Commissioner Goodell on enhanced season: “Figuring it out in a sensible fashion will keep the game strong”
Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed a wide range of topics, including the proposed enhanced NFL season in an interview yesterday with John Madden, Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on Sirius NFL Radio.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of input from all of our club people – that includes the football people, our Competition Committee, on the ownership level and, of course, with our partners, and that includes our players – trying to figure out how to do this in a sensible fashion that will keep the game strong,” Commissioner Goodell said. “I don’t think it’s a done deal at all until we have found the right way to keep the game strong and to allow us to continue to grow the game. I think there’s a lot of merit to the study, the analysis and the idea of it but until we can figure out exactly how to do it I don’t think anything’s a done deal.”
“Player safety always has to be at the forefront,” Commissioner Goodell continued. “We’ve worked hard in our rule changes – and Coach [Madden] knows this, he’s been involved with it – about how do we make sure we take certain techniques out of the game. So you always want to do that. But remember, we would be staying within the current 20-game format. Some may not be aware, but in our current Collective Bargaining Agreement we can go to 22 games — 18 regular-season and four preseason games. The union agreed to that in this current labor agreement. We don’t want to do that. I think that is too much. What we’re looking to do is taking the existing 20-game format. We don’t believe that you need four preseason games anymore. That’s indicative of what you’re seeing in the quality of what we’re doing in the preseason, but also the fact that players don’t want to play in it, coaches don’t want them to play in it. They don’t need it to get their teams prepared.
“I think there is a way to accomplish each of our objectives, but we have to start with the reality it’s changing already,” Commissioner Goodell added. “You’re seeing a change. The way the players and coaches and teams are addressing the preseason now has changed dramatically even in the last 10 years. I think that’s one of the things that struck me so much is the cultural change that’s happening in the NFL. When Coach [Madden] and I were going to training camps, we went into Pittsburgh and Hines Ward was saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got the day off today. Coach (Mike Tomlin) just gave me the day off.’ Coaches are approaching this differently in the amount of contact and the amount of playing for the veterans. For the young guys, it’s different. Those guys haven’t taken the physical toll that some of the veteran guys had taken the year before so that’s where they’re trying to give them the reps and the development opportunities so they can find those ‘Rich Gannons.’
“There is an evaluative piece of this, which is you want to make sure you’re evaluating the young players and developing the young players,” Commissioner Goodell noted. “There are ways to do that. We want to make sure that we’re looking at this in a comprehensive fashion. How do you still evaluate players [and] develop players? But on the safety side I think there’s a lot we can do in the offseason, in training camps, even during the regular season to take certain contact out so when you look at the overall health risks to the players, you address that in a responsible fashion. Coach [Madden] and I have spent an awful lot of time on that, including this summer when we talked to players, coaches and medical personnel about how to do that.
“We’ve talked about everything from a developmental league that would give players the opportunity to get those reps and to develop their skills to also what we call a bifurcated training camp where you bring in the rookies or first-year players and let them compete for a period of time,” Commissioner Goodell concluded. “And before the veterans show up, you have another cut down and then they join the veterans and that way you get the chance for developing and evaluating talent so that you can make better decisions of who should be on your team, but also you give some of these young players an opportunity to really perform. I think that’s what’s made the NFL great and why we have had such great players.”