Commissioner Goodell Transcript: Special League Meeting

Below is a transcript of Commissioner Goodell’s comments to media members after today’s Special League Meeting in Dallas, Texas. 

COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

SPECIAL LEAGUE MEETING (DALLAS, TEXAS)

 December 12, 2012

 Opening statement:

We spent a lot of time on the Competition Committee report and focused on some of the things we are going to be working on over the next several months, things that we think will be teed up in the March meeting for votes.  The dialogue has been very beneficial. 

Some of the things that are on the list you may have heard about and you see some of them in the back – the mandatory pads which will be coming up this year.  I was out at Nike last week.  They were here today to make a presentation to show their next generation of pads, which we think are very exciting, safer, high-performance and actually have a very good look, too.  

We obviously will be looking at the low blocks.  That is something we discussed a couple of months ago.  It is something we are going to be looking at with the committee across the board to determine what changes we will make in that area. 

Of course, something that we discussed in the past is expanded playoffs.  That is something that we teed up today.  We will probably be looking at it with the committee over the next several months.

On if he has spoken to Cowboys DL Josh Brent and his situation: 

I have not spoken to him.  As you know, we partnered with MADD.  I met with (MADD CEO) Debbie (Weir) last night.  We talked through a lot of the issues and what we can be doing differently from a programmatic standpoint, what we can be offering for resources to our players and what we can be doing for the broader issue on a national scope. 

Yesterday, I also spoke to (NFLPA Executive Director) DeMaurice (Smith) about what we should be doing in this area, also, again focusing on education – how we help our players understand the issues, have the resources to make better decisions, plan ahead so they are dealing with this and of course, discipline.  I don’t think it is a secret that we have long felt the discipline in this area needs to be revisited and escalated on a first offense and a second offense.  Hopefully, that never happens.  It is very important to have that. 

On an expanded playoff format: 

Right now, we are at 12 teams, obviously.  We will look at probably 14 or 16.  The committee will be looking at that.  

On Commissioner Tagliabue’s ruling:

We came to the same conclusion as far as the facts are concerned.  Clearly, a bounty program was in place for three years despite the denials.  Clearly, this is something that is considered conduct detrimental.  Where I think Commissioner Tagliabue and I disagree is on the fact of discipline.  When there is conduct detrimental, there should be associated discipline with that.  That is where we disagree.  I respect his decision and I am moving on. 

On Commissioner Tagliabue’s ruling affecting his position: 

No, it is part of the collective bargaining process.  As you know, I have the right to appoint a hearing officer.  In most cases, I do.  I made the conscious decision to do that.  I don’t regret that at all. 

On reaching similar conclusions but different discipline: 

It is explained in Paul’s report.  I have not spoken to him.  His report made it quite clear that he holds the management and the coaches responsible.  My personal view is I hold everyone responsible.  We have to have a personal responsibility here.  Player health and safety is an important issue in this league.  It is going to take everyone.  We are all going to have to contribute to that, whether you are a commissioner, whether you are a coach or whether you are a player.  We all have to be held accountable for it.  I fundamentally disagree that this is something that lies just with coaches and management.  As you know, I took some very significant steps with respect to management and coaches.  I do think that is important and I do think their leadership position needs to be considered, but I believe these players were in leadership positions, also. 

On if the ruling makes it more difficult to issue player discipline in the future:  

Absolutely not.  That is also made clear in this document.  It is non-precedential.  I can assure you, and I told the clubs that today, that I am going to continue to do what is right, particularly when it comes to player health and safety. 

On Brent’s placement on the non-football injury list: 

Ultimately, it is a club decision.  We talked about it internally with our staff.  The club, as I said, is ultimately responsible for any roster movements.  They had made a determination that putting him on a list and allowing him to focus on other issues was the right decision.  They came to that conclusion at the end of the day. 

On a timeline for issuing discipline to Brent: 

Because he is not active and he will not be involved with the club, I think we will allow the legal process to move forward and get a little more clarity on that front. 

On Saints QB Drew Brees’ comments earlier today about his credibility with players: 

One of the things that is very clear here is that there have been denials that a program was in place.  That is conclusively proven.  There is no question about that.  That is unfortunate for the league in general, for all 2,000 players and 32 clubs.  That is very unfortunate.  I am not going to resist my obligation to do what is right for the game long term.

On if he would release the appeals hearing transcripts: 

It is not my decision; it is Commissioner Tagliabue’s.  I haven’t seen the transcripts, either.  I have read the report that Commissioner Tagliabue gave.  

On Thursday NFL games: 

We don’t have any information that indicates from our data that playing on Thursdays in any way decreases the safety of our players.  The injury rates do not indicate that at all over the years.  You start with the facts.  The facts are that it is not a risk to the players. 

On an 18-game regular-season schedule:

We have said that we won’t do that unless we can do it the right way, and that includes safely.  We made that determination in the collective bargaining agreement.

 On if the Saints players are owed an apology from the NFL: 

No.  Again, I don’t have the report in front of me, but Commissioner Tagliabue said there is no one here that should feel good about their role in this with respect to the Saints.  People made judgments and none of them should be feeling very good about those judgments.  To have a bounty program where you’re targeting players for injury is completely unacceptable in the NFL, and it is clear that occurred for three years despite all of the denials.

 On if he believes he has seen the last bounty program: 

I sure hope so. 

On if recent negative events have damaged the image of the league: 

The reputation and image of the league is critical. I talk about the shield and representing the shield in a positive way all the time.  Anything that brings a negative light to that, whether it is bounties or whether it is a tragic circumstance like the ones we have seen over the last two weeks, is not good for the league.  We have to work hard to make sure we avoid those situations and represent the NFL the way our fans expect us to. 

On today’s HGH hearing: 

My understanding – I just got a brief report from an e-mail earlier – was the focus of the hearing was to demonstrate that the science is valid and there really are no scientists on a global basis that dispute that.  This is something that should be implemented because the science is available and there really is no excuse for it.  I have had conversations with De about it.  I have said we’re prepared and we’re ready to go and we want to make this agreement.  As you know, it was part of the CBA. 

On alcohol and substance abuse policy being addressed separately: 

It is something that is in the collective bargaining agreement.  We have an obligation to work together and that was a conversation I had with De yesterday.  We need to further our commitment to providing better resources, better programs and better education to make sure our players have the right resources to make the right decisions.  These are issues that face all of society, but we have to deal with NFL players.  They have an obligation and responsibility, just as we all do, to represent the league in the right way.  We want to provide those services to help them, and we’ve got to do a better job. 

On DUIs: 

The NFL rate is just slightly lower than half of the percentage for the equivalent population – young men.  I don’t think it is any secret that the NFL is held to a higher standard.  When there is an incident in the NFL, it gets a lot of attention.  Those are the facts of life and part of the privilege of being a part of the NFL.  We have to deal with that, but that is not an excuse. What we have to do is go out and do a better job and recognize that we have a role in our communities to do things the right way and to send the right message.  That is our obligation. 

On drug testing:

 We have been leaders in the area of testing for drugs and alcohol for performance enhancing drugs.  It is a constant dialogue.  You have to continually look at your testing methods.  To keep up with technology, you have to continually look at your program.  The issues change, society changes.  You have to change with it.  If you don’t stay current, you are falling behind and we will leave people behind.  That is not what we want to do.  We want to be responsive and provide those resources.  This is a constant dialogue.  Obviously, with what going on, it is clear that we have to take further steps.  We are committed to doing that, and I believe De is. 

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