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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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All-Pro Colts receiver Willie Richardson dies at 76

willierichardson AP

Willie Richardson, a star receiver for the Colts in the 1960s and a member of one of the most athletic families in the history of football, has died at the age of 76.

After an All-American career at Jackson State, Richardson was drafted by both the Baltimore Colts of the NFL and the New York Jets of the AFL in 1963. He signed with the Colts and became a first-team All-Pro in 1967, when he was third in the league with 63 catches and added 860 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Richardson had five brothers who played at Jackson State, and three of them played in the NFL: Gloster Richardson played for the Chiefs, Cowboys and Browns, Tom Richardson played for the Patriots and Ernie Richardson played for the Browns.

In Super Bowl III, Richardson was the Colts’ leading receiver, catching six passes for 58 yards in a loss to the Jets.

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Dolphins add a coach, lose a personnel executive

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: A Miami Dolphins helmet sits on the grass before the start of their game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 13, 2015 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins added another coach to Adam Gase’s first staff on Friday afternoon.

The team announced that Daronte Jones has been named the team’s assistant defensive backs coach. He will work with Lou Anarumo, who moved back to the defensive backs role he occupied before being named the interim defensive coordinator when Kevin Coyle was dismissed during the regular season.

Jones spent the 2015 season as the defensive backs coach at the University of Wisconsin and served in the same role at the University of Hawaii from 2012 to 2014. He’s also coached in the CFL and at lower collegiate levels since entering coaching in 2001.

The Dolphins also announced that they have parted ways with Eric Stokes, who was the team’s senior personnel executive and assistant general manager for the last two years. Stokes accompanied Dennis Hickey from Tampa Bay to Miami when Hickey was named the General Manager in 2014, but Hickey was relieved of his duties with the team last month.

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Joe Webb fined $8,681 for Super Bowl unnecessary roughness

during their game at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Getty Images

The Panthers picked up 12 penalties on their way to their 24-10 loss in Super Bowl 50, including a personal foul on the final play of the game.

Wide receiver Joe Webb was flagged for unnecessary roughness at the end of a short pass completion to running back Fozzy Whittaker. PFT confirmed with the league on Friday that Webb has been fined $8,681 for the play, which is a sour cherry to put on top of an altogether unpleasant Sunday.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Malik Jackson were also fined for infractions during the game.

The league also confirmed that guard Trai Turner was not fined after being penalized for unnecessary roughness at the end of a 10-yard run by Whittaker in the third quarter. Safety Tre Boston also avoided a fine after being penalized for an illegal blindside block and unsportsmanlike conduct during the game. Those are both personal fouls, which may result in an ejection if the NFL adopts a rule proposed by commissioner Roger Goodell at his Super Bowl press conference.

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Dolphins cut Coples, McCain

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Allen Robinson #15 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a catch over Brice McCain #24 of the Miami Dolphins during a game  at EverBank Field on September 20, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins released cornerback Brice McCain and defensive end Quinton Coples Friday.

McCain lasted one season in Miami after a big year with the Steelers in 2014 helped him land $3 million in guarantees from the Dolphins on the open market.

McCain, 29, was due to make $2.5 million in 2016. He finished 2015 with one interception, 10 pass breakups and 31 tackles in 11 starts.

Coples was claimed off waivers from the Jets last November. He played in six games for the Dolphins without recording any stats.

A first-round pick of the Jets in 2012, Coples has 16.5 career sacks but had none last season.

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Broncos’ Malik Jackson fined $8,681 for late hit

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Getty Images

Broncos defensive lineman Malik Jackson had a big game in the Super Bowl, but he’s not getting his full paycheck from the game.

The NFL has fined Jackson $8,681 for a late hit on Cam Newton in the second quarter.

Although Jackson got a 15-yard penalty for the hit, it turned out not to be costly for the Broncos. On the next play, the Panthers gave the ball to Mike Tolbert, who fumbled the ball back to the Broncos.

Jackson scored the game’s first touchdown when he recovered Newton’s fumble in the end zone. He also tipped a pass and was in on five tackles, all of which were tops for two or fewer yards. So other than the penalty, it was a strong game from Jackson.

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B.J. Raji hasn’t talked to Packers about contract yet

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 09: B.J. Raji #90 of the Green Bay Packers watches from the bench as his teammates take on the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field on August 9, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 17-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers re-signed an impending free agent defensive lineman on Friday when they agreed to terms on a deal with Letroy Guion, but another one hasn’t heard from the team yet.

B.J. Raji told Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that Guion’s new deal was “well deserved” and that he hasn’t started any contract negotiations with the team at this point. The Packers also extended defensive end Mike Daniels before the end of the regular season.

Guion’s deal is reportedly worth up to $11.25 million and Raji said he was “uncertain” about how that contract might impact Raji’s future with the team. Given that both players see time on the interior of the defensive line and played out last season on similar one-year deals, it’s fair to assume that there’s going to be some impact on what the Packers are willing to do to keep Raji at this point.

Raji started 17 games for Green Bay across the regular season and playoffs, which was his sixth as a member of the Packers. He had 22 tackles and half a sack in the regular season and four more tackles in the postseason.

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Charles Woodson lands in Keyshawn’s seat at ESPN

Zz0wMDRmYTRlMDkzODlmNDQxZDBkMGIyMjFhMzgwY2E0OQ== AP

When word emerged that ESPN would part ways with Keyshawn Johnson after nine years with Sunday NFL Countdown, it was believed they already knew who would take his place. And Charles Woodson was believed to be on the short list.

He was. And he’s now on the even shorter list. Woodson has the job, according to Jason McIntyre of TheBigLead.com.

The 1997 Heisman winner (beating out the likes of Peyton Manning and Randy Moss), Woodson retired last month after 18 NFL seasons with the Raiders, Packers, and Raiders again.

Per McIntyre, Woodson will join the current cast of Chris Berman, Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka, and Cris Carter. However, many in the industry expect the lineup to last only one year, with even more changes coming in 2017 as the network tries to unload bloated salaries and simultaneously skew younger.

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NFL fines Aqib Talib $26,044 for Super Bowl personal fouls

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Aqib Talib #21 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after defeating the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib got two personal fouls in Super Bowl 50, and the NFL has fined him for both of them.

Talib was fined a total of $26,044 for facemasking and taunting against the Panthers.

The NFL suspended Talib during the regular season for an eye poke, and he’s lucky he wasn’t suspended again for his Super Bowl actions. The facemasking foul was especially egregious, and Talib admitted after the game that he did it on purpose, figuring that since the penalty was at the 3-yard line, the half the distance to the goal line penalty wouldn’t be a big deal.

When it comes to on-field misconduct, Talib is a repeat offender. The NFL will be watching him closely in 2016, and further offenses may result in another suspension.

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Von Miller, Anquan Boldin to appear at Grammys

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Super Bowl MVP   Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  The Broncos defeated the Panthers 24-10.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

A pair of NFL stars are heading to the Grammys, and believe it or not, it’s not going to be Adam Jones and Antonio Brown.

The league announced that Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and Walter Payton Man of the Year Anquan Boldin will appear during Monday night’s awards show for the music industry.

Miller and Boldin will introduce a performance by Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt, taking a victory lap for the honors they earned last week.

Of course, it would be a lot more interesting if Brown had actually been nominated for a Grammy, as Jones suggested he should have been for “faking” a concussion after a hard shot to the head from Vontaze Burfict.

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Mike Carey’s problems come more from form than substance

161009162 Getty Images

In many jobs, the ability to perform successfully hinges on the ability to communicate effectively. For anyone who appears on TV (and speaks while doing so), the ability to communicate well becomes critical.

For oft-criticized CBS officiating expert Mike Carey, his actual or perceived struggles in the job have much more to do with his ability to communicate than his ability to accurately predict the outcome of replay reviews.

Two years ago, when I heard that CBS had hired Carey, my reaction was this, “Good move. He communicates very well as a referee.  He’ll be perfect for the job.”

During the 2014 season, Carey’s first on the job with CBS, the differences in communication requirements for the two jobs became obvious.

A referee communicates in narrow, short, tightly-constructed sound bites: “Holding. Offense. Number 65. 10 yard penalty. Still first down.”

It’s a small universe of possible messages that converts most referees (i.e., anyone not named Ed Hochuli) into the human equivalent of Woody from Toy Story. That’s why Hochuli’s verbosity gets noticed. He’s not a doll with a string who quickly declares “there’s a snake in my boots” and shuts up. He strays from the script, often extremely far from the script. (It’s also why Ben Dreith’s “he’s giving him the business” continues to be one of the most memorable officiating moments in history.)

For the job Carey currently has, there’s no menu of phrases that get slapped together to communicate a message without often even constructing an actual sentence. For anyone who has to speak on the air in extemporaneous fashion, it takes time and repetitions to master the task of producing a clear explanation that was formulated on the fly. Through two years, Carey hasn’t mastered that skill. The real question is whether CBS will give him enough time and opportunities to do so, before eliminating the position or hiring someone else for it.

It appears that, at least for now, CBS plans to circle the wagons and stand behind Carey, despite the obvious difference between his performance that the performance of FOX’s Mike Pereira. A new interview of Carey at TheMMQB.com feels almost like part of the effort to prop Carey up, with a headline declaring that Carey has a “tough job,” introductory paragraphs that defend Carey’s 0-for-1 performance in Super Bowl 50, and a Q&A that gives him plenty of opportunities to offer excuses for his struggles.

For example, Carey at one point explains that he has fewer replay angles as a commentator than he had as a referee.

“When I’m on the field, I go to the box and I tell them exactly what I want to see, and then I tell them to freeze it or roll it slowly. When I’m on TV, I’m subject to whatever they show, so I don’t have any control there,” Carey said.

But that’s where the skill of speaking extemporaneously in a frank, self-aware way becomes even more important. Even with limited time, Carey could say something like, “Maybe the referee has access to an angle that we don’t” in order to properly gauge the expectations of the audience — and to make an eventual mistake seem like less of a mistake.

Carey also tried to compare his effort to predict rulings with efforts by others in the media to predict the outcome of games.

“[N]ot unlike all the other experts who chose who was going to win the AFC Championship, I make errors,” Carey said. “Everybody makes errors.”

He’s right that everyone makes errors (and I know that as well as aynone), but it’s not right to compare errors in picking winners to errors in analyzing the outcome of a replay review. The latter isn’t even a prediction; it’s an assessment of what the ruling should be. And the best officiating experts will make it look like their assessments are more accurate than the official NFL assessment, in the event the two differ.

With Carey, his inability to communicate beyond saying “holding, offense, number 65, 10 yard penalty, still first down,” has contributed to the impression that he’s clumsily throwing a dart, not that he’s analyzing in a persuasive, authoritative fashion what he sees — and that even if the referee explains it a different way, Carey is right and the referee is wrong.

Yes, the job is tough. Yes, the communication requirements are fundamentally different. And, yes, the fact that Mike Pereira makes it look so easy makes the job even tougher for someone who, through two full seasons, has not yet shown he’s suited for it.

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Sean Payton: Jahri Evans was an integral part of our success

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Guard Jahri Evans #73 of the New Orleans Saints walks off the field following the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Saints 31-19.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

We’ve known for a few days that guard Jahri Evans won’t be back with the Saints in 2016, but the team didn’t officially announce his departure until Friday.

The statement about the release is headed with a message of thanks on the Saints website along with a list of Evans’ accomplishments while he was a member of the team. It also includes praise from General Manager Mickey Loomis, who said Evans was “one of the best guards” in the league over his time with the team, and coach Sean Payton.

“Jahri has been a fantastic player for our team and an integral part of our success over the last 10 years,” Payton said in the statement. “He’s one of the toughest and smartest players I have ever been around in coaching and that coupled with his unselfishness and dependability made him one of the most respected players in our locker room. When we arrived in 2006, he was a part of our first draft class, which became the foundation for our 2009 championship team.”

Evans’ agent says his client wouldn’t take a pay cut to remain with the team and is “healthy and hungry” to move on to another team for the 2016 season.

In addition to formalizing the Evans move, the Saints announced the previously reported departures of linebacker David Hawthorne, linebacker Ramon Humber and wide receiver Seantavius Jones. They also announced that they have re-signed cornerback Tony Carter and fullback Austin Johnson. Both ended the season with the team, although Carter didn’t play after signing in December.

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Oakland A’s: “Unfortunate” Mark Davis brought us into discussion of Raiders lease

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 09: A general view of the exterior of the O.co Coliseum prior to the start of an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders on November 9, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders have extended their lease at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland for another year, giving time for the city and team to work on an agreement that would keep the Raiders in town for a much longer period of time.

Raiders owner Mark Davis said that the Oakland A’s are a major impediment to that effort because they signed a 10-year lease at the Coliseum in 2014. Davis said the A’s have “tied our hands behind our back” because they haven’t declared their intentions beyond that point and that the Raiders don’t want to build a stadium in another part of the site only to have “the ingress, egress, parking and tailgating experience” disrupted should the Coliseum subsequently be torn down to build a baseball stadium.

The baseball team responded to Davis’ comments on Friday.

“It is unfortunate Mr. Davis decided to bring the A’s into his discussion about the Raiders’ stadium lease,” A’s owner Lew Wolff said in a statement. “We respect his right to explore his options in and out of Oakland, including his widely reported consideration of Los Angeles and other markets. The A’s signed a 10-year lease at the Coliseum because we are committed to Oakland. Mr. Davis has said he is fully committed to do a new football stadium in Oakland and there is nothing in our lease that precludes Mr. Davis and the Raiders from building on the Coliseum site.”

There are also funding issues unrelated to the A’s that will need to get worked out before the Raiders can move forward on a new stadium in Oakland, so it’s probably a good thing for everyone involved that there’s more time to figure out solutions before any final decisions about the Raiders’ home are determined.

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Report: Bears adding Ben McDaniels to staff

ENGLEWOOD, CO - CIRCA 2010: In this photo provided by the NFL, Ben McDaniels of the Denver Broncos poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears are adding former Rutgers offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels to their offensive staff, SI.com reported Friday.

McDaniels is the younger brother of Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Ben McDaniels’ first NFL job was on his brother’s staff in Denver in 2009, and he was the Broncos quarterbacks coach in 2010.

He spent the last two seasons at Rutgers and was offensive coordinator last season. McDaniels, 35, also was an offensive assistant for the Buccaneers in 2012-13.

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Steelers re-sign long snapper Warren

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Steelers have signed long snapper Greg Warren to a new one-year contract.

Warren, 34, hasn’t missed a game since 2009. He’s been with the Steelers since 2005.

Warren started as an undrafted rookie and has played in 165 regular-season games and 12 playoff games. His 165 regular-season games are the fifth-most among active Steelers, and he’s one of three active Steelers who have won a Super Bowl ring with the team. He also played last season on a one-year contract.

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Giants hiring Jeff Zgonina to help coach defensive line

HOUSTON - AUGUST 9: Jeff Zgonina #93 of the Houston Texans looks on during the game against the Denver Broncos at Reliant Stadium on August 9, 2008 in Houston, Texas. ( Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants added some experience to their coaching staff, with a guy who played in the league for nearly two decades.

According to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports, the Giants are hiring longtime NFL lineman Jeff Zgonina as their assistant defensive line coach.

Zgonina held that same job with the Texans in 2013.

He played in the league for 17 years, doing stints with — take a deep breath here — the Steelers, Panthers, Falcons, Rams, Colts, Dolphins and Texans. He won a Super Bowl with the Rams, and finished his career in Houston.

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