Commissioner Goodell, Rich McKay, Dean Blandino Press Conference

NFL Communications

Commissioner Goodell, Rich McKay, Dean Blandino Press Conference

2016 Regular English


Commissioner Goodell/Rich McKay/Dean Blandino Press Conference ​​



Commissioner Goodell: Since I was here yesterday, there were two key areas of focus in the room. One is continuing our focus on the game presentation -- the efforts with the packages that we have, both from a football standpoint, as well as a media standpoint, to make the game presentation for our fans even more compelling than it is today. That includes removing or lessening distractions, interruptions from our game and keeping the focus on the action of the game.


Secondly, we spent a great deal of time this morning on Competition Committee matters. Rich, as the chairman, is going to go through some of those issues that we addressed today. Some that we tabled we’ll also be able to talk to you about and why we’re tabling them, and our focus over the next couple of months on getting those done. But one of them I would touch on them upfront would be the player celebrations. The committee did quite a bit of work on that. They had some discussion this morning on that. I asked that it be tabled. I’d like to meet with a group of players to try to get some more input from them. We also want to do a little more work on just bringing clarity to the rule while allowing our players more ability to express themselves to celebrate. We want to see that. We obviously want to put in reasonable safeguards against taunting and acts that we think reflect poorly on all of us. We believe we can do that. We believe there’s a great deal of focus on that. I’m confident in May we’ll get to that point.


Let me have Rich touch on a couple of the Competition Committee matters and we’re both here to answer questions.


Rich McKay: Let me start first with the committee and the view on where the game is. If you’ll see our report, which I’m sure parts of it will be passed out to you, you’ll see that in the introduction, we make the case that the game is in a really good place. There’s two ways to look at competition. One is margin of victory. I know you’ve seen the stat published, but to have the third-smallest margin of victory in the history of the game is an impressive stat for us, given the fact that the other two years that have a lower margin are 1935 and 1932. And points per game, we were not at 45 points per game at that time. So that’s a really good thing for us. So that’s game by game. We look at competition, where we are in all 32. We are a very competitively balanced league. This was another year in which, I think it’s the 27th consecutive year, in which we had at least four teams qualify for the playoffs that didn’t qualify the year before. So, those are good stats. I have a stat about fourth-quarter comebacks and the fact that we had 72 of them, but I really don’t like to talk about comebacks.


I would tell you that with respect to player safety, as a committee, we were really pleasantly surprised in watching video that we typically don’t like to watch - which is - we watch video of every injury, every major injury, injury type, whether it’s lower leg, whether it’s shoulder, whether it’s head, whatever it may be. We were impressed when we watched the tape this year and it’s a credit to our players, to our coaches, to college football and to high school football that you are seeing players adjust the way they play the game. And playing within the rules, and trying to comply with changes that from a player standpoint have been hard, and have taken time. But I think we really saw good video this year of how players are trying to play the game well within the rules. For us that was a good thing and something that we’ve seen coming, but I would say this year it was very clear.


We had 15 proposals this year, seven by clubs, three of those club proposals were withdrawn, so we voted on the rest. We tabled one and then on the bylaws we again had three bylaws proposed by clubs, all of which were either tabled or withdrawn, and then we voted on a couple of the Competition Committee ones.


Mark Maske: On the committee’s recommendation for ejection and suspensions for certain illegal hits, is it accurate that that will be enacted as a point of emphasis if there was no vote and can you sort of explain how you expect that to work in practical application?


Rich McKay: Yes. First of all, as I said, I started with the idea that we liked the tape, we like it a lot. So don’t take the fact that we’re emphasizing the potential use of suspension for first-time offenders as we’ve got a problem. That’s not the case. We had three or four plays that we showed to the union when we met with the players, and that we showed to our coaches, and we said we recommend as a committee where if the player isn’t ejected on the field, and that’s a very difficult thing, and we don’t typically get ejections for football plays during a game, we get ejections for other reasons but not football plays. We recommend suspension, even for a first-time offense. Why? Because the hits were very egregious, and we quite frankly want to get any of those hits out of the game. We think one way to get them out of the game is suspension because we think that is the ultimate deterrent to all players to not have those types of plays occur. Didn’t have very many of them, don’t expect it to happen a lot. But it was a point of emphasis, and it was something that will be looked at this year.


Kevin Acee: It seems that no matter what happens, every once in a while people think maybe it’s head trauma, relocation, something you do that they think is going to really harm the NFL, that you’re going to lose fans. Nothing harms you guys, that doesn’t happen. Do you have any concern that eventually people are going to get tired of the teams moving or other controversies and how important is it to you to sustain?


Goodell: We disagree with your premise that nothing harms us. We’re a league that has a great deal of public attention. We hold ourselves to the highest-possible standards. When we don’t hit it, we work hard to try to get to that standard. We recognize the trust of our fans and the fact that we’re doing things in the best long-term interest of our game are critically important. We’re going to do those, because they’re the right things for the NFL, and our fans, and our players. We’re committed to doing the right things. We know that not everyone’s going to agree with that from time to time, but we do believe that our future is bright when we look down the path because we’re willing to make the changes that are necessary. Game presentation is a great example of that. This is something that we’ve been studying for the last couple of years. We now have fan research to back it up, to help guide us, to make sure that we’re getting the right solutions to some of these issues. This is going to make our game experience, whether it’s in the stadium or on television, or on another device, much more compelling. That’s what we have to do. We have to continue to try to get better. That was really the focus of this meeting to a large extent - innovation, getting better. Those are all things we’re going to continue to work on.


Ben Volin: On September 7th, the Patriots will be hosting the kickoff game. I understand it’s five months away, but do you happen to know where you’ll be that night?


Goodell: I don’t, but I plan to be at the kickoff game.


On a more serious note, 


Goodell: Oh, that wasn’t serious?


Back home it certainly is. But the Raiders moved to Las Vegas. Obviously, we all know about Las Vegas, having dozens of casinos there. Today an entrepreneur came out and said that he plans on opening a Raiders themed brothel that has VIP access for Raiders players. How much did the league consider some of these pitfalls when agreeing to allow the Raiders to move to Vegas and will you work with the Raiders to make sure – Brandon Marshall also said that putting 21-year-old kids in Vegas near the strip can be overwhelming. How much do you plan to work with the Raiders to help ease any of those concerns?


Goodell: We have an obligation to do that with all 32 teams. My experience is that a 21-year-old can find trouble in a lot of different places. That’s one of the reasons why we have focused so much on our personal conduct policies. It’s educating, it’s helping players make better judgments and getting them better information, they avoid problems. These are the types of things that have been very effective. In fact, you’ve seen over the last two years, I think you have the statistics, we went over it today, but we’ve seen 40% reductions year over year the last two years when we revised our policies and they’ve been quite effective. We’re going to have to obviously keep a focus on that no matter where our franchises are.


Barry Wilner: The passage of using the surface tablet for the officials went through. What about using video on the sideline for players and coaches? I know it’s been discussed, was it discussed here, where does that stand?


Dean Blandino: Video on tablets on the sidelines was discussed. I think that’s something we’ll continue. We’ve heard from our coaches and our clubs where they stand on it. That’s something, as the technology continues to improve, will continue to be a part of the discussion.


Sam Farmer: These things would have been sort of unbelievable a few years ago. We’ve had three relocations in a 14-month span, Las Vegas getting a team, the Raiders staying in Oakland for at least the next two seasons, the Chargers playing in a 32-seat stadium. Does this mark the start of a new era for the NFL? And what specific challenges lie ahead?


Commissioner Goodell: You know we had a number of relocations in the nineties, I believe it was four in a very short period of time, maybe even a year. So that’s an unfortunate circumstance, but it comes after a great deal of work to try to resolve the issues. We’ve been successful in keeping our franchises where they are. Unfortunately, we weren’t in this case. We want to continue to find ways to be creative, and finding those solutions in those markets. But we also have stability for those teams now. That wasn’t something that just started in the last year or two. They’ve been struggling with stadiums for at least a decade in every one of those cases.


We also have stability for those teams now. That wasn’t something that just started in the last year or two They’ve been struggling with stadiums for at least a decade in every one of those cases. We now have stability in that case. We have two franchises back in the entertainment capital of the world. The reality of it is that is providing us more stability long-term. We also understand how painful it is when that happens. We certainly understand from a fan perspective how difficult it is. That’s why we work harder to try to get that stability, so it doesn’t happen.


Ed Graney: To what would you attribute a more progressive thought in that room about gambling from those 32 owners than maybe 10 or 15 years ago? Do you foresee the league requesting the gaming commission take them off the board in their games?

Commissioner Goodell: I think society in general has a bit of a change with respect to gambling in general. We’ve seen that. We still strongly oppose in that room and otherwise legalized sports gambling. The integrity of our game is number one. We will not compromise on that. I also believe that Las Vegas is not the same city it was ten or 20 years ago. It is a much more diverse city; it has become an entertainment mecca. It is the fastest growing city in the country. When you look at Las Vegas and what it is today, what it was a decade or two ago, I think it’s a much different city. They made a very compelling proposal, which the ownership obviously approved overwhelmingly.


Graney: Would you take them off the board? Would you ask? 


Commissioner Goodell: I don’t think we are contemplating that at this point, in large part because you have the regulatory environment there which actually could be beneficial in that case. We’ll study it further, but at this point in time that’s not our position.


Are there any caveats in the agreement that are specific to Las Vegas? That relate to the gambling issue?


Commissioner Goodell: We did not change any of our gambling policies in the context of the Raiders relocation. It wasn’t necessary and the Raiders didn’t ask us to do that. We don’t see changing our current policies. Your broader question about continuing our efforts on gambling, that is a major risk for us. We have to make sure that we continue to stay focused on making sure that everyone has full confidence that what you see on the field is not influenced by any outside factors. That is our number-one concern. That goes to what I consider the integrity of the game. We will not relent on that.


Mark Purdy: Do you contemplate policy changes that might for example keep players out of sports books? Will there be new policies put in place regarding these special challenges? Year-round banning from the casinos? Brothels?


Commissioner Goodell: We have policies in place now and obviously we’ll continue to evaluate those policies. If we think something specific needs to be done in Las Vegas, or any changes to our policy, we obviously retain the right to do that. We will continue to look at that.


Will players be allowed to visit sports books?


Commissioner Goodell: No. That’s in violation of our policy today.


Bob Condotta: For Rich, on players leaping over the line on field goals and extra points, curious as to the discussion of that, how big of a factor was the players’ union recommendation initially? How did it play into that?


Rich McKay: We all knew during the season at some point it was going to get discussed. We saw many instances as teams began to learn how to block it, it became more concerning. Early on teams did not know how to block it, the guard wasn’t getting up in the air. The center wasn’t getting up, nobody was chipping on the player, the player was getting a free run and all of a sudden the players weren’t getting a free run and now the player was coming down at a really bad angle. We knew it would be discussed. Philadelphia submitted it. When we met with the Players Association, to a person they were quick to say, ‘we don’t like this play.’ That absolutely is always plays a part in our decision. One thing we do a good job of, and the Commissioner started it a number of years ago and it’s been going for a long time and it is in our CBA, is that when we meet with them, we have a really good session. We hear everything that they have to say, and everything they like and don’t like. We also get feedback on proposals, and that was one that they universally said, ‘we want that play taken out.’ When we proposed that today, we said that to the membership and the vote was 32-0.


When you talk about pre-Draft visits, there was a memo made for timing and testing, can you explain what that entails?


Rich McKay: It took us ten years and you expect me to be able to tell you. That is a very technical thing. We have a local workout policy and procedure that’s been in place forever that talks about the fact that you have an unlimited amount of local workouts you have if the player either resides in the metropolitan area or goes to school in the metropolitan area.


The problem with the rule was back when Jimmy Johnson was the coach of the Dolphins, he figured out that maybe there are a lot of players who would either reside around Miami or go to school around Miami. He would have local workouts with 60 players. Green Bay would have a local workout and they would have half a player because they didn’t have anybody residing there and they didn’t have a school in their metropolitan area. This was a rule to try to equal that out. It has been thought out for a long time. I give a lot of credit to the General Manager’s advisory committee, and they’ve put it in where each team has a 50-mile radius to get those players if they reside in that area, and has three FBS schools that are assigned to them, all big schools. We just tried to level the playing field, so when you have that local workout, you can have 20-30 players. We think it gives a level playing field. What those local workouts do is provide an opportunity for us to see some players, many of which are not going to be drafted, that you want to sign as college free agents. We like this rule.


For this year?


It’s for this year, just for one year. We want to see how it works, and see if the teams take advantage of it which I think they will.


Sal Paolantonio: There have been allegations that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed.  When you heard that, what was your reaction? What did you think of that allegation?


Commissioner Goodell: I haven’t heard that from our clubs in any way that that’s an issue. In my experience in 35 years, our clubs make independent evaluations of players. They work hard to try to improve their teams. If they think a player can help them improve their team, they’re going to do that. 


Can you take us through the process for if there are multiple challenges at the same time while you are watching games, how that will be handled?


Dean Blandino: We’ve been doing this for three years now since 2014. We’ve been involved in the replay decision-making process. There are three people in the room: myself, our senior director of officiating and one of our officiating supervisors that can make decisions. We have one person assigned to each game, and they are responsible for calling things to our attention. We had a good year last year with the three people in the room feeling out that early window on Sunday. If there are up to three challenges going on at once we can manage that. It would be a very rare instance where they would all be initiated at the same moment and have a fourth where you couldn’t get to it. The way it flows, you can get to the replay station, and we feel comfortable with that early window of games.