Commissioner Goodell: “Everything we do is focused on the fans”

Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on NFL Total Access on NFL Network last night to discuss his upcoming tour of training camps with John Madden, who serves as a special advisor, and today’s fan forum in Green Bay (NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET).

“Everything we do is focused on the fans,” said Commissioner Goodell, who will meet with fans, players, coaches and team personnel when he visits eight camps in six days next week. “How do we make the fan experience better? Whether it’s at home through the television with watching the NFL Network or using NFL.com or whether it’s attending our games.  We have focused on making sure that experience in the stadium is safe, enjoyable and fans have the ability to experience as much football as possible when they do come to those games.”

“Anyone who loves the game of football, and you know I do, spending a number of days with [John Madden] on the Madden Cruiser is going to be all about football,” the Commissioner added. “Talking about the game, what we can do to improve the game, talking to fans, players, coaches, team personnel about what we should be doing to make the game even better than it is today. That’s our focus and John’s been a great help. And I’m sure that we’ll have a lot of laughs along the way.”

Below is a transcript of the interview.

Commissioner Goodell interview on NFL Total Access

NFL Network, 7/28/10

Rich Eisen: You’re about to start on a busy week of traveling around training camps that ends with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and starts this week with a shareholders meeting for the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. You’re going to be taking questions from the shareholders, is that right?

Commissioner Goodell: I am. This is the first time I’ve been able to participate in the Packers’ shareholder meeting and there’s no greater place to start an NFL season than up at Lambeau Field. This will give me a chance to not only participate in the shareholders meeting, but also to take questions and interact with the fans.

Eisen: What do you think you’re going to get questions about the most? Do you think it will be the Collective Bargaining Agreement or the state of the Packers?

Goodell: One thing I get consistently when talking to our fans all year round in every NFL city and beyond is that fans like to just talk about football. They care about what’s happening on the field, what their teams are doing and the excitement of the season. I expect that they’ll want to talk football and share their excitement for the upcoming season.

Eisen: And the upcoming season pretty much starts right now with the opening of training camps and you’ll be traveling to eight training camps in six days on the Madden Cruiser with John Madden. What do you think you might learn from this experience?

Goodell: It starts with John Madden, who you know is a special advisor to me on football matters, and he’s been a great help to me. Anyone who loves the game of football, and you know I do, spending a number of days with him on the Madden Cruiser is going to be all about football; talking about the game, what we can do to improve the game, talking to fans, players, coaches, team personnel about what we should be doing to make the game even better than it is today. That’s our focus and John’s been a great help. And I’m sure that we’ll have a lot of laughs along the way.

Eisen: I’m sure. Are you going to bunk down on the Cruiser? What are the accommodations like?

Goodell: Good question. I think on the overnight trips John has not invited me to stay in the Madden Cruiser. I expect I’ll be in a hotel at night, but we are traveling from camp to camp together.

Eisen: What does John bend your ear about when you do have conversations with him?

Goodell: John is such a passionate guy about the NFL, about the game. He talks about football. He talks about player safety that we spend a great deal of time on. We talk about how we can improve the quality of the preseason, about trends that he sees in the game from a strategic standpoint. There are a lot of things John sees, not only as a football coach, but also as a partner in the game. He’s not afraid to share his opinion and that’s why I value his opinion and his relationship.

Eisen: Regarding the player safety issue, a lot has been made about the poster that’s going to be placed in locker rooms around the NFL this week warning players about the lasting effects of concussions. It’s new, very truthful, very straightforward language from the league that we’ve never seen before. How did this come about Commissioner?

Goodell: It’s another [step] in a series of the league making sure we’re very transparent and making sure our players know everything we know about the player safety issue. We started this several years ago. We made improvements to it, along with the NFLPA, three years ago. And as science evolves and medical issues evolve, we want to share all that information with our players. That’s what this is – making sure our players understand everything we know about player safety and what they can do to protect themselves. We have made sure that what we know, they know.

Eisen: And the fan experience at the game; I know that this is something you and your staff have been working hard on since you took over, but these past several months, making sure that the 2010 experience for fans is not only safe, but also enhanced. What have you guys come up with?

Goodell: The first thing is that everything we do is focused on the fans. How do we make the fan experience better? Whether it’s at home through the television with watching the NFL Network or using NFL.com or whether it’s attending our games.  We have focused on making sure that experience in the stadium is safe, enjoyable and fans have the ability to experience as much football as possible when they do come to those games. Technology is a great way to do that. We have several teams that have put in new high-definition scoreboards this year. We have a new stadium in New York that two teams will have. All of these things hopefully will improve that experience for our fans, make it easier for them and a more enjoyable experience for them when they attend the game.

Eisen: Fans love attending games when there is actually a game and some are concerned that next year there won’t be Commissioner. You said previously fans like to talk about what’s on the field and many fans are concerned that there will be no football on the field in 2011. To that end, the enhanced season, do you think that [the enhanced season] could potentially be a breakthrough in any CBA talks that are going on right now?

Goodell: I do Rich, but there are two points here. My number one responsibility is to the game and to continue to improve the game. It’s clear that when we talk to the fans, they don’t see the quality in our preseason. We see that every year, and we want to improve that. That’s the focus here. We are taking the 20-game format and taking the four preseason games, which we don’t believe we need to improve on the quality, and making it 18 regular season games and two preseason games. We think that addresses a number of issues that our fans have identified, that our football people have identified, and make it a better experience for everybody. This continues to grow opportunities and build the game. That should benefit the players over the long term. Obviously as part of that, you have to make sure you look at the comprehensive way that you execute that. Whether you make changes in the offseason training, the roster, equipment, and rule changes. All of those things contribute to making the game safer at the same time.

Eisen: So do you think there would be less organized team activities and less pressure that players would feel from coaches that make technically voluntary into mandatory? Do you think that culture is something that you would be working on changing?  

Goodell: I do believe that we’ve changed the culture in the NFL and we have to continue to do that. That’s part of our responsibility to oversee the game and make sure that we continue to provide a great game for our fans. But I do think that the offseason, whether it’s the OTAs or the period of time where they’re in voluntary camp, that we have to look at that and put restrictions in to make sure all teams are on the same competitive platform and that they are all following the same rules. Players need to be given a chance to recover from the season. We do have the shortest season, as you know, of any professional sport by a long shot. This gives the players a chance to recover from that, prepare for it. But our players are changing, our game is changing and we have to change with it.

Eisen: Thanks for the time. I look forward to seeing you in Canton, OH.

Goodell: Thanks Rich, looking forward to it.

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