On Tuesday we noted that an ESPN the Magazine profile of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that Goodell has told friends he fears a player will die on the field. On Wednesday Goodell denied ever saying that.
In a question-and-answer session following his speech at the University of North Carolina, Goodell was asked about saying he fears someone may die on the field, and he stated flatly that he had never made such comments.
“I have never said that,” Goodell said, according to a transcript provided by the NFL.
Goodell declined interview requests for the ESPN the Magazine profile, but it quoted an unnamed former player who is close to Goodell as describing Goodell as “terrified” that a player may die on the field some day. In his speech on Wednesday, however, Goodell said only that he fears any player getting hurt.
“I worry about any injury on the field,” Goodell said. “We are trying to make the game safer for the players who play. The fans care about that. The teams care about that. We are going to do everything we can to make the game safer. Any injury that we see, we want to reduce, particularly catastrophic injuries. We have been able to do that by carefully managing the rules and carefully doing what we can to improve the equipment, and we are not going to relent on that. We will continue to stay after that.”
Whether or not Goodell has actually vocalized the fear that a player will die playing in an NFL game, that would obviously be a tragedy. The kind of tragedy that Goodell is willing to change the game to avoid.