NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talked with the 2010 NFL Draft class Sunday night at the Rookie Symposium in Carlsbad, CA. Goodell noted that the Symposium is the start of working with players to transition into the NFL and beyond the NFL. He also stressed that it starts with being good men.
Following his talk with the players, Goodell spoke with the media on topics including a rookie wage scale, CBA talks, player safety, and personal conduct.
Below is a transcript of the Commissioner’s session with the media.
NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL
June 27, 2010
On his opening remarks to the players at the Rookie Symposium:
We spent a lot of time just talking about why they are here. As NFL Draft choices, that comes with a lot of responsibility. I asked Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams to come to the front of the room because they came into my office the day before the Draft. Gerald was the one to ask me if it was okay for him to show a little emotion at the Draft – you may recall he showed a lot of emotion – and I told him yes. Trent asked me to use his nickname and I told him that we don’t do that very often, but he asked me three times. I used this as an example for both of them. I said, ‘it’s about being real. It’s about using your own emotion and recognizing that we are on a big stage. A lot of people are focusing on you.’
I told them that the next few days are designed to help them. Not only to transition into the NFL, but beyond the NFL. That starts with being good men and making sure you can have as long a career as possible. Then I mentioned how life changes quickly. I spoke to Chad Jones today, who is in the hospital fighting for his life. He sounds like he’s doing well, but he has a long road back. It’s about preparing yourself for life. Football is not the only thing and it’s not going to last forever. I think they understood that message.
I mentioned to them that I was with Tom Brady a couple of days ago and what he thought would be most important for the rookies to hear. One of the things he talked about was veteran leadership. You have to identify those people who made the transition successfully. Who are leaders and who do things right both on and off the field? You have to hook on to them. You have to allow them to be mentors to you. I thought that was very thoughtful of Tom and it was helpful for me. We also talked about honoring the game and player safety as well.
On what specifics steps we will see towards player safety this season:
It has been a major focus for us in the enforcement of rules, so we will continue to focus on educating the players on certain techniques that we want to take out of the game and that we have taken out of the game. We are going to focus a lot on equipment. In fact, the last time I saw it was 12 teams that are going to be testing some new kind of pads. Hip pads, knee pads, thigh pads and actually some pads in the rib cage and shoulder areas. What they are designed to do is to make the guys safer because you may notice that the players are not even wearing those pads any longer in many cases. We are working with the Players Association and a variety of players to try to do what we can to design better and safer equipment.
On if he brought up personal conduct issues with the rookies:
I talked about personal conduct, but I did not speak about anyone in particular in that case. I did talk about what I call protecting the shield. My job is to protect the integrity of the NFL and make sure the game is as safe as possible. Sometimes it comes in conflict with some individuals, but it’s designed to protect those players and their reputations. I think we have a bunch of great guys in the league.
On if he thought it was a bigger need to emphasize personal conduct issues this year:
No. It’s a consistent message that I have talked to the players about.
On salaries of the top draft picks:
A new rookie compensation system is critical. It’s important that we have a system that is designed to reward players who succeed on an NFL field. When a player is paid a lot of money and doesn’t make it in the NFL and that money leaves the system, that’s not good for anybody. We need to reward performance on the field.
On the flip side of players not being rewarded:
First off, you sign a contract. You get paid a lot of money. When players perform, the history is teams re-sign them. I think one of the circumstances we are in right now is that there is a lot of uncertainty. It’s six years to free agency, so the system is different than it was. So, I think that’s a factor right now. When a player performs, teams work hard to make sure they re-sign them and get them on their team. You can point out examples and I can point out examples where money goes out of the system and that’s not good for the players either. You have to find the right balance. You have to find the balance where the players are rewarded for their production on the field and that was exactly the point I made. They have to be rewarded for what they do on the NFL field.
On free agency possibly coming earlier for all players under a new rookie compensation structure:
It’s a part of the negotiations. I think that’s something you have to sit down and talk about in a direct and open fashion.
On if the NBA slotting structure would be a possibility for the NFL:
Again, we can talk about it a variety of different ways. It’s been successful in other leagues to your point. It’s been very well accepted, not only by the players, but also by the fans in general. I think it’s been good for their system. There is a way to design it. Obviously there are certain aspects of the NFL that are unique. You need to make sure you design it, so it works for the NFL, for the players and the clubs and for our fan base.
On player medical benefits relating to an enhanced season:
Benefits are a big part of the negotiations, so you always engage in that dialogue. It’s interesting that I was just handed a series of clips from 1978 that I also looked at a year ago. When we changed from a 14-to-6 to a 16-to-4 format you would be amazed if you go back and look at those articles. It’s the exact same thing that everyone is talking about now. So it’s not new. It’s an important issue. The game is changing now. The game is changing right before our eyes. Players get injured in preseason games. We have to look at how we prepare our players; how we train our players. How we evaluate our players because the system is changing. I think you have to be sensitive to a lot of things you are talking about which are worthy for discussion.
On player compensation:
The way they get paid is a percentage of gross revenue. That’s all revenue and that includes preseason games. They get 60 percent of revenues. That’s how we determine the salary cap. So, they get a percentage of pay. If we took the preseason games away, then that would reduce revenue and reduce the amount of money that would go to the salary cap. To some extent, it’s a little bit like I get paid every two weeks. I did not get a check last week, but I still got paid last week. They have to understand that total revenue is the concept to which they get paid.
On whether he brought up the fact to the rookies that in their second year there might not be football:
It wasn’t discussed.
On if he felt a need to bring it up:
I opened it up for questions. There were no questions.
On how you would describe the labor situation and where it is right now:
The same way I described it a couple of weeks ago. There really aren’t any developments of significance to report.
On when fans ask why there isn’t talk, why isn’t there progress:
There is talk. We had a meeting just last week. There will be an agreement. There will be an agreement at some point. Everyone would like it sooner rather than later. Whether it’s the players, the owners or the fans. So I think it’s important for us all to have more productive dialogue. Sometimes these things don’t happen until you get a little closer to the end. That’s just the reality.
On if it just seems that these past few weeks have been a little more toxic with players coming out being dissatisfied with the 30 percent rule and the six-year free agency:
Obviously people want to drive a wedge sometimes. That’s a reality. I respect our players a tremendous amount. I know our clubs do. And the best thing to do is keep reaching out and talking to them. It’s one of the reasons I’m here. I got to have dinner with the guys. I had the chance to talk to them individually and collectively. And I think you have to keep reaching out to them to understand their perspective. They bring a great perspective. They’re smart. They love the game. They want to make this a career. And they have given me a lot of great input over my career in the NFL, not just my career as commissioner. I think it’s a matter of respect. And I don’t think you’ll find anyone who respects the players more than I do.
On the Michael Vick situation:
We’re still gathering the facts. I think they’ve been reported pretty accurately from what I can tell. We’ve been told by law enforcement that he’s not a focus of this at all. Obviously we have to look to see whether there’s been any violation of the policy or his conditions. We’re continuing to gather the facts.
On whether he had a chance to talk with Vince Young:
I haven’t. We’ve been gathering information on that also but I intend to visit with him some time in the next few weeks.
On avoiding a suspension — barring a major situation — if you haven’t previously been in trouble with the law:
That’s a part of our policy. Repeat offenders. That’s what we refer to it as.
On if Ben Roethlisberger and Vince Young situations are similar:
You have to look at each of these cases individually. You have to understand them. You need to determine what the issues are going on with any individual. The intent of the policy is to intervene and help some individual make a better decision and avoid trouble. So when I sit down with all the facts about Vince or any other player, you want to make sure you understand that. You want them to understand the policy and they understand the responsibility.
On whether he has a preference to the two stadium concepts in LA – City of Industry or downtown:
No, because I think there’s a lot more work that has to be done. At the end of the day, we’re at a very early stage. It’s promising that there are alternatives developing. But there is still a big hurdle to get the financing. They are difficult projects to get done and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that there hasn’t really been a stadium that was started, approved and built since 2006. It’s one of the issues that has to be addressed in the CBA.
On the San Diego stadium issue:
Again, it’s a positive development from last week with respect to the community looking for a solution. These stadiums are very complicated and the solution has to be developed that will work for the community and work for the team. There’s really no cookie-cutter here. There are a lot of compelling issues on a local basis and from a team standpoint that have to be considered and are big developments.
On his Madden Cruiser bus tour this summer and how much time he will spend on labor when interacting with players:
The owners have their representatives. And the players obviously have their representatives. I’m the commissioner. If they have questions, I’ll try and answer them. But the two parties have a legal obligation to negotiate with one another and you don’t want to interfere with that. From a broader standpoint, you want to try to get them to make sure they’re focused on this and understand how important it is to them and how important it is to the game.
On how many teams participate in the “Safe Rides” program:
Nearly all. About a year ago, we handed it back to the Players Association. There’s at least one other program that doesn’t go by the name “Safe Rides.” It’s a similar program. One of the issues the players told me directly was they’re concerned about the confidentiality of it. So if you call and use the service at 2:00 in the morning, they’re concerned the team will know that and know you were out and watching where you are. So we said to the Players Association, you take it over. You take the program so the team doesn’t have anything to do with it. We want the players safe. We want the players to use the service to get them home and avoid drinking and driving. We don’t see the statistics for it. We still offer it to our clubs and league executives.
On if he’s concerned about Tom Lewand:
Of course. Sure. As I’ve said before, this isn’t a player policy, it’s a personal conduct policy. It goes for everybody in the NFL, including yours truly.
On whether it’s reasonable to expect that the San Diego market would have the same kind of contributions that the 49ers were promised in San Francisco:
Look at the 31 markets. Every one of the projects is developed locally. Each has its own elements that are addressing community issues. Some need to have more convention facilities. Some are part of broader developments that are important to the city. I don’t think that you can assume anything because it’s done in one market. They’re all significantly different.
On doing research on injury statistics pertaining to player safety:
We talk about player health and safety every year. We look at the injury statistics and data every year. What we want to do is make sure we’re getting the best and most reliable information so that you can determine if there are trends. Are there certain injuries at certain times of the year? Or certain types of injuries on certain types of playing surfaces? Or are there injuries occurring because of a technique? So you’ve got to evaluate from a lot of different ways. There’s not a simple answer. And the data can be misleading if you’re not careful. You have to make sure it’s carefully collected and analyzed.
On if he has noticed anything from the research:
That’s why we make rule changes. That’s why we’ve tried to develop equipment in different areas. All of that is important.