Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with the media following yesterday’s fall league meeting in Chicago. He answered questions on a number of topics including the NFL’s new partnership with the NFL Alumni and the Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program which will provide expanded services to retired players.
Following is a complete transcript.
NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL
Fall League Meeting News Conference
Chicago, IL – October 12, 2010
Roger Goodell: Good afternoon. You all know and you’ve gotten the release about our announcement of working in partnership with Dr. Culverhouse and George Martin. It’s part of what we spent a fair amount of time today talking about – retired players and our continuing efforts to address their issues responsibly. We also had Mike Ditka come in and address our ownership right before lunch, which was also productive. What we are going to do is hear from both Gay and George, ask them questions, and then I will come back and take questions.
Gay Culverhouse: Good afternoon. It’s nice to be here. It’s actually a real pleasure to be here. When I first addressed Congress in October of last year, I was very critical of the NFL and was worried about our players, our retired players. I have to say that in this year that’s passed, I’ve gotten to know the people involved in the Player Care Foundation and have come to understand their true emphasis on and their sincerity in looking after the retired players. They and I have come to an agreement which I think will benefit the players tremendously going forward and we’ll work hand in hand to provide the services that these players need. I am thrilled and very confident that this partnership will work, be fruitful and have long-range effects for those players that have retired from the NFL.
George Martin: Good afternoon. I would like to add my sincere elation about this collaboration between the NFL, Dr. Culverhouse and the NFL Alumni Association. It is something that is extremely gratifying because I have been a great admirer of Dr. Culverhouse and her dedication and her commitment to NFL Alumni. With this collaboration, it will obviously allow us to broaden our scope of benefits and services to our constituents. As the Commissioner alluded to, this gives us an opportunity where we can certainly demonstrate a collaboration where the sum of our total is greater than the sum of our parts. Along with Mike Ditka and the Gridiron Greats, I think we have the essence of a new attitude toward helping alumni and those individuals who have played and paid so dearly to be a part of this great industry. I am delighted. This is something that we’re all gratified is taking place. And we look forward to a lot of productive results from this collaboration.
What are you going to be doing for the retired players?
Culverhouse: I have the Gay Culverhouse Player Outreach Program which is a 501c3 incorporated entity for almost the last year. When I was before Congress, they said, “What are you going to do next?” And I said, “I am going to find Jerry Eckwood.” And as you may or may not know, we found Jerry Eckwood. And he did qualify for the Plan 88 and is now in a very lovely assisted facility. We talk to Jerry at least twice a day. We are his “friends” and we adore him. Since Jerry, there have been many players, many players. We have gone to many NFL cities and cities where players are gathered like Orlando, which is not an NFL city but there are a lot of retired players in Orlando, and we have spoken of what NFL Player Care has to offer, and we have processed those requests. We get calls 24 hours a day and that’s one of the things the NFL will help us with. I have answered calls at 1:37 in the morning and they are going to take that from me, which will be delightful. What the NFL is going to do is help us improve and reach more players. We are going to take our system which is in effect and basically, and this is going to be a bad pun, shoot it full of steroids and make it bigger and better.
On what has changed since you were critical of the NFL?
Culverhouse: I think there has been a meeting in the middle. The real turning point came for me when the poster was released. And you know what poster I’m talking about. The poster on the concussions. When that poster was released, it marked for me a real turn for the NFL in viewing some of the issues associated with head trauma and I felt that there was a change of foot, if you will. When I noticed that the NFL had brought in some other doctors as their advisors, I felt they were making a real concerted effort to change as the information we were receiving changed. Five or six years ago this was a non-issue. Now we’re all jumping on the bandwagon and wanting the best for our players regardless how they got to the state that they are in. Unfortunately we did not know Mike Webster was homeless. If I could have found Mike Webster, I would have done something. One of the things we try to do is we try to prevent the Mike Websters. Jerry Eckwood was two weeks away from being homeless. Now I have one of my staff people going through the entire list of the 1990 rosters, through every single team. She’s now at the Patriots. And we are locating each player. Any player that is off the grid we’ve notated and we are then asking the guys that played to the left of them, the right of them and their roommate, “Do you keep in contact with this person? Do you exchange Facebook? Do you exchange Christmas cards?” We are actively searching for the missing players because we know they are out there. But they are not reading the paper, they are not e-mailing. So we actually go and find players like we did Jerry Eckwood. Long answer to a short question.
Do you have enough money to get done what you need to get done?
Martin: I think that’s a question delving into the unknown. We don’t know how broad and wide the need is right now. I think we definitely have enough resources to implement the program and continue the great work that Dr. Culverhouse has started. There’s no question about that. And with the determination, expertise and the methodology they already established, I think we’re going to have a great impact on this situation.
Culverhouse: Let me say one more thing to tag onto that. And this is a plug, but why not? We’re having a golf tournament that’s put on by Doug Williams. Lee Roy Selmon, Jack Youngblood are all helping me with a golf tournament in Tampa the weekend of November 6. They have promised me along with several other retired players to put on 20 golf tournaments around the country for our program. And to have people of that stature to come forward, and without me knowing it, I didn’t ask, they got a group together because they are so thrilled with my passion and my enthusiasm and what I’ve been able to do for their teammates. We’re getting some good response from the former players for these fundraising events. I think that with what the NFL can offer us and what fundraising opportunities we can provide, I think we’re going to be tremendously successful. And there are also opportunities for all sorts of people to come forward and offer help. It’s just a project you can’t say no to.
Goodell: The most significant thing is everyone is trying to do the right thing here. What our recent partnership here will allow us to do is to coordinate our efforts better. Dr. Culverhouse is doing great work. George is doing great work. Our Player Care Foundation and our Alliance are doing great work. We just want to coordinate our efforts better so we can identify the individuals who need help and try to get them help. We have programs available and unfortunately quite a few people that aren’t aware of it and don’t make use of the programs. That’s one of the things Dr. Culverhouse mentioned to me when we met a couple of months ago in my office, “I’ve come to realize we have a lot of great programs. My foundation is working to try to make sure we have the right outreach to make sure your programs are available to the individual players and their families.” That’s one of the things we are excited about. So, we thank you both.
Culverhouse: We know we can’t do it without you.
What’s the website?
Culverhouse: It’s www.playersoutreach.org. If you google me, it will come up.
Goodell: We had a very productive session, but we covered a lot of different subjects. I’m sure you’ve been updated on some of them. We spent a lot of time talking about our CBA negotiations and our preparations in that area. We spent a great deal of time talking about the game and the player health and safety issues, including getting reports from two of our medical advisors today. Retired players we discussed. We updated the ownership on our in-stadium efforts, continuing to improve the quality of what we’re doing in our stadiums and trying to create greater value for our fans who we know are challenged in this economic climate. We also worked and made sure our ownership clearly understood how we are restructuring our apparel business, which our committee has been working on for close to 10 months now. I think those are the key issues we covered today although we ran over a lot of issues and I would be happy to take your questions.
On update on Brett Favre situation:
I’ve been in meetings all day today. I’ve gotten briefings over the last couple of days. I don’t think there’s anything significantly new though. I met with Milt [Ahlerich] earlier today. But there’s nothing significant to report.
On timeline for a resolution:
I’ve been travelling since late last week and expect to be travelling a couple more days. When I get back I will make sure we get into this. Our staff has been working aggressively on this, gathering all the data. I’ll get reports on that and then make some determinations. I would be hesitant to say anything about timing until I had a chance to understand that and make sure we can get all of the information. As you know we’re seeking to get cooperation to make sure we understand all those facts.
On what you’re looking for in terms of violation? Did he break a law?
We’re just looking for facts right now before making an implications on what he did. We would like to understand what the facts are.
Will you meet with Brett any time soon?
I don’t have any plans to. At some point if it’s something that would help us get to a conclusion and something that I feel is warranted, I will do so.