of how a seemingly minor hamstring injury can turn into something more if it doesn’t get the proper time to heal.

The team is off on Wednesday before getting back to work ahead of Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Bills. There’s no word now on Randle’s status for that contest, but the larger goal of having Randle on the field come the regular season could lead the team to hold off on Randle’s preseason debut a little while longer.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Cowboys giving Tony Romo a day off, say no setbacks

Tony Romo AP

It’s been so far, so good as Tony Romo comes back from back surgery.

So the Cowboys don’t feel compelled to push it.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Romo won’t practice today, as the team installs its two-minute offense.

He hasn’t had any setback but the biggest thing that we talked to Tony about and really all of our players about, is honest feedback,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We recognize that you’re a tough player, I saw what you did against the Redskins last year. You just got to tell us how you’re doing, how it’s going and make sure we handle it the right way each and every day.

“There’s an old adage in football, a day off can be really valuable. Two days off can be life changing, so when you get in this kind of a situation, we had yesterday off, got some good work this morning in the walk-through, some mental work of some of the different situations we’re working on. Off this afternoon and hopefully back as it tomorrow.”

Romo didn’t practice last Friday either, as the team handles him with the utmost care. It also gives them a chance to give new backup Brandon Weeden more reps, in case he’s ever needed.

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Seahawks fear another torn Achilles for Anthony McCoy

Anthony+Mccoy+Arizona+Cardinals+v+Seattle+CvKeg9kADkhl Getty Images

Seahawks tight end Anthony McCoy spent all of last season on injured reserve after suffering a torn left Achilles in the offseason. Now the Seahawks fear McCoy has torn his right Achilles.

PFT’s Curtis Crabtree is at Seahawks camp and reports that McCoy collapsed to the ground during full team drills and laid face down on the turf for a few minutes before he was carted off the field. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed afterward that it appears serious.

“Early indications are he hurt his other Achilles,” Carroll said. “If it is what they think it is, it’s just a real heartbreaker. He worked so hard to get back and all. If it was the same Achilles you might understand it but we think it’s the other one. So we’ll see what happens.”

McCoy played for Carroll at USC and was a sixth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2010. After not seeing much playing time early in his career, McCoy started to come on in 2012, when he caught 18 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns. But now it appears that he’s about to miss his second season in a row.

Permalink 17 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Browns happy to see scuffles at practice

Mike Pettine AP

Practice scuffles are a training camp inevitability and we’ve seen them break out at several camps already this summer.

It was the Browns’ turn on Tuesday and their practice featured a big blowup. NFL.com has video of the incident, which seemed to involve a good number of players from both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. After things cooled down, Browns coach Mike Pettine opted against the tried and true coach response of saying that he wants to see his charges show more control over themselves when working among teammates.

“When we talk about the kind of team we want to be, you have to practice that way and that is hard, that’s difficult,” Pettine said. “I can’t tell that lie that we can be a certain way on a practice field and carry it over on the game field. There are going to be times when it does boil over. And you don’t want one side of the ball to get bullied by the other. There has to be some push back….You look at that and it’s the price of doing business.”

Safety Donte Whitner echoed the coach, saying that you want “nasty guys” on both defense and the offensive line as a way of explaining how things boiled over on the field on Tuesday. It’s hard to argue with that assessment or the explanation that players getting ready to play a rough game will sometimes wind up crossing the line during a practice session, but it’s a fine line given the possibility of injuries when things go off the way they did on Tuesday.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Colts sign a pair, including running back Phillip Tanner

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Colts added a pair of free agents today, as they continue to look for depth in the wake of losing running back Vick Ballard to a torn Achilles.

The team announced they had signed linebacker Jonathon Sharpe and running back Phillip Tanner.

Tanner spent the last three years with the Cowboys, mostly as a special teamer. He has 56 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns in his career.

Sharpe is an undrafted rookie who came through the super regional combine setup after two years at North Greenville University. He also played Wofford College before transferring.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

David Wilson suffers burner in Giants practice

David Wilson AP

The Giants took their time clearing running back David Wilson for a return to the lineup after last year’s neck injury and surgery, but that didn’t make take it any longer before there was a reminder of why there was so much uncertainty about Wilson’s future.

Wilson left Giants practice early on Tuesday and Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, that he left the session because he suffered a burner. Burners, sometimes called stingers, are nerve injuries to the neck that can cause muscle weakness and pain down an arm.

They don’t tend to be long-lasting injuries, but Wilson’s history with his neck makes it something of a setback in his return to action that the Giants are likely to take seriously in the coming days. Coughlin didn’t offer any timeline for Wilson’s return, which leaves his availability for the Hall of Fame Game, at the very least, in doubt.

Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, fourth-round pick Andre Williams and Michael Cox round out a Giants running back group that could find itself back to hoping Wilson can contribute this season rather than expecting it.

Permalink 13 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

The Ravens are just trolling you at this point

erniemccracken

It is no longer fair to accuse the Ravens of being tone-deaf when it comes to their presentation of suspended wife-beater Ray Rice.

Because that would presume they’re not doing it on purpose.

The Ravens continue to make a martyr out of the guy who dragged his unconscious wife out of an elevator, posting a story and a video of last night’s practice, when he was given a standing ovation by Ravens fans.

They even found an apparent woman, Debbie Lindling of Baltimore, to voice her support in the story.

“I’m wearing his jersey because he is still a good man,” she said. “I’m happy to support Ray Rice, just like he has always supported our community.”

“I have on number 27 to show the fans, and the world, that I am supportive of Ray Rice,” added Jerra Byrd of Randallstown, Md, who we think would probably be female as well. “He has been forgiven by his wife. He is moving on with his life. He didn’t ask for the two-game suspension.”

Yes, at this point they’re going over the top with the unpopular opinion, putting on the black hat and happily playing the role of heel.

They’ve become the Big Ern McCracken of the NFL, and they don’t care if you have a uterus or otherwise don’t like it.

Now, if you’ll bring them another Tanqueray and Tab, and if you don’t mind, wash that perfume off before you come back to their table.

Permalink 90 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Lyle Sendlein to miss three weeks with calf injury

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein started all 16 games last season after tearing his MCL in 2012, but he’s going to miss some time in training camp.

The good news for the Cardinals is that Sendlein’s absence from the practice field isn’t another torn knee ligament. The bad news is that he’s being bothered by a calf injury that will keep him out of the lineup for three weeks.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made the announcement about Sendlein’s injury on Tuesday and said that Ted Larsen, who started 31 games in Tampa over the last four years, would step into the starting lineup while Sendlein recovers. Sendlein’s experienced enough that he should be okay to pick up where he left off, even if it means missing multiple preseason games although creating harmony on the offensive line should be a focus for the Cardinals after adding left tackle Jared Veldheer and getting left guard Jonathan Cooper back from last year’s broken leg.

Sendlein has started the last 91 games he’s played for the Cardinals, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2007.

Permalink 1 Comment Feed for comments Back to top

PFT on NBCSN looks at Bills, Cowboys, more

Romo AP

Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN continues to take a tour through NFL training camps, with a closer look at a couple of teams that squared off in a couple of consecutive Super Bowls.

The Bills and the Cowboys get the deep-dive treatment during the one-hour show, co-hosted by Russ Thaler and featuring Kevin Gilbride, Brian Westbrook, and Ross Tucker in the stuio.  We’ll also look at the news of the day, do the whiparound thing, and more.

And since the Cowboys are one of the two teams and given that owner Jerry Jones claims none of the key figures (including him) are in danger this year, we’ll ask PFT Planet to decide which seat is hotter between the quarterback and the coach.

Tune in at 5:30 p.m. ET for the results.

Permalink 5 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Aaron Rodgers: NFL, Packers better off with Jermichael Finley playing

Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley AP

Jermichael Finley’s football future remains cloudy, but the man who used to throw him passes hopes he’ll be back in Green Bay.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers assumed the starting role in 2008, the same year that Finley joined the team, and Finley has 223 receptions for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns for Green Bay since then. Rodgers has spoken to Finley, who is reportedly weighing a decision to return against trying to cash in a $10 million insurance policy after last year’s serious neck injury, and says that the tight end looks great while adding that the Packers (and the entire NFL) would be a better with Finley back on the field.

“This league is better with Jermichael in it and this team is better with him in it,” Rodgers said, via FOXSports.com. “I have had a couple of conversations with him; he looks incredible. If you follow him on Twitter, he looks pretty amazing, and he’s worked his tail off. For him, it’s a matter of getting cleared.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has also said that he’d like to see Finley back with the team throughout the offseason, but things have been in a holding pattern and there’s no sign that a change in the situation is imminent. Until that comes, the discussions about Finley’s impact on the league, the Packers and anything else having to do with football will remain hypotheticals.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Gordon’s appeal focuses on disparity between “A” and “B” bottle tests

LA8917-001 Getty Images

With the Josh Gordon appeal hearing set for Friday and with Gordon hiring (as Adam Schefter reported last night) the same lawyer who helped Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman avoid a four-game suspension for violation of the PED policy in 2012, Gordon presumably has a case that holds more water than the average bong.

Gordon possibly does, especially if the same spirit of lenience that helped Ray Rice receive a suspension of only two games for knocking out his fiancée applies in any way to Gordon.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Gordon landed in Stage III of the program last year as part of a negotiated two-game suspension for the use of cough syrup that contained codeine.  Once in Stage III, a player never leaves.  And he must pass up to 10 drug tests per month.

According to the source, Gordon has passed at least 70 drug tests.  One test barely generated a positive.  And but for the 50-50 luck of the draw, it would have been a negative.

Urine samples routinely are split into two bottles, the “A” bottle and the “B” bottle.  If the “A” bottle generates a positive result, the “B” bottle is tested.  Amazingly, the “B” bottle doesn’t have to independently show a violation.  Instead, the substance abuse policy states that the “‘B’ bottle Test need only show that the substance, revealed in the ‘A’ bottle Test, is evident to the ‘limits of detection’ to confirm the results of the ‘A’ bottle Test.”

In English, close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and “B” bottles.

For Gordon, the “A” bottle showed a concentration of 16 ng/ml, only one nanogram per milliliter above the limits of 15.  The “B” bottle showed a concentration of 13.6 ng/ml — less than the threshold.

But because the “A” bottle was labeled “A” and not “B” and because the “B” bottle was labeled “B” and not “A”, the end result is a positive and a minimum one-year banishment from the NFL.  Flip the bottles when it’s time to apply the labels, and Gordon isn’t facing a suspension.

Setting aside (for now) my lingering concerns about the NFL policing the use of marijuana by players, the Draconian provisions of a program that subjects a player to up to 10 tests per month and will remove a Stage III player from the workforce for at least a full year if he failed a single test over the balance of his career, and the NFL’s apparent unwillingness to subject Colts owner Jim Irsay to this same testing protocol and standard, Josh Gordon will be treated extremely unfairly if the policy is strictly applied to him as it is written.

All because the bottle that tested at 16 ng/ml was labeled with an “A and the bottle that tested at 13.6 ng/ml was labeled with a “B”.

The NFL clearly got it wrong with Ray Rice.  The NFL has a chance to get it right with Josh Gordon.

Permalink 131 Comments Feed for comments Back to top