Transcript: Rich McKay, Jeff Fisher & Dean Blandino Annual Meeting Press Conference – March 26, 2014

ATLANTA FALCONS PRESIDENT & CEO,
NFL COMPETITION COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN RICH MC KAY
ST. LOUIS RAMS HEAD COACH & COMPETITION COMMITTEE MEMBER JEFF FISHER
NFL VICE PRESIDENT OF OFFICIATING DEAN BLANDINO
NFL ANNUAL MEETING PRESS CONFERENCE

MARCH 26, 2014

Jeff Fisher: In addition to the bylaw proposals and the playing rule proposals, we had some very lengthy discussions with respect to sportsmanship. Obviously we talked about conduct in the workplace and those discussions were equally as productive. But with respect to sportsmanship on the playing field on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, the committee agreed. After looking at a lot of tape and after talking and consulting with different entities – the coaches subcommittee, the Players Association and others – we agreed that we have an issue on the field. We agreed that we are going to get it under control as soon as we possibly can. We will be working with Dean [Blandino] to put tapes together. Our taunting numbers increased from nine in 2012 to 34 last year and we are going to effect change immediately and that change will be effected as early as the OTAs when players come back. We’ve got to change our conduct on the field. We’ve got to bring the element of respect in its highest level back to our game. So in addition to these things, sportsmanship was a significant topic throughout the last couple days.

On what changes the Competition Committee is making regarding sportsmanship:

Fisher: We are going to clean the game up on the field between the players. The in-your-face taunting, those types of things. The language, it’s all in the book, it’s all under unsportsmanlike conduct. There is no change in the rule, we are going to enforce the current rule.

On if the taunting increased or if the penalties increased:

Fisher: It’s our opinion – the penalty is there – it’s black and white. The penalties increased, but we also feel like we missed some penalties. The incidents on the field have increased as well. We may not have flagged them all but we are going to raise the standard and Dean’s guys are definitely going to raise the standard.

On changes in the locker room:

Fisher: We spent a great deal of time with that in a lot of different meetings. Head coach only meetings, head coach and GM meetings, our special session with our ownership – we spent a lot of time on that.

On if sportsmanship will be treated as a point of emphasis:

Fisher: This is how we presented it. The committee’s position on this, in the past, taunting and sportsmanship is in the back of the book under points of emphasis. It is now in the front of the book. It falls in our book right after all the statistical things which were good about our game last year. So it is now a front-of-the-book issue. What we want to do is we want to put it back in the back of the book.

On if it includes the N-word:

Fisher: Everything. Yes.

On who is fed up with the taunting, the players, the coaches, the owners, the fans:

Fisher: All of the above. It’s moving down to this level and we’ve got to eliminate it from that level. The NCAA is hoping for us to do something at our level and we’ve got to take the leap. We are going to do that.

On moving the extra point to the 20-yard line during Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason:

Fisher: This is kind of where the discussion went. We had lengthy discussions, but in recent history, this is a new issue. It just came up this offseason. The committee was concerned about a rule being implemented without having the opportunity to go through the unintended consequences. We all feel like we need to do something, we’re just not quite sure what we are going to do with it yet. Everything spun off New England’s proposal. We decided to, instead of put it at the 25, to put it at the 20 and look at it in the first two weeks of the preseason to see if there are in fact things that come up. The committee, historically, has been very careful in recommending significant changes like that. So I think it’s a positive thing as far as the try is concerned.

On support from coaches to expand replay to everything:

Fisher: The support among the coaches was less than 50 percent. That kind of gives you an idea. As Rich [McKay] said, we are going to take a look at replay. We have to look at our entire system. With technology changing and the fact that the membership agreed to allow Dean’s group to oversee and consult with officials this year is a major step. We are constantly evaluating our replay system because we all want to get things right.

On the injured reserve rule:

McKay: We have a system of 53 and 46 and that system was designed to take injured players and allow them to be carried within that 53. This would be going back to the old system before we had the 53 and 46, where injured reserve was used as a method to carry injured players. It would be a dramatic change in the system and wasn’t one that had any support.

On the discussions of how to affect the change of the culture in the locker room and sportsmanship:

Fisher: Yes, we discussed all of those things. It’s a behavior change and we feel it starts with leadership and that’s leadership with the head coach, the owner or the general manager, but also leadership on your football team. Those are the areas we are going to focus on this spring.

On the NCAA’s concerns with taunting on the field and sportsmanship:

Fisher: If the college athlete sees something on the weekends that the pro athletes is doing, they, most of the time, are going to act the same way and not that we’re allowing it to happen, but the incidents are increasing and we want to reduce them. Colleges are adamant about sportsmanship on the field and celebrations and taunting and things like that. They don’t tolerate it. Now, sometimes they may not see it, but we’ve got to get to that point where we can’t tolerate it.

On how much thought has been given on a social media policy:

Fisher: That’s an educational process and those things were discussed. Again, it falls into that broad category of things that we’re going to affect this spring.

On some head coaches not having a presence in the locker room because it is considered the players domain and his thoughts since he has been on both sides as a coach and player:

Fisher: My personal opinion is that if you’re a head coach that does not go into the locker room, you’re not going to be a head coach very long. That locker room is a team environment. We have a responsibility to go in there. The players need to see the head coach in the locker room. If you allow that environment to become a sanctuary, if you will, then you lose control real quickly.

On the enforcement and reasoning behind the rule change of dunking the ball over the goalpost:

McKay: I think the reasoning behind it is disruption of the game and the inability to in some stadiums to be able to correct the goalposts themselves because of the way they are put in. (In some venues) when you get them off angle, they’re not coming back during that game time, which creates a little bit of a problem of where the kicker is going to kick. When we changed the rules about props way back when we had some issues with some things that were going on on the field and it dealt with sportsmanship, we left a number of things in. We said the ‘Lambeau Leap’ was ok and you can do it because it was a traditional thing. I don’t think we ever contemplated that the goalpost would ever be thrown off kilter in games and there be a 20-minute delay of the game as they try to right them. When you add five feet to the top and make them even heavier, I think we were concerned about how it would impact a game from a competitive standpoint. That’s why the rule modification took place.

On expecting the rule change to replay to speed up the process and improve efficiency:

Dean Blandino: Yes, we expect it to speed up the process and be more efficient for us. We can communicate with the referee immediately as soon as he’s done making his announcement, we can start that conversation as to what we’re going to look at and what he is going to see. There isn’t that delay of getting over to the monitor, putting the headset on and having a 45 second discussion. We think it will be more efficient, accurate and consistent.

On his involvement being limited to replay reviews or if he can discuss rules with referees at various point during the game:

Blandino: This is strictly tied to replay reviews. The referee is the only official that we can communicate with. We can’t communicate with the other six officials.

On what happens if there are multiple replays at the same time:

Blandino: There will be a small group; myself, Al Riveron, the senior director of officiating, will have monitors, but there will be a small group of people that will actually be speaking to referees so we can adjudicate multiple reviews that happen at the same time.

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