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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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DeAndre Hopkins wants to be “treated for what I’m worth”

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates a touchdown pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first quarter on September 27, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans gave defensive end J.J. Watt a big-money deal after only three seasons. They’ve yet to do the same for receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who’ll soon begin his fourth NFL campaign.

The first-round pick has a five-year rookie deal, so the first question is when will the Texans make a meaningful effort to extend his contract? The second — and far more important — question is how much will they offer?

“I’m not looking for a certain range,” Hopkins said Saturday, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com. “I just want to be treated for what I’m worth. That’s fair to say, right?”

It’s fair to say, but harder to do. A player is “worth” whatever someone will pay him. But the Texans have ways to keep someone else from paying him more than the Texans would pay, starting with two more years of Hopkins being under contract and then the franchise tag.

The earlier the Texans pay Hopkins, the sooner he’ll be shifting the injury risk to the team. Thus, the longer they wait, the more Hopkins should want.

For now, the team and Hopkins’ agents are talking. Are they making any progress? Per Ganguli, the wideout paused before offering this assessment.

“You know, that’s between my agents and the Texans,” Hopkins said. “I love this city. I don’t want to play anywhere else but here. So the rest will work itself out, hopefully.”

Hopkins had 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. The year before that, he 76 passes for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns. Making both performances even more impressive is the reality that the Texans haven’t exactly had franchise-level quarterback play. If they get it from Brock Osweiler in 2016, Hopkins’ numbers could go even higher.

And so will what he’s worth. Whatever that may be.

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Bucs claim WR Krause

Tampa Bay Bucaneers v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Buccaneers claimed wide receiver Jonathan Krause off waivers from the Eagles Saturday.

Krause has bounced around the league the last two seasons, spending time with the Browns, Patriots and Eagles. He broke into the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Browns in 2014 and played his first two regular-season games with the Eagles last season, catching two passes for 11 yards.

The Bucs made room on the roster for Krause by designating offensive lineman Dominique Robertson as waived with a non-football injury. Robertson is an undrafted rookie out of West Georgia.

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McCoy says he’s not bothered by “opinions” or perceptions

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills in action against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy wasn’t charged for his role in a February nightclub incident involving McCoy and some off-duty police officers, but the story made headlines.

If McCoy’s reputation took a hit from the alleged fight, he doesn’t seem to mind.

I know what type of person I am and what I do for my community, what type of father I am,” McCoy said Saturday during a hometown charity event. “People always have their own opinions. You can’t change them. And I’m fine with that.”

The NFL has decided not to discipline McCoy for his role in the alleged February incident. He hasn’t given many — if any — interviews in the meantime, so his deciding to talk to Harrisburg area reporters Saturday counts as a big deal.

The Eagles traded McCoy to the Bills before the 2015 season. He’s been involved in his share of controversies over the last several seasons, but he’s said he’s not bothered by “what the media gives” people.

“If the media only paints a picture of a player as this or whatever that may be, then that’s what the people see,” McCoy said. “So I don’t really go back and forth about that.”

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Bengals cut Taylor Mays

Carolina Panthers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals released veteran safety Taylor Mays Saturday, just a few months after bringing him back on a one-year deal.

Mays played for the Bengals from 2011-14. He played 14 games and started five last season for the Raiders after being cut by the Vikings and Lions. A second-round pick of the 49ers in 2010, Mays has played in 80 career games and started 15.

In March, Mays was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The Bengals had added Mays in April but released him just before the start of training camp.

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Still unsigned, Ryan Fitzpatrick is golfing as camp approaches

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:   Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets watches the game against the Buffalo Bills from the sidelines during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets 22-17 (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick remains unsigned as NFL training camps begin to open, and when last we heard about him he was declining to talk about his contract status.

But Fitzpatrick will talk about golf, telling NBC he found teeing off at the American Century Championship “nerve wracking.”

“It’s easier to play in front of a crowd when you’re good at something and comfortable doing it,” he said. “Football is easy to play in front of a crowd. Golf, you have to think about.”

Fitzpatrick doesn’t sound like he’s ready to start thinking about Jets camp just yet.

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Ravens place six on PUP; Flacco not among them

Divisional Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Ravens placed six players, many of them regulars and notable names, on the active-physically unable to perform list Saturday, meaning those players won’t be ready to participate in the start of training camp.

The six players the Ravens placed on PUP Saturday were wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Jumal Rolle.

The Ravens placing those players on PUP means quarterback Joe Flacco, cornerback Jimmy Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta are among the players who have received clearance to participate in the start of camp. Flacco suffered a torn ACL last November, so his availability for the start of camp — even if the team limits his work — is a positive sign both for his rehab and for his potential ability to play in the season opener.

The active-PUP designation for the start of camp is fairly common and means the players can be activated if and when they’re cleared to practice. The PUP designation protects the team in case the players aren’t cleared, keeping them eligible for the reserve-PUP list when the regular season begins.

None of the PUP designations come as a surprise. Suggs and Smith are both trying to come back from torn Achilles tendons, while Perriman has battled multiple injuries. Dumervil had offseason foot surgery, Richardson has had a lingering hamstring issue and Rolle is expected to miss all of 2016 with a torn Achilles.

Injured players reported to Ravens camp on Friday. The full team reports July 27, and full camp opens July 28.

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Offensive tackle Nate Chandler retires

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 14:  Jonathan Stewart #28 and Nate Chandler #78 of the Carolina Panthers celebrate a 4th quarter touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the game at Bank of America Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears announced Saturday that offensive lineman Nate Chandler has been placed on the reserve-retired list.

Chandler signed with the Bears last month. He had played 37 games, starting 19, with the Panthers from 2012-14. Chandler, 27, spent last season on the Panthers’ injured-reserve list after he re-injured knee he had surgically repaired in 2014.

The Panthers released Chandler in March. He started 11 games at right tackle in 2014 and eight games in 2013 while playing both guard and tackle. The Bears had signed Chandler over Jake Long after both worked out for the team, so it’s possible that the team will revisit the possibility of signing Long.

The announcement of Chandler’s retirement came at the same time the team announced that cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman had also been placed on reserve-retired. Tillman had used social media to announce his retirement early last week, then signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bears on Friday.

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Ezekiel Elliott says “evil never prevails” in wake of domestic violence allegations

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Getty Images

In the aftermath of Friday’s claim that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had assaulted a former girlfriend, multiple people had denied the allegations on Elliott’s behalf, including Michael Irvin and Elliott’s father. Eventually, Elliott provided a three-word assessment of the situation on Twitter: “Evil NEVER prevails.”

He followed that message a few hours later by thanking everyone for the birthday wishes on what was his 21st birthday.

Elliott’s aggressive message in response to the allegation will surely do little to weaken the resolve of the person alleging that he committed violence against her. The question now becomes whether the claims are proven or debunked when the authorities and the NFL conduct separate investigations — applying very different standards of proof.

Elliott faces criminal sanctions only if a jury finds proof beyond a reasonable doubt. He could be punished by the league if an investigation shows the claim is more likely than not to have occurred.

Elliott seems confident that the evidence will vindicate him.

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Drew Brees: I haven’t heard from the Saints on a contract in 3 months

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 03:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints signals to his teammates at the line of scrimmage during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Early in the offseason, there was widespread talk that the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees would come to an agreement on a long-term contract extension that would make Brees the franchise quarterback for the remainder of his career. That hasn’t happened.

Instead, Brees says he has heard nothing from the Saints since an exchange of proposals three months ago.

Not sure why things have not progressed,” Brees told ESPN. “They made an offer in March, we made an offer shortly thereafter. And besides the Josh Norman deal [when the Saints and Brees talked about a deal to clear cap space], there has been no talk about a contract since.”

Brees, who is heading into the final year of his contract, said he views the start of the regular season as the deadline to get a deal done. Without a long-term deal, the Saints really don’t have a realistic option of using the franchise tag on Brees next year: Because Brees has already been franchised twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. It’s just not realistic to think the Saints would devote that kind of cap space to Brees next year.

If nothing does get done, Brees becomes a free agent in March.

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Farewell, Minnesota

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Before Wednesday, I’d never been to Minnesota. I kind of don’t want to leave.

But leave I must, back home to West Virginia to get ready for the looming launch of training camps. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post quotes from some of the interviews we did during two days of PFT Live at U.S. Bank Stadium, where guests included Vikings owner Mark Wilf, Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, and brand-new Vikings guard Alex Boone.

The trip was capped by a visit to the legendary Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul, where the Mancini brothers took good care of us — and filled me with enough fat and calories that I won’t need to eat until Thanksgiving. I’ll eat before then anyway.

For now, you feast on all episodes (fat and calorie-free) of PFT Live from the week that was at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Report: Le’Veon Bell missed “several” drug tests

Le'Veon Bell AP

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell claimed last month that he never missed a drug test. He reportedly missed more than one.

Ian Rapoport reported on NFL Network that Bell missed “several” drug tests.

Bell was already in the NFL’s substance-abuse program and was suspended for the first two games of last season in connection with a 2014 arrest for marijuana possession and DUI. Players who have never violated the policy are generally only tested for drugs of abuse once a year, but players who are already in the policy, like Bell, are subject to many tests.

Bell is appealing the suspension, but realistically, it’s hard to see why he would win an appeal: The NFL’s drug-testing policy makes clear that players are required to make themselves available to drug testing, and a player who misses several tests has clearly violated the policy. Missing one test could be a miscommunication. Missing several tests is a lot harder to explain away.

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Making sense of the Arthur Jones PED suspension

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 18:  Arthur Jones #97 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on before the 2015 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones suspended four games under the PED policy, some may think that he committed multiple violations before triggering a suspension, because that’s how suspensions work under the substance-abuse policy (which encompasses marijuana and other non-PED-type drugs). Under the PED policy, however, the first positive test results in a suspension.

In 2014, the formula changed to impose a two-game suspension if the player tests positive for a diuretic or masking agent, a four-game suspension if the player tests positive for a stimulant or anabolic agent, and a six-game suspension if he tests positive for a both  a “prohibited substance” and a diuretic or masking agent, or if the player attempted to substitute, dilute, or adulterate a specimen, if the player attempted to manipulate a test result, or if the player committed a violation of the law or other documented violation based on credible evidence.

A second violation triggers a 10-game suspension, and a third violation results in a banishment for at least two full seasons.

Jones joined the Colts in 2014 after spending his first four seasons with the Ravens. In two years with the Colts, Jones has appeared in only nine games with three starts.

As explained by Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, the ineffectiveness, injury history, and suspension could combine to prompt the Colts to dump Jones sooner than later.

Jones signed a five-year, $33 million deal in 2014. Cutting him now would result in a $1.1 million cap charge for 2016, and a $2.2 million cap charge for 2017.

But with Jones previously agreeing to reduce his salary from $4.5 million to $2.5 million for 2016, the Colts may decide to see whether Jones provides any evidence of an ability and willingness to step up before they tell him to step off.

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Hue Jackson has drawn up plays specifically for Terrelle Pryor

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor #17 of the Cleveland Browns rushes against cornerback Richard Sherman #25 and outside linebacker K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Browns 30-13.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The guy who once drew up plays for Terrelle Pryor the quarterback is now doing the same thing for Terrelle Pryor the receiver.

As explained by Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns coach Hue Jackson has devised specific ways to get the ball into Pryor’s hands so that he then can use his size and speed to do good things for the offense. It’ll happen via short, quick passes and reverses.

Five years ago, Hue Jackson was the coach in Oakland, and Pryor was a quarterback who arrived via the supplemental draft.

As Pryor continues to learn the receiver position, plays aimed specifically at letting him do what he does best will increase his confidence, justify his roster spot, and ultimately help the team win games.

Pryor isn’t the only weapon who will be used creatively by Jackson, according to Pluto. Running back Duke Johnson will be  used at times as a receiver, because Jackson wants to find different ways to throw passes to him.

Ultimately, the player throwing the passes will have the biggest impact on the offense. The more Jackson can get out of the options available to quarterback Robert Griffin III (or, if there’s a true competition, perhaps Josh McCown), the better the quarterback will look.

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Dennis Green’s success with any quarterback may be his greatest legacy

Bears v Vikings Getty Images

After news broke that longtime NFL coach Dennis Green had died at the age of 67, Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway paid tribute to Green.

“My heart and prayers go out to Dennis Green and his family. Had the pleasure of playing for Dennis at Stanford for 2 years. Great Coach!” Elway wrote on Twitter.

But the single most impressive accomplishment of Green’s career may be that he didn’t need a great quarterback like Elway. In fact, Green could take just about any quarterback, plug him into Green’s offense, and get to the playoffs. Green took the Vikings to the playoffs eight times in his 11 seasons as head coach, in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Just take a look at the quarterbacks Green had in those seasons:

1992: The Vikings went 8-4 with Rich Gannon as their starter and 3-1 with Sean Salisbury as their starter. Although Gannon would later become a very good quarterback with the Raiders, he was viewed at the time as a nobody — and Salisbury was viewed as worse. And yet Green rode them to the playoffs in his first season as head coach.

1993: Jim McMahon was viewed as old and washed up and just a backup at that point in his career, but Green brought him to Minnesota and rode him to the playoffs.

1994: Warren Moon is a Hall of Fame quarterback, but he was seen as way past his prime when the Vikings acquired him in a trade with the Houston Oilers. And yet with Moon as the starter, the Vikings made the playoffs again.

1996: Moon was injured at the start of the season, so Brad Johnson — who had never started a game in a four-year NFL career up to that point — stepped in and led the Vikings to a 4-0 start. Moon would eventually return, he and Johnson would flip-flop on the depth chart, and it would ultimately be Johnson who led the Vikings to the playoffs.

1997: Johnson shared the job with Randall Cunningham, who had been viewed as so far past his prime that he wasn’t even in the league the year before. Again, Green led the Vikings to the playoffs.

1998: With Cunningham supplanting Johnson as the starter, the Vikings had their best season of the Green era, going 15-1 and falling in the NFC Championship Game.

1999: Green benched Cunningham for Jeff George, another past-his-prime quarterback, and once again found a winning touch, as the Vikings went 8-2 in George’s 10 starts and made the playoffs again.

2000: Green started Daunte Culpepper and saw him put together an incredible season, with 3,937 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns, 470 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. The Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game, which would be the last playoff game Green coached.

That revolving door of quarterbacks is worth repeating: Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and Daunte Culpepper. Green never had one franchise quarterback he could count on year after year. Instead, Green found a new quarterback year after year. And he kept finding ways to win. That was a great piece of coaching.

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Gabbert seen as better fit than Kaepernick in Kelly’s offense

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 08:  Blaine Gabbert #2 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after being tackled close to the goal line during the first half of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at Levi's Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. The ball was ruled down on the 1-yard line and the 49ers scored on the next play.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Blaine GabbertColin Kaepernick quarterback competition has an early leader, and it’s the guy who was once viewed as a draft bust, not the guy who was once viewed as a future superstar.

That’s the word from ESPN, which reports that Gabbert has picked up new coach Chip Kelly’s offense, is seen inside the organization as a better fit than Kaepernick, and has the edge heading into training camp.

Although Kelly and 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke have said publicly that they like Kaepernick and still think he can succeed, virtually all the talk coming out of San Francisco this offseason has indicated that Gabbert is leading in the quarterback competition. In fact, it’s fair to wonder if the only reason Kaepernick is even on the roster is that the 49ers misjudged the trade market and thought when they picked up his guaranteed $11.9 million salary this season that they’d be able to unload him for a draft pick.

When Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season and to the NFC Championship Game after the 2013 season, he was widely viewed as one of the league’s up-and-coming stars. At the same time, Gabbert was struggling mightily in Jacksonville as a No. 10 overall pick who appeared to be a massive mistake in the draft. At the time, it would have been unthinkable that Gabbert and Kaepernick could compete for a job and Gabbert would win. But from all indications, that’s what’s expected to happen in San Francisco this summer.

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