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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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Colts place Trent Cole on injured reserve

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 20: Kendall Langford #90, Trent Cole #58 and T.Y. McGill #67 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrate a sack against the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts have gotten healthier in the secondary of late, but they’ve lost a linebacker for the rest of the season.

The team announced Tuesday that outside linebacker Trent Cole has been placed on injured reserve. Cole has been dealing with a back injury that forced him to miss Indy’s Week Two loss to the Broncos and was listed as questionable for last Sunday’s game, but was able to play in the victory over the Chargers.

Cole assisted on a tackle against San Diego, leaving him with three on the season, and had 32 tackles and three sacks during his first season with the Colts. Cole spent the first 10 years of his career with the Eagles before joining the Colts as a free agent last year.

The Colts are left with Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Akeem Ayers and Curt Maggitt at outside linebacker. They could add another to fill Cole’s roster spot and they’ll need to find a player with a valid passport if they want to do it for this week’s London game against the Jaguars.

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Maybe La’el Collins isn’t having surgery after all

Dallas Cowboys compete in the Reliant Home Run Derby Getty Images

Cowboys left guard La’El Collins is definitely having surgery. Unless he isn’t.

ESPN’s Ed Werder has updated his previous report that Collins would have big toe surgery and go on injured reserve, by now saying that Collins is seeking a second opinion in hopes of avoiding surgery.

While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on his weekly radio spot on 105.3 The Fan that Collins was hoping to avoid surgery and that it was “a pain thing,” a source close to Collins told Werder that wasn’t the case.

“[It] has nothing to do with pain,” the source said. “The kid is tough as hell. It’s dependent on the injury.”

So there you have it. He’s having surgery or not, and it’s a matter of pain tolerance or it isn’t. Got it.

Either way, Collins will be replaced in the starting lineup by Ronald Leary, who started there for two seasons before being replaced by Collins. He wanted to be traded this offseason, but they didn’t want to give him up, presumably in case one of their starters ended up needed surgery or not needing surgery.

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Laquon Treadwell won’t play until he practices better

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 18:  Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell #11 of the Minnesota Vikings in action against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 18, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Through three games of the season, Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell is one of this year’s most disappointing first-round rookies: He dressed but didn’t play in Week One, got on the field for only two snaps in Week Two, and was inactive in Week Three.

So what will it take for Treadwell to start playing?

“He has to continue to do better in practice,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s working, just biding his time until he gets an opportunity like how [Stefon] Diggs was last year. I still think he’s thinking about the number of steps to take on each route and things like that, being at the right depth.”

When the Vikings took Treadwell with the 23rd overall pick in the draft, they surely thought he could make an immediate contribution to their offense. Instead, he’s a bench warmer. Zimmer seems confident that Treadwell will eventually prove on the practice field that he belongs on the field on Sundays, but that hasn’t happened yet.

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Tyler Eifert “still working through some things”

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 3: Tight end Tyler Eifert #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals makes a catch while being tackled by inside linebacker Daryl Smith #51 of the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals got tight end Tyler Eifert back on the practice field last week for the first time since his offseason ankle surgery, which wasn’t enough for him to play against the Broncos in Week Three but it did raise hopes that he’ll be able to play when they host the Dolphins this Thursday night.

Eifert was again listed as a limited participant in Monday’s practice, although that was just an estimation of what he would have done since the Bengals didn’t actually hold a practice. Coach Marvin Lewis deemed Eifert “close” to returning when he spoke to the media, but Thursday may be too close.

Eifert said, via Mike Garafolo of NFL Media, that he is “still working through some things” while stressing the need for “patience” and “trusting the process” that will get him back into the lineup without risking further injury that will keep him from helping the Bengals improve on their 1-2 start.

If the process dictates another week on the sideline for Eifert, he’ll have 10 days before the team heads to Dallas to face the Cowboys in Week Five.

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Jerry Jones says Dez hasn’t had MRI, may have one Tuesday

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is assisted by team personel after taking a hit from the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant hurt his knee early in Sunday night’s win over the Bears, but returned to the game and caught a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott before the night was out.

After the game, owner Jerry Jones said that the team felt Bryant was OK, but that they would “give it another look-see with the MRI.” That MRI apparently didn’t take place on Monday, however.

During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday, Jones said that “to my knowledge” Bryant didn’t have the test and that he may have one on Tuesday. Jones added that he’s “assuming” Bryant will be able to play in Santa Clara against the 49ers this weekend, although that could obviously change when and if Bryant has an MRI to provide further information about the injury.

Jones also said that left guard La’El Collins has not had surgery on his injured big toe and will “see if he can work through this” without having an operation. Ronald Leary will take over for Collins in the starting lineup.

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Bashaud Breeland has “moderate” high ankle strain

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Bashaud Breeland #26 of the Washington Redskins is carted off the field in the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins know that safety DeAngelo Hall won’t be back in the lineup this season due to the torn ACL he suffered against the Giants and they may be without one of their other starters in the secondary for a bit.

Cornerback Bashaud Breeland went for an MRI on the ankle he hurt in Sunday’s victory and coach Jay Gruden said Monday, via the Washington Post, that Breeland is dealing with a “moderate” high-ankle strain. The plan is for Breeland to be evaluated on a week-to-week basis, which suggests that he’ll likely miss Week Four’s game against the Browns.

Breeland was replaced by Dashaun Phillips against the Giants, but Phillips tweaked his hamstring during the game. That could open the door for third-round pick Kendall Fuller.

The Redskins also lost a pair of offensive linemen during the game. Gruden used “moderate” to describe center Kory Lichtensteiger’s calf strain and left guard Shawn Lauvao’s ankle sprain as well. Left tackle Trent Williams moved to guard to replace Lauvao, but Gruden said the team hasn’t decided how they’d proceed without the two players this week.

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Adam Gase tired of mistakes, ready to bench guys if need be

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase shouts from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) AP

Dolphins coach Adam Gase is demanding accountability, and he is more than prepared to bench guys to prove his point.

The latest was right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who was pulled after allowing a strip-sack fumble near the end of regulation, which would have been costly if the Browns could hit field goals.

“I’m over discussing any of this stuff with players,” Gase said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “We’re either going to start getting the job done, or we’re going to make changes.”

Gase didn’t promise that James would return to the starting lineup Thursday night against the Bengals, and was generally displeased with the protection being offered to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been hit 19 times in 132 dropbacks.

“We just want guys to do it right,” Gase said. “Whoever wants to do it right, those are the guys that we’re going to put out there. Talent’s irrelevant at this point. . . .

”It’s hard to throw a ball with any kind of timing where they pressure and we get it picked up, but we get beat so fast that the quarterback doesn’t even have a chance.”

Gase is clearly protective of Tannehill, knowing that’s his best chance to be successful in the short term there. But if he’s not upright, he can’t do that.

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Kyle Rudolph praises Sam Bradford’s toughness

Minnesota Vikings' Sam Bradford (8) is sacked by Carolina Panthers' Lavar Edwards (93) in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) AP

Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford has made a great impact on his teammates, and not just because of his ability to throw a football. On Monday, tight end Kyle Rudolph became the most recent Vikings to praise Bradford’s ability to take a hit.

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned about Sam is just how tough he is,” Rudolph said on PFT Live. “The way that he stood in there not only yesterday but also last week taking hit after hit after hit and still making throws downfield. A couple throws come to mind against Green Bay last week to [Stephon] Diggs and you don’t really see it until you go back and watch the tape. He’s got a lot of guts and a lot of grit and he stands in there and throws the ball downfield knowing he’s gonna take a hit.”

The passing game has become more important given the knee injury suffered by running back Adrian Peterson.

“Anytime you lose a player of that magnitude it has an effect,” Rudolph said of Peterson. “We kind of went through it with Teddy [Bridgewater] a little under a month ago and you can never replace a player of that caliber. They’re just irreplaceable but it was kind of the message when Teddy went down and it’s been the message unfortunately throughout the early part of our season. Each guy on the team has to do one more thing better and get a little better each day and try to make up that ground that we’re missing when you lose a great player.”

Even without a couple of great players, the Vikings could be on the verge of becoming great.

“For us it’s about getting better each and every week,” Rudolph said. “Obviously, we think we have a ton of talent. We wouldn’t have traded a first-round pick for a quarterback at the beginning of the season if our organization didn’t believe that we can win now and believe in the talent that we have in that locker room but for us it’s about sticking to what we do. Playing complimentary football, playing smart football and winning the game in the fourth quarter.”

They’ve done it for three straight Sundays, getting better as the game unfolds. The next chance comes Monday night, against the Giants.

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Despite finishing game with glove, Matt Ryan says thumb is fine

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) runs off the field after an NFL football game  against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The Falcons won 45-32. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

Matt Ryan was able to flash a thumb’s up last night, and said any issue with his thumb during the game was not a problem moving forward.

According to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com, Ryan appeared to hurt his left (non-throwing) thumb during last night’s win over the Saints.

After being sacked by Nick Fairley in the fourth quarter, he went to the sideline and was getting checked by athletic trainers. When he returned to the game, he was wearing a glove on his left hand.

I took a hit on it in the game, but I’m fine,” Ryan said. “Put a glove on just to make sure I’d get a good grip afterwards. But I’m fine. I feel pretty good.”

Whatever degree of issue it was, Falcons coach Dan Quinn wasn’t even aware of it after the game, so it’s reasonable to think it’s no big deal.

Ryan’s been among the most durable quarterbacks in the league, not missing a game since 2009 when a turf toe injury sidelined him.

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Michael Floyd cleared to return Sunday, had headaches Monday

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:   Corey Graham #20 of the Buffalo Bills breaks up a pass intended for Michael Floyd #15 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at New Era Field on September 25, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd hit his head hard on the turf when he was tackled during Sunday’s game against the Bills, but he was checked by the medical staff on the sideline and cleared to return.

On Monday, however, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Floyd was reporting headaches and has now entered the concussion protocol.

That points to one of the inherent flaws in the NFL’s procedures on game days: Even if a player isn’t exhibiting any symptoms of a concussion immediately after he takes a hit to the head, it’s possible that he did suffer a concussion and will only show symptoms later.

Floyd, who is second among the Cardinals’ wide receivers with nine catches this season, will not be able to play Sunday against the Rams unless he is cleared through the league’s concussion evaluation process.

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Packers’ Jared Cook suffers high ankle sprain

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 18: Jared Cook #89 of the Green Bay Packers is tackled by Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings during the fourth quarter of the game on September 18, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers tight end Jared Cook is expected to miss some time with a high ankle sprain.

Although there’s been no official word from the team and the Packers are on their bye this week, a high ankle sprain usually takes several weeks to heal, so it’s unlikely that he’d be on the field when they return in Week Five against the Giants.

Cook was seen in the Packers’ locker room on crutches and wearing a protective boot.

Through three games, Cook is fourth on the team with six catches.

While Cook is out, Richard Rodgers and Justin Perillo will get more playing time at tight end. Devon Cajuste could be called up from the practice squad if the Packers think they need a third healthy tight end on the roster.

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Gus Bradley doesn’t think offense was too conservative

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley in the game against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field on September 25, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Jaguars lost 19-17 to the Ravens on Sunday, Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said he thought the team was too conservative after taking a 17-16 lead in the fourth quarter.

The Jaguars got the ball twice in Baltimore territory following Joe Flacco interceptions and saw the drives end with a Blake Bortles interception and a blocked field goal. They ran twice for no gain before the interception and ran on first down on the second drive before a completed pass and sack of Bortles led to the field goal attempt.

On Monday, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said he had no problem with how offensive coordinator Greg Olson called the plays.

“You look at the four-minute situation, there are a lot of time management discussions,” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “They had three timeouts. We talked about that in OTAs and training camp: We’ve got to be able to run it when they know we’re going to run it. We didn’t get that done yesterday. You have to do [run it well] so they use their timeouts and we were looking to get a first down. That’s not to say you won’t throw it on third down, but we really wanted to strain our guys and [say], ‘This is a must time. You have to be able to run the ball here.'”

The Jaguars haven’t been able to run the ball when defenses don’t know they’re going to run it, so it’s no great shock that they failed to do it when the Ravens were waiting for Chris Ivory. The sack and interception make it clear that passing the ball wasn’t necessarily going to be a silver bullet for the Jaguars, but zigging when the Ravens were expecting a zag might have been a good way to go with a chance to take a commanding lead late in the game.

Losing close games leads to that kind of Monday morning quarterbacking and the Jags have done a fair amount of it under Bradley over the last three-plus years. The word from owner Shad Khan this offseason was that it was time for that to change, but the song has remained the same so far this season.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers runs against the Detroit Lions
at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills defense was more aggressive against the Cardinals.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said there may be lineup changes coming.

What did Patriots coach Bill Belichick see in DL John Hughes?

A look at why the Jets passed so much in the red zone.

Ravens G Alex Lewis is going through the concussion protocol.

LB Vontaze Burfict is back for the Bengals.

Browns WR Corey Coleman promises a full-speed return from his broken hand.

What will RB Le’Veon Bell’s return mean for the Steelers offense?

Texans coach Bill O’Brien said that his team has put last week’s loss behind them.

Rookie G Joe Haeg had a good showing for the Colts against the Chargers.

What’s the problem with the Jaguars running game?

The Titans hope WR Kendall Wright can get on the field this week.

QB Trevor Siemian continues to earn rave reviews from the Broncos.

RB Jamaal Charles‘ return still looms in the future for the Chiefs.

Nine rookies saw time for the Raiders in their Week Three win.

Said Chargers coach Mike McCoy of Achilles injuries suffered by his players, “We’re going to do all the research we can definitely to figure out, is there something we can do to help the players, but we do that every year.”

Said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett of QB Dak Prescott, “We haven’t just put the handcuffs on him, if you will. We let him play. He’s seen a lot of different fronts, a lot of different covers, a lot of different pressures.”

How will the Giants shuffle their running backs with Shane Vereen injured?

The Eagles will stick with RB Ryan Mathews as a starter when he’s healthy.

Coach Jay Gruden may have revived the Redskins again.

The Bears aren’t generating much pass rush.

The Lions waived LB Zaviar Gooden on Monday.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy is pleased with how the season has opened for him.

Coach Mike Zimmer says that a strong Vikings defense is the product of a team effort.

S Keanu Neal had a good night in his Falcons debut.

Panthers CB James Bradberry isn’t going to make a lot of headlines talking about Julio Jones this week.

There don’t appear to be any easy answers for the Saints defense.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is talking about the need for a winning culture.

The Cardinals are trying to get back on track this week.

How did the Rams deal with Sunday’s extended weather delay?

Five takeaways from the 49ers’ loss in Week Three.

RB Christine Michael might have done enough to start for the Seahawks even if Thomas Rawls was healthy.

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Jets kicking the tires on C.J. Spiller today

Spiller Getty Images

The Jets are pushing all kinds of buttons at the moment, including taking a look at some veteran players who could help them now.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Jets are working out running back C.J. Spiller today.

The former Bills first-rounder has worked out for the Packers since being released by the Saints, so it’s unclear if teams think he’s physically ready to contribute.

The Jets have only been keeping two backs active on game days, with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell setting into their complementary roles.

But between the “come-to-Jesus meeting” and claiming guys like Austin Seferian-Jenkins off waivers, it’s clear the Jets are feeling a bit of pressure already after a 1-2 start.

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Jets have a “come-to-Jesus meeting” on Monday

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets oversees warm ups before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s early enough in the season that we don’t quite know exactly what some teams will turn out to be come the final weeks of the year and the Jets have to hope that they wind up looking more like the team that won in Buffalo in Week Two than the one that lost in Kansas City in Week Three.

They don’t have much time to ruminate on the topic before the Seahawks are in town and then it is on to road games in Pittsburgh and Arizona with the 1-2 Jets’ margin for error slimmer after their eight-turnover disaster against the Chiefs. Of course, a margin for error won’t matter much at all if that outing turns out to be who the Jets are this season.

That wouldn’t be a good look for coach Todd Bowles, who started off this week with a speech to his team that tried to get them moving forward after a bad loss.

“Every time you lose like that, you have to have a come-to-Jesus meeting,” Bowles said in comments distributed by the team. “We talked about accountability and just understanding where we are in the season and who we are and what we need to be, pretty much. … Throughout the course of the season, there will be a bunch of turning points. It’s not going to be the last time we face adversity. There are going to be several times down the road where we face adversity. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”

Bowles didn’t delve into specifics about what the Jets might do differently moving forward, but the broad strokes are obvious enough for a team that has looked pretty good over the last two seasons when they aren’t handing the ball to the opposition.

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