Commissioner Goodell transcript from league meeting

Following is a full transcript of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference at yesterday’s league meeting in Atlanta.

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

Special League Meeting News Conference

Atlanta, GA – August 25, 2010

Good afternoon. You obviously know about the Rams transaction which we completed this morning.  We had a number of other reports. The most significant discussion of the day that we had was the enhanced season and restructuring our season from 16 and 4 to 18 and 2. There was overwhelming support for the concept and that we want to continue to address a variety of issues. We are putting together a specific proposal, which the negotiating team will provide to the union’s negotiating team. There is tremendous support for it.  All of the questions and almost all of the discussions are focused on how do we do it in a way that’s fan friendly?  How does it make sense for our fans? As we’ve all said and the clubs have gotten the same reaction, the fans want less preseason and more regular season. But we want to understand the impact of whether we’re playing cold-weather games in January or we’re playing hot-weather games in early September. Those are all issues that we want to continue to focus on and talk with all of our partners — the players, our business partners. Most importantly, how do we keep the game strong, which is good for our fans and what we want for our fans.

Do you have the right to unilaterally impose the enhanced season and did you not because of sensitivities with the players?

As you know, in the Collective Bargaining Agreement we have the right to go to 22 games. The ownership does not think that’s the right step to take. We want to do this the right way and make it good for everyone, including the players, our fans, and the game in general. From our standpoint, we think we’ve moved this concept along. There’s a tremendous amount of momentum for it. We think it’s the right step to take. But we want to do that with our partners, including the players.

On expanding OTAs and other training to prepare for the season:

It’s got to be a comprehensive solution. That’s why we’re taking the necessary steps here and taking the time to address the concept and all of the aspects of this that will make it successful. That’s our focus. How do we make this successful for everybody? But we had a lot of discussion on the Competition Committee analysis about offseason training, what we would do with rosters, what we would do with injured reserved rules. All of those things would allow us the ability to do this correctly.

On Stan Kroenke:

The good news is he’s been an NFL owner and he’s been around the NFL since 1993 when I first met him in the expansion process. He’s had tremendous experience in other sports, which I think is a plus. He has a tremendous commitment to football and the NFL.  One of the issues we always focus on is having our owners focus on football.  That’s what Stan will be doing. He will be focused more on football. We think that’s a positive for the NFL and most importantly for the fans of St. Louis.

On transfer of Kroenke’s Denver teams to others:

We spent an awful lot of time on this over the last few months. Stan’s a man of his word. I believe all parties are going to work to make sure it comes off the way we all discussed it.

On comprehensive proposal to union, how will it be different than previous discussions?

What we’ve done to date is show all the analysis that we have shared with the ownership.  We have shared all of that with the players from the first negotiation session in June 2009 to the more recent discussion in June and obviously the negotiating session of just 10 days ago. Right now we have to get more specific about what exactly we are talking about, how we think it can be successful and work with the players to make sure it’s done the right way.

Do you think the players will buy into this idea?

I do because I think there are a lot of benefits to the players.  We understand the player health and safety issue. They’ve identified the issues in our discussions that they’re concerned with. We are aware of all of those. And we want to make sure we address them appropriately.

Will the enhanced season be adopted for the 2011 season?

I think it depends on when we reach a broader agreement on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It takes a great deal of planning and there are a lot of decisions that need to be made, not to mention stadiums and Super Bowls and everything. So, every day that goes by it gets harder to implement in 2011. I think the reality is we’re focused more on 2012 at this point.

On extra revenue from TV partners:

We’ve discussed the concept with the networks just like we’ve discussed it with our other partners — how it will work, what makes sense.  They are on board with that and they understand it and I think they think it’s a positive also for the game.

Is there a timeline for a vote on the enhanced season to happen in order for it to be in the new CBA?

No. We’d like to do it in the context of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. At some point we’ll need to move forward. We have a good opportunity here to do something that is good for all parties and make this a smart decision for everyone. 

Are there any negative voices against an enhanced season?

I’ve made the points before that I think the fans have spoken very loudly. They want less preseason and more regular season. I think the game has changed and the way we prepare our players. I don’t think four preseason games are necessary from a football standpoint for the game. This is an opportunity for us to take this labor agreement and some other opportunities here and do some good things for the game and for the fans, and create a platform that’s going to benefit the league for several years going forward. That’s how we’re looking at this.

On financial gain for players with enhanced season:

If we’re all smart about this, there will be an opportunity to grow the revenue. It will be better received by everybody. That’s where the potential is for all of us. That’s what we have to use as an opportunity for the players and the owners to reach a new labor agreement and the fans to continue to get great quality football and more of it that they find meaningful.

Is there general agreement on the concept from the owners and now it’s just working out the details?

All of the questions were really focused on what is best from a fan perspective. Our clubs rightfully are focused on how their fans will react. So if you are in a cold-weather city, how will they react to games in January? Or if you are in a hot-weather city, how will you react to games in September or late August. The start of when you would go into that is of particular importance. The second would be the quality of the game. Making sure that we maintain the quality of the game. The safety of our players. Those are all the focus of the discussion that we’ve had today and over the past couple of years.

How much of the focus was on what is best for the players?

A significant portion of it. There’s an opportunity here to do something that’s great for the players in the context of this.

On expansion of rosters:

It obviously was discussed today and is something that will be discussed and will be part of the proposal being made to the union.

Have any decisions related to roster size and injured reserve been made?

No.

Are the CBA negotiations the most challenging things you’ve had to face?

Every one in front of you is bigger than the one you went over. The hurdles keep getting bigger. I look at this as an opportunity.  I look at this as an opportunity to create an agreement that’s going to be good for the players, good for the game and take our league to another level. There are lots of opportunities to do that. That’s why we have to sit down at the table and get that agreement so we can all move on and continue to provide the kind of game our fans expect.

How would you characterize the negotiations?

People ask me all the time and I say I don’t characterize the negotiations. I don’t. I don’t think there’s any need to do that. They are on-going discussions. I believe both parties want to reach an agreement. I think both parties will get to an agreement. It’s just a matter of when. There’s still time to do that without any disruptions. That’s our goal. That’s our objective.  So we have to work hard to get there.

Could enhanced season be a big tool in reaching an agreement?

Anything we can do to improve on the quality of what we’re doing helps.  If it grows the game, that should help also in a negotiation. If there’s an opportunity, and you mentioned rosters before, if there’s an opportunity to increase rosters, that’s a good thing in today’s environment that we’re creating more jobs. Not many unions can say that. That’s a positive. If we can create greater revenue, that means more compensation for the players. They will be the biggest beneficiary from that. That’s also a good thing. I think there are a lot of positives that can come out of it. I do think it will help us address some of the issues that we are facing. That has to be done in the context of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

On NFLPA telling sponsors the Group Licensing Agreement will expire in early March:

I’m not aware and I wasn’t aware of it until you mentioned it.

On increasing former player benefits:

When I talk to players I’ve heard that a lot over the last couple of years. We have made it very clear that benefits for retired players is something that we think needs to be addressed in the context of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We have made changes in advance of that in some of the medical programs we offer to our former players. But we need to do more.

On the skill of listening:

I just believe in that. I think the first time you think you have all the answers you’re in trouble. I think you often have to take positions, put concepts out and you’re hopefully thoughtful about that. I’m a big believer in the third concept. Someone may have concept A and someone may come with concept B, but quite frequently it is concept C after discussion and people look at it from different perspectives.  I think that’s what we are trying to do here.  Be reasonable.  Be fair. Try to find the right kind of agreement that will allow everyone to benefit.  It doesn’t work if one side benefits and the other does not.

On timeline for making a proposal to the union on an enhanced season:

I don’t. I think rather quickly though.

On coaches’ sentiment about enhanced season:

With anybody, you have to go through all the dialogue and try to understand the positives and negatives and how the game is changing. I’m a big believer, and I hear it from coaches all the time, that the game is changing now.  And it’s changing and we’re not. That’s why I think we need to look forward now and do things necessary to keep our game competitive, keep the quality up, and make sure we keep the focus on the fans. I think our coaches understand that. I just spoke to a coach yesterday about it and spent some time on it. Every time I speak to a coach I raise it and get their perspective on it. That’s healthy for us. At some point we’ll be able to come to a better conclusion and solution that works for all.

On more dual practices where teams visit each other if you reduce the number of preseason games:

I think it’s probably fair to assume that you’ll see a little bit more than that.  At least with rookies or first-year players.

Beyond enhanced season, what were other issues discussed today?

There was a report from the negotiating team on the status of negotiations.  We also talked about our in-stadium efforts to make sure that our experience in the stadium is a positive one. The kind of technology we are bringing into stadiums. All 32 teams will have NFL RedZone available on the scoreboards and in the stadiums this season. We spent a fair amount of time talking about player health and safety on football, the changes we’ve made and the focus we’ve had making sure our players understand the use of the best helmets. I made the point that I think there’s a real cultural change happening in the NFL, which is a positive thing.

If an agreement is not reached by March, when do you have to make a decision about the 2011 season in terms of a lockout?

There’s so much time between now and then and there’s so much opportunity for us to get these issues resolved. I ‘m going to be focused on getting them resolved between now and then. That’s what’s most critical for us. We have a great season ahead of us and that will be the focus — football in 2010.

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