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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Holds State of the League Address

Aired January 30, 2015 - 13:30   ET


WOLF BLITZR, CNN ANCHOR: I want everybody to hold on. We'll have plenty of time to discuss, but here is the commissioner.


Before getting to your questions, let me make a few comments.

First, congratulations to the Seahawks and the Patriots. They emerged as the best of the best in a terrific year of football. A season of amazing competition and plenty of challenges, learning and real progress.

We know when we meet our challenges effectively, we are a better league and a positive contributor to society. It's on us. I truly believe that we will continue to make progress because the NFL is made up of good and caring people. I'm realistic about the work that lies ahead and confident that we will do what is expected of us and, even more importantly, of ourselves.

Looking to the off-season, we will focus on innovation and technology in three key areas -- the game, player safety and the fan experience. We are doing more to protect our players from unnecessary risk. Hits to defenseless players this season were down 68 percent. And there were similar decreases in other areas pertaining to the safety of the game. We reported yesterday that concussions were down 25 percent this past regular season, continuing a three-year trend. Since 2012, concussions in regular season games have dropped from 1973 to 111, a decrease of more than one third. The real credit goes to the players and coaches. They have adjusted to the rules and the challenge of creating a culture of safety for our game.

But there's more to do on player health and safety. Carefully reviewing and improving our concussion protocols will be a focus of our medical committees this off-season. And we are establishing the position of a chief medical officer. This individual who we expect to have in place very soon will oversee our medical-related policies, ensure that we update them regularly and work closely with our medical committees, our advisers and the players association.

There's more work to do on other fronts. While the quality of the game continues to improve, fans want every play to have suspense. But the extra point has become virtually automatic. We have experimented with alternatives to make it more competitive play and we expect to advance these ideas through the Competition Committee this off-season. We are looking at expanding the use of technology and innovation for

our football and medical staffs as well as our fans. Last year, technology improved officiating. For the first time, it enabled us to directly involve officiating supervisors in our office in instant replay, and for officials to use wireless communications on the field. Replay and other officiating decisions took less time. That's important. Fans don't want delays. Coaches don't want delays. They want action and accuracy.

We are looking at other ways to enhance replay and officiating. That includes potentially expanding replay to penalties, if it can be done without more disruption to the pace of the game. And we are discussing rotating members of the officiating crews during the season as a way to improve consistency throughout our regular season and benefit our crews in the postseason. In officiating, consistency is our number one objective.

The possibility of expanding the playoffs has also been a topic over the last couple of years. There are positives to it, but there are concerns as well. Among them being the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January.

In another important area, we are continuing our work to uphold the highest standards of responsible conduct so that we represent our fans and communities in a way that will make them proud. Yesterday, we held the first meeting of our new League Conduct Committee chaired by Michael Bidwell. The committee reviewed our current personal conduct policy. It emphasizes ongoing education, prevention, support services, and raises the standards for all of us in the NFL. Most importantly, it is clearly more effective.

On the issue of footballs used in the AFC championship game, we have been hard at work conducting an objective and thorough investigation. As you would expect, we take seriously anything that potentially impacts the integrity of the game. We are focusing presently on two questions -- why were some footballs used in the game that were not in compliance with the rules, and was this the result of deliberate action? I want to emphasize, we have made no judgments on these points. And we will not compromise the investigation by engaging in speculation. When Ted Wells has completed his investigation and made his determination based on all relevant evidence, we will share his report publicly.

Finally, on steps to grow the game and serve the fans, we are excited about the success of Thursday Night Football and the extension of our agreement with CBS. We have the best partners in media. And together, we will continue to develop new platforms, expand fan interaction and deepen fan engagement.

Technology, great football and our fans, that's a winning combination. How our fans, especially younger ones, connect with the game is changing every day. To that end, we are aggressively pursuing the streaming of a regular season game with our first over-the-top telecast. It would be carried on broadcast stations in both team markets, but it would also reach a worldwide audience, including millions of homes that do not have traditional television service. Let me finish with this. Football's popularity is extraordinary. The

credit goes to the players, coaches and the fans. We know the NFL's impact is far reaching. It is most dramatically seen on Super Bowl Sunday. It means we have enormous responsibility to lead every day by example. It is what our fans deserve. We are humbled by and grateful for their passion. They are the ones who inspire me, our owners and coaches and men like our Walter Peyton Award finalists who are with us today. And we know we must earn the trust of our fans every day.

I know you have a question on these and many other issues, so let's get to it.



BARRY WILNER, REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Barry Wilner from the "Associated Press." In light of what you just finished, your statement, with such a focus on off-the-field issues, including what the public perceives as failures in the league investigative process, dating back to the Saints bounties, as well as some problems on the field that you just referred to, what do you plan to do specifically before next reason to restore faith in the league and in the, quote, unquote, "shield"? Thank you.

GOODELL: Yes, Barry. We've already begun that process, Barry. We have already begun the process of adding additional resources in terms of individuals that can bring an expertise to our office, an expertise to investigations. As you know, last fall, I announced that we would hire a special council for investigations in conduct. We are in the search process and hope to conclude that in the very near future.

We have great people working for the NFL. And we are adding resources, adding assets that will make sure that we have a thorough and fair process. We are also, as we demonstrated with Ted Wells, not afraid to go outside and to get outside perspective that can be valuable to us, a professional perspective that will give us the kind of outcome we want, which is a fair -- with the truth being clear.



THOMAS: Jim Thomas, "St. Louis Post Dispatch." I have a two-part question for you. What is the league's level of commitment to keeping a franchise in St. Louis, especially given the region's efforts to build a new stadium for the Rams for the second time in 20 years? And, secondly, Rams ownership, by all appearances, seems to be more interested in the L.A. project than the St. Louis stadium project. How does this meet relocation guidelines which call for teams to exhaust every opportunity in their own market before moving? Thank you.

GOODELL: Well, Jim, the first answer to your initial question is that we want all of our franchises to stay in their current markets. That's a shared responsibility. That's something that we all have to work together on. The league has programs, including stadium funding programs, that we make available. And we will work and have worked with communities, including St. Louis. We also will make sure that we're engaging the business community and the public sector in a way that can help us lead to solutions that work in those communities and in your case St. Louis, and make sure that it works for the community as well as for the team so our teams can be successful over the long term.

The second part of your question, Jim, was the interest and the ownership? You know, Stan has been working on the stadium issue in St. Louis, as you know, for several years. They had a very formal process as part of their lease. That process -- they went through that entire process. It did not result in a solution that works either for St. Louis or for the team. So I don't think the stadium is a surprise to anybody in any market that is having these issues. There's quite a bit of discussion about it. And the St. Louis representatives seem determined to build the stadium. That's a positive development and something that we look forward to working with them on.

BOB KRAVITZ, REPORTER: Commissioner, Bob Kravitz with WTHR in Indianapolis.


KRAVITZ: Robert Kraft said the other day that he felt that you and your office owed him an apology if nothing came out of the investigation, the Wells investigation. What are your thoughts on that matter?

GOODELL: Well, Bob, my thoughts are, this is my job, this is my responsibility, to protect the integrity of the game. I represent 32 teams. All of us want to make sure that the rules are being followed. And if we have any information where the potential is that those rules were violated, I have to pursue that, and I have to pursue that aggressively. So this is my job. This is the job of the league office. It is what all 32 clubs expect. And I believe our partners, our fans expect. And we will do it vigorously. And it is important for it to be thorough and fair.


GOODELL: Yes, sir?

FARMER: -- of the "Los Angeles Times." 2015 marks the 20th year without a franchise in the nation's second-largest market. And coincidentally, the 20th consecutive year that I've asked this question.



GOODELL: I do recognize it already, Sam. You want me to finish it for you?

FARMER: Should I just drop the mic?


Earlier this month, as Jim mentioned, Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, announced plans for an 80,000-seat stadium there. Considering that he has the land, the vast resources, both financial and political, can anyone else win this race? What's the criteria that the league is going to use to determine which team or teams are able to relocate to Los Angeles? And what if an owner decides to go rogue and, without the NFL's blessing says, I'm just going to move my team no matter what you say?

GOODELL: Well, Sam, several points that you made there, and let me try to be responsive to all of them. First, let me start with your second question. The ownership takes very seriously the obligation for us all to vote on any serious matter, including relocation of a franchise. There's a relocation policy that is very clear. We have shared it with our ownership over the last several years. We have emphasized the point in each of those meetings that there will be at least one vote if not multiple votes if there is any relocation. We would have potentially the relocation itself, potential stadium funding, potential Super Bowls. So a lot of things would likely be subject to a vote. And our ownership takes that very seriously and we take that very seriously. So any relocation will be subject to a vote.

As it relates to the first part of your question, there have been no determinations of us going to Los Angeles, any particular team going to Los Angeles or going to any particular stadium. We have several alternatives that we're evaluating both from a site standpoint. There are teams that are interested but are trying to work their issues out locally. And so as a league, we haven't gotten to that stage yet. And it will all be subject to our relocation policy. There are requirements in that policy, as you know, particularly as it relates to cooperation and working to make sure that they solve the issues in their local market. But I'm confident all of that will be covered within the relocation policy and with our membership approval.

MIKE GARAFOLO, REPORTER, FOX SPORTS 1: Roger, Mike Garafolo, FOX Sports 1. I realize this question might seem to some people petty, especially in comparison to some of the other things you'll be asked this morning, but Marshawn Lynch's cooperation, or lack thereof, with the media has become a big story. Since even before you were commissioner, you concerned yourself with growing the game, with marketing the game. So what's your take on how he handled the media this week, and has your office made a decision whether he'll be fined for a lack of participation or for wearing a non-licensed hat?

GOODELL: On the second part of your question, I do not believe any decision has been made on that. Our staff will look at that following the Super Bowl and make a determination as they have in the past.

You know, I've been very clear that when you're in the NFL, you have an obligation, an obligation to the fans. It is part of your job. And there are things that we all have to do in our jobs that we may not necessarily want to do. I think Marshawn understands the importance of the Super Bowl, the importance of his appearance, and the importance of him as an individual in this game. And fans are curious. Fans want to know. The media would like to make the story clear to our fans. I understand it may not be on the top of his list. But everyone else is cooperating. Everyone else is doing their part because it is our obligation. And as I say, there are a lot of things we don't like to do in our jobs, but it comes with the territory, and it comes with the privilege of playing in the Super Bowl.

DARREN MCKEE, REPORTER, KKFN DENVER: Commissioner Goodell, Darren McKee, KKFN Denver.


MCKEE: Speaking of jobs, it's been a tough year for you in your job this year. Many people in America, if they went through the year you've had, probably would have resigned or been fired.


Can you envision any set of circumstances which would lead you to resigning or being fired as your job as commissioner?

GOODELL: No, I can't. I --


Does that surprise you? Listen, I -- it has been a tough year. It's been a tough year on me personally. It's been a year of, what I would say, humility and learning. We obviously as an organization have gone through adversity. But more importantly, it's been adversity for me. And that is something where we take that seriously. It's an opportunity for us to get better. It's an opportunity for us -- for our organization to get better. So we've all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly, and we have taken action. A lot of the concerns that we had back in August where we didn't have a policy that addressed a very complex issue, we didn't have answers for that. We didn't fully understand those issues. Well, now we have experts in the field. They're in our office. They're helping us understand this, advisers that have given us a better understanding of the issues and how to deal with these complex issues. We went on the road. We've spoken to -- last count I had was well over 150 experts, whether they're former players, college university presidents, law enforcement officials. How can we do a better job of managing these complex issues? And we set out to create a new personal conduct policy, which was unanimously approved by our 32 owners in December. So we made enormous progress. The things we didn't know and the things where we were in August are not where we were today. We're in a good place in knowing and learning and being more -- having a lot more humility. And as an organization and as an individual, it's been a tough year but a year of great progress. And I'm excited about the future.

The second and probably important issue for us is we want to make a difference in this area, not just internally but externally. We've done a great deal to bring more awareness to these issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. We are committed to that. We are working with various organizations to try to make sure that we, as my advisers like to say -- and James Randall is over here -- normalize the conversation, bring awareness, understand what victims and survivors are going through.

One of the most compelling moments I had of this entire fall was going to shelters or going to a hotline center and being able to speak to the advocates and hear the fear, the emotion, the economic consequences. That is compelling. And it will make you understand this issue much more deeply. And we, as the NFL, and this commissioner understands it a lot better today than he did before. And I think we, as the NFL, want to make this an important issue where we can make a difference in society in general because this is a problem in the broader society.

JOHN SAUNDERS, REPORTER, ESPN: Commissioner, John Saunders from ESPN.


SAUNDERS: Taking into account, what the Mexican market means for the league, largest attendance, since 2005 league has had a regular season in Mexico season. The fans don't understand why. Can you explain to them why?

GOODELL: John, we have tremendous fans in Mexico. We had a great experience with the regular season game down there. As you know, that was our first ever. It was a tremendous success for us. We want to get back there. We want to play more games there. It's a combination of stadium availabilities, making sure we can do it at the standards and level that we expect to do it. When we do it, we'll want to do it well. We've have had a tremendous amount of focus in London. But we're looking at other markets, including Mexico. And we certainly hope to be back there soon.

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rachel Nichols from CNN. Roger, you guys have faced problems over the past year over a wide range. A lot of issues that have in common are the conflicts of interests. When you do something like hire an outside investigator, like Ted Wells into the Patriots investigation, you're still paying him, and Robert Kraft, who owns Patriots, is still paying you. Even when you do everything right in one of those situations, it opens you up to a credibility gap with the public and even some of your most high- profile players. What steps can you guys take in the future to mitigate those conflict of interest issues?

GOODELL: Rachel, I don't agree with you on a lot of assumptions you make in your question. I think that we have had people that have uncompromising integrity. Robert Mullens, for example, who I think you asked me the same question last fall, about the conflict of interest. Their integrity is impeccable. Ted Well's integrity is impeccable. These are professionals. They bring outside expertise and outside perspective. And their conclusions are drawn only by the evidence and only by the attempt to identify that truth. So I think we have done an excellent job of bringing in outside consultants in. Somebody has to pay them, Rachel. Unless you're volunteering, which I don't think you are. And we will do that. But we have the responsibility to protect the integrity of the league, whether we have an owner being investigated or a commissioner being investigated, they're done at the highest level of integrity and quality.

RON MOTT, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Roger, good morning. It's Ron Mott, NBC News. A number of your players have been quite vocal about criticizing you and your leadership. So, a two part question. One, how do you describe your relationship with the league's players? B, what plans do you in mind to try to improve that relationship going forward?

GOODELL: Well, Ron, obviously, there's close to 3,000 players at any given time in the NFL. I communicate with players on a regular basis, in almost every case privately. I seek their input, particularly when making decisions that affect players, which are most decisions. But we spend an awful lot of time talking with former players who are great input in personal conduct policy. We also reach out to the player's association for their perspective. We are not going to agree on every matter. We understand that. But no one has more respect for the players, what they do in our communities, what they do on the field, their importance to NFL going forward. And I've had the great privilege of working closely with them for now 30-some-odd years. That's a privilege for me. Their well being, their future are important to me. We spend a great deal of time on player health and safety. We want to make this game as safe as possible for them. We want to make sure that we do everything to make sure, while they're here and when they transition out of football, we are helping them be successful, so.

I'll continue to reach out to them, continue to have the input they're willing to give me. We'll also work with the player's association. But when we disagree on matters such as personal conduct poll circumstances we're not going to compromise the NFL. We agreed that we need to raise standards in the NFL. That's what our owners said. We agreed that we have to make sure we're not completely reliant on law enforcement. Our owners agree with that. We don't want to wait until law enforcement concludes a process. That could take months. We need to take action. We had a fundamental difference with the player's association on that, so we implemented personal conduct policy to make sure we have that ability. We'll continue to work with them, we'll continue to try to find ways to strengthen that policy and address any issues they raise.



GOODELL: Yes, Jason?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In the league's quest to keep innovating wit respect to technology and digital media, has there been discussion using both even better to persuade more kids and parents about getting involved with football rather than being dissuaded by it?

GOODELL: Absolutely. Jason, we've spent a great deal of time with USA Football. We helped the player association to create that to help us promote the game of football on all levels. They've done an extraordinary job. We created the Heads Up Football Program which is just two or three years old now, which the adoption rate on the youth level and now the high school level is extraordinary. It's teaching coaches how to teach safe techniques, it's teaching other kids how to play the game safely. That's good for the long term future of the game. We'll continue to invest in it, as we've done. We've committed $45 million to USA Football through out NFL foundation. Again, to promote the game, but to promote a game played safely.

The game of football -- and someone that played youth football through high school -- I think the values, character from playing a team sport like football is extraordinary. I want kids to have that same opportunity.


BOBBY SENA, NFL PLAY SAFELY SUPER KID: Hi. My name is Bobby Sena, and I'm the NFL Play Safely super kid.

GOODELL: I just met you, Bobby. Nice to see you again.

SENA: Well, playing 60 is an important part of my life. But how do you play safely? I told you it was a tough question.


GOODELL: Well Bobby, I laid 65 this morning. I was in the gym at quarter to 5:00 this morning doing the elliptical. And I believe in that. I believe in the importance of taking care of yourself from a physical standpoint, emotional standpoint, mental standpoint. That's a routine I have. I get in a routine and don't let it go.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORT: Roger, FOX 29 TV and Sports Radio 94-WIP Philadelphia. When Sean Payton was suspended, you had said -- and you when he said he was unaware, that ignorance is to excuse. Will the same standards apply, as you said, to the integrity of the game when you complete your investigation on footballs? And if they were deflated by anybody, will the same standards hold true for Bill Belichick? And one other question. Richard Sherman said the other day that if players should be available every week, you, as the commissioner, should be available to fans and media on a weekly basis as well. Can you address his question as well?

GOODELL: Well, let me start with the second one. I understand the obligation of my job to meet with the media. I don't know whether I meet with them in a press conference every week, but I'm available to media almost everyday of my job professionally. So we try to make ourselves available on a very regular basis. It's my responsibility, my job, and I'll do that.

The first part of your question -- I want to make sure that we don't mix issues. These are individual cases. The Saint's bounties case was -- without getting into the details of it -- there were allegations of that a year prior. We investigated a year prior and didn't find anything. Later, information came to us that verified a bounty program was in place. At that point in time, they were all on notice that bounty programs are obviously unacceptable, that there were suspicions and that they shouldn't continue to exist. So I hold the head coach responsible in that case. We don't know enough in this investigation to know who's responsible

or whether there was even an infraction. When we get the case from Ted Wells, we'll take all that into account and make the right decision to protect the integrity of the league.



DICKSON: Hi, Amber Dickson, NBC Las Vegas. Las Vegas has long expressed interest in having a professional sports team, whether NHL, NBA or NFL. In your opinion, do you think Las Vegas could sustain a professional team?

GOODELL: Well, I can't speak to other sports for sure. I certainly can't even speak to the NFL because I haven't had any dialogue with officials in Las Vegas about how that could happen successfully for Las Vegas and for the NFL. A stadium would be a big component to that. I'm not sure that exists right now.