Commissioner Goodell Press Conference Spring Meeting In Atlanta

NFL logoROGER GOODELL: We had a four-hour meeting this morning and covered a lot of subjects, including labor. We talked a lot about other related issues with respect to our stadiums, what we’re doing to improve the experience for our fans in the stadium. We spent a great deal of time on financial matters and the labor matter. I know you want to speak about the labor matter so I’d be happy to take your questions. I will be back later this afternoon and I can take questions on other matters. But we’ve got sort of a short timetable before we start this afternoon. The Super Bowl voting is this afternoon at 1:00 PM.

What signal does opting out send in terms of league’s position?

RG: It’s a very clear signal that the ownership does not believe that this deal is working. And it’s important for us all to sit down at the table and to try to address the matters that aren’t working for the ownership. There’s a very strong opinion in the ownership and the vote reflects that.

What has changed in the past two years to make this deal not work when it was agreed upon in 2006?

RG: Anytime you make a deal you don’t know how it’s going to work until you experience it. We’ve had two years now of operating under the new deal. Clearly, the economics are not working for the owners. Clearly, we have been investing more in stadiums and the costs of generating that revenue is become more significant. And it’s no secret what we’re going through from an economic standpoint that creates more risk in the marketplace.

Does making this decision now as opposed to the November deadline buy more time to negotiate with the players?

RG: It’s a fair point. There’s no question. We don’t need further time to analyze whether this is working or not working. It’s not working. It was the ownership’s view. It’s not a failure of negotiations. It’s a failure of the deal. So let’s get to the negotiations. It is a fair comment to say that this does give us an opportunity to sit with the players and understand the issues and get them to understand the issues and try to come up with some greater solutions.

Do you think the issues between high revenue franchises and low revenue franchises still exist and that’s the reason they are opting out?

RG: I don’t. As you know we share more revenue than any other sports league. This is about the issue of labor costs not about revenue sharing.

It’s been suggested that if the league proves that it is in dire financial straights, the union will listen and will look differently at the situation. Is that a realistic solution?

RG: We are not in dire financial straights. We’ve never indicated that. We’ve never stated that. What we’re looking for is a fair deal for both sides — the players and the management. We had a meeting with the union roughly a week ago. We offered to show them more financial data and they attached a number of conditions to that that we found were unreasonable. So we didn’t get to that point. We are willing to make our case of why the deal isn’t working for us but it has to be done properly.

The union says that it was the league that attached conditions to the disclosure of the financial situation. What were they?

RG: I don’t remember right now. We’ll get it for you.

Can you attach a metric of financial distress in terms of higher cost? We know how much the salary cap is, but can you state the average player salary, player payroll, or how much the teams’ profit margins are down?

RG: Clearly more money is going to the players, both in salary and in benefits. That adds additional stress with respect to the economics of running a league and it leaves you less margins to operate within. When you have bumps in the road, which none of us can forecast, that has a significant impact on what we hope will be the economics of running an NFL team.

What is the message to fans who don’t pay attention to all the financial details and who just want to know about their football?

RG: We have guaranteed three more years of NFL football. It is our responsibility to work out these matters and that is our job and that’s what we’re going to get focused on immediately. We recognize how important it is to have NFL football. We’ve had labor peace for several years and we hope to continue that.

When are the next scheduled meetings with the union?

RG: We don’t have anything scheduled at this point in time. I’m sure I will speak with Gene in the near future and we’ll decide how to proceed on that level.

Will this come down to the deadline? What are the hopes it will get done prior to the deadline?

RG: It’s like most issues. Deadlines always are helpful. I think anytime you have a deadline it forces people to understand the consequences of not reaching an agreement. That’s what we all have to understand and hopefully cooler heads will prevail here.

Has there been any talk that having a 17th regular-season game in place of the fourth preseason game will create a bigger revenue pot?

RG: We actually are looking at that as one alternative. We are going to report to ownership today on our preseason and what we can do to improve the quality of our preseason. We think that may impact on some of the things that we want to talk to players about.

What would a 17th game do in terms of creating more room to get a settlement with the players?

RG: It will create new revenue. The thought process was that we might reduce the preseason by a game in return for that. The players will still play the same number of games, but it may give us an opportunity to put higher quality football out there. We are not satisfied with the quality of the preseason right now. We’d like to improve on that and that’s what we’re looking at.

In the league’s statement you mention the issue of recouping signing bonuses. How has that escalated as an issue?

RG: It’s probably highlighted in a large part by the Michael Vick issue. There are other cases such as Ashley Lelie and others. In the Michael Vick case, he’s not able to play football and as such he got a significant signing bonus and we are not able to recover that. That’s money that could be going to players who are playing the game right now. So we think that there are some adjustments there that need to be made that are beneficial to the veteran players, frankly.

If there is a lockout in 2011, have you talked to the three owners bidding on the 2012 Super Bowl and how it might impact that Super Bowl?

RG: There’s been some initial discussion on that. But we’re not that far down the road. Our thought process is: how do we get an agreement that works? We recognize how it could impact people, groups or communities who want to host Super Bowls. But, I don’t think we’re at a point now to really be focused on that.

What happens to the rookie class coming in at the 2010 Draft?

RG: The Draft is negotiated through, I think, 2011. We would have the Draft through 2011.

But the 2010 rookie class would be uncapped as well?

RG: Yes.

What is it about the preseason that is lacking?

RG: That’s one of the things we’re analyzing. It used to be that we had six preseason games. In today’s NFL, it’s become more of a year-round business. Athletes come in and they probably are better prepared for the season, both physically and mentally. Is it necessary to have four preseason games to get the players prepared to play in the regular season? There’s an evaluation of talent. Who should make the team? Who shouldn’t make the team? Of course, the big significant issue for us is the quality of it and what our fans are seeing. Is it the best way to promote the upcoming season?

If there is an odd number of regular-season games, is there a way to balance out home games?

RG: You play it by conference and you flip-flop it each year. So, the AFC would play nine home games in your scenario and next year the NFC would play nine.

During the fourth preseason game, often starters don’t even play. Would you expand rosters to compensate for more competitive games?

RG: We would look at that. That’s a reasonable point to look at. It’s a long season for the players. We want to make sure that the quality of the product is unmatched. So we would look at that.

Is there any indication that coaches wouldn’t just do the same thing in the third preseason game that they now do in the fourth and not play their starters?

RG: Maybe we’ll look at two [games].

The union argues that a lot of money comes out of the players’ share to help fund stadiums. How valid is that as an argument?

RG: It’s valid that they’ve given us a cap credit. But all of the risk falls on the NFL owners. They have to take the risk that if the project comes in they can finance it and sell against it. The players are just agreeing that they will give a credit on the basis of a certain amount of revenue going forward. It’s helpful. I don’t think it addresses sufficiently enough the concerns that we have as you’re building $2 billion stadiums.

What’s your biggest concern as you get to 2010?

RG: Getting an agreement. From our standpoint, we are just looking for an agreement. We will reach an agreement at some point. We would like to reach an agreement with the least amount of pain and turmoil. We hope we can do it at the negotiating table and in an appropriate fashion within the right timetable. We are not concerned about an uncapped year. With the kind of dollars we’re paying right now that doesn’t necessarily concern us. What we would like to do is keep a system that works for us and both parties.

If you get to an uncapped year, how difficult will it be to reestablish a system with a cap?

RG: In 1993 we did not have a cap system and we got one. I’m sure there will be a lot of rhetoric about no cap system if there isn’t one at that point in time. But we were able to make that transition before and I’m sure we can do it again if necessary.

Is it fair to say the agreement that started in 2006 was not a wise agreement?

RG: I don’t really look back at it that way. We all were making an effort to try to keep labor peace. We reached an agreement that we knew was going to be pushing the envelope. After two years of living within that system, we recognized it does not work long-term for us. That’s the way it goes.

With today’s vote to opt out, how will that affect any LA initiative with this degree of uncertainty?

RG: Uncertainty is never a great thing. So you have that and it could affect the potential for us to get a team in Los Angeles. It could affect the potential for additional revenue streams through television. It can have that impact. I hope it won’t. I hope that we’ll be able to reach that agreement. But there is that potential.

With the credits given by the union, what are some of the ways they would bear risk?

RG: They don’t bear the risk.

What would be some of the ways?

RG: I’m not going to negotiate with them publicly. The cost of generating revenue is becoming more and more expensive. They share in revenue. They don’t share in cost.

Will the discussion of having a 17th regular-season game be included in the labor discussions or is it possible that it can be moved faster through separate discussions?

RG: I guess it’s possible but I don’t know. We haven’t had extensive discussions with the union. Most of our analysis has been internal. Does it work? Is it something we want to pursue? Before we propose something we would want to think through all the issues that some of the people have raised here. How would you work 17 weeks by conference? We need to do more analysis. We would talk to the union at the appropriate time and see what their reaction is.

What is the status on the Marvin Harrison situation?

RG: We are just keeping very close to all of the investigators and making sure we understand the facts as soon as they become available to us. That’s all we can do until we have more facts.

Are you concerned?

RG: I’m always concerned when our players are involved with things. It’s premature for us to say anything because we really do not know enough of the facts.

Did you consider making a proposal to the union before opting out?

RG: We had a meeting with them. We felt that this deal was not working. That was the most clear message to send them. It’s really to get to the table and to start negotiating. Whether we make a proposal or they make a proposal first, the reality is we just have to get to an agreement. We didn’t feel the deal was working. We needed to make that clear so that we could start the negotiation.

How much has the increased costs of stadium financing exacerbated the issue of rising player costs?

RG: When you’re building $2 billion facilities, you can understand the stress that brings on a system. Generating the kind of revenue to pay down that $2 billion is significant. And you have the obligations to pay the players as part of that. So, that’s been a big issue. That’s one of the things that none of us could have foreseen. But, when you see what’s happened in the marketplace with respect to financing particularly the auction rate securities. That’s a big impact that the owners have to bear, not the players. That’s what I mean by about risk in the marketplace.

Commissioner Goodell: Regarding the Competition Committee agenda, we picked up many of the matters that we had tabled from the March meetings.

One of them was the coach-to-defense implementation of the communication system.

The second was the integrity of the game. The rules and the policy that we adopted in March, we went through the details of how that will work – specifically the certification, the duty to report, the spot checks and some of the technology we’ll be using.

Third point, the Competition Committee discussed what has been called ‘the hair rule.’ We have tabled that on the basis – it was my view – that there was further work to be done. As you know, in March I tabled it because I felt it was out of respect to the players – Alex (Marvez) is over here shaking his head, the Alex rule (laughter) – I thought it was important for us to hear directly from the players. We had a Player Advisory Committee meeting in April. There are some additional items that need to be followed up on, so I felt out of respect for the players that we should continue to work with them and address this to see if there is a reasonable compromise, which of course doesn’t include cutting their hair. That has been tabled.

One other issue is that we have expanded our international practice squad to 16 teams for the season.

Preseason. We had a pretty lengthy presentation at the end of today on how we would approach the preseason. It was innovative. It was discussing more of how we look at our offseason and the start of our offseason from Senior Bowl to Combine to The Draft to training camps and minicamps. How a player goes through the process of making a team is a very compelling story, and we call it “the journey”. It is something we’re going to do more work on as it relates to how we can create greater content for the NFL and present our players and the game at a time when there is more desire for NFL content.

We spent a quite a bit of time today on fan conduct. We look at the issue of our in-stadium experience as something that is critically important. We think that the experience can be improved. We are going to be working with our clubs to improve that. We want everyone to be able to come to our stadiums and behave properly. So we’ll be focusing on that, including the implementation of an NFL fan conduct policy which we will have out prior to the season. It was generally agreed among all of our clubs that we should be able to do better here and make sure all fans can come in and enjoy the experience.

Personal conduct was raised and discussed again at length. This is an ongoing issue as I told you one year ago. We are adding some additional aspects to our policy. The most specific one and the one of greatest interest will be implementing club fines. Clubs that have incidents, players, coaches, anybody involved with an incident, there will be a league fine attached to that, and it will escalate with the more incidents that you might have.

We spent a little bit of time also talking about our public service promotional platform. The discussion there was what the NFL should stand for and where we can make the greatest difference. I think our focus is on youth health and fitness and it’s something that we are going to be more focused on as we go into this season and clearly beyond that.

Then we spent a little bit of time on two significant anniversaries. This year, as you know, is the 50th anniversary of the ’58 Championship Game. We will be doing something special around that. Details are yet to be announced, but we went through some ideas with our clubs today. Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the AFL, and we started to advise our clubs of some plans we’re going to have to celebrate that significant time.

You know about the labor issue, of course.

Q: Personal conduct policy and if there is a set schedule for fining teams?

No, it’s part of our personal conduct policy. There will be a fine against the club if a player is suspended under the personal conduct policy. That will be paid to the league to help cover the costs of some of the resources and some of the things we’re doing to help support our players. It will escalate with the number of incidents that you have at any particular club, so if you have more incidents the percentage will go up, and it will be based off of the player’s salary.

Q: Is that for suspensions or arrests?

Suspensions. Any discipline under the personal conduct policy. In this case, specifically, the example I was giving you of personal conduct was suspensions.

Q: This is not until you’ve adjudicated it?

Yes, that’s correct.

Q: Whether the policy will include other penalties besides money, such as draft picks?

It could. I think, to start with, we didn’t outline that but there’s potential that it could grow into that at some point.

Q: The amount of the fine is not tied into the severity of the infraction but rather the player’s salary?

The way we’ve outlined it to date, and we’ve just outlined a draft, but that is something we’re considering. That’s a reasonable issue – depending on the severity of the issue – we might consider that.

Q: Any discussion of expanding rosters or playoff re-seeding?

We did not discuss that.

Q: Proposal by Competition Committee regarding anti-tampering rule?

We did discuss that. The Competition Committee has met on that a couple of times. We’ll continue to discuss that. As you know, that’s really not an issue in the next several months. We’ll raise it again by October. We need to do some additional work on that.

Q: Fan conduct?

First of all, it’s very possible, and likely, that people can come to a game and enjoy alcoholic beverages or beer and do it very responsibly. What we don’t want is there to be abusive behavior. That includes foul language; that includes disrupting other people who are there to enjoy the game. We’re just saying, come and enjoy yourself, but don’t ruin it for others.

Q: Can you police that without having security everywhere?

We think we can, and we think some clubs are doing some very creative things here to get help to specific areas and to let our fans know that we expect when you come here you act civilized and allow everyone to enjoy the game. Have fun, scream as much as you want, but do it in a way that’s appropriate. I think I’ve told you in the past that I went to a game last year as a fan. I went through the gates and went through the whole experience, and it was a terrific experience. But that varies from stadium to stadium and probably game to game, and probably time to time. There’s no question that we probably have a more difficult time in the evening games. In some cases that’s because the normal season ticket-holder isn’t at that game and they give it to somebody else. That’s not a license to be unruly. In our opinion, you have a responsibility to whoever you give those tickets to, and you’re responsible for their behavior. It’ll be discipline, enforcement, and making sure that we communicate our message effectively.

Q: Any indication that there’s been an increase in bad behavior?

What’s precipitated it is hearing from fans. I hear a lot from fans and our teams hear from their fans, people who have had a bad experience. I think it’s something that we believe should be addressed effectively by the NFL, and so we’re going to take the positive step to do it and do it in a responsible fashion. I think it’ll be good for all of us to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure this experience is a good one.

Q: Which teams are doing a good job?

I’m not going to go there. I think we can all improve. I think all of us are going to learn from one another about what’s working in some stadiums. The situation is going to vary, and there are some new factors coming in. The secondary ticket market is a new factor and we have to figure out how to handle that. There’s not a one size fits all solution.

Q: Teams will get fined for personal conduct rather than drug policy violations?

That’s correct.

Q: Termination of contracts and the new rules that go into place today?

We’ll be happy to get them all for you. There is an acceleration of some of the rules and we’ll get them for you.

Q: Having the NFL Draft in Los Angeles – criteria?

I also got a letter from the mayor that indicated interest, saying that they think this would be a great spot for the draft. We are looking at that – that’s one of the cities that’s indicated an interest in doing that. We have an interest also. I think it goes in with all of the changes that we’re thinking about with the draft – whether we move it to prime time, which rounds go on which day, and including rotating the site. That’s one of the things that we’ll continue to look at.

Q: Time frame?

It could be as early as 2009.

Q: When will the decision be made?

I would guess sometime in the fall just because of the plans necessary.

Q: If a player gets fined but not suspended for a personal conduct policy violation, will the team get fined?

That’s something we’re still working out. We haven’t made a final determination on that. We have not implemented the policy; we discussed how we were going to proceed on this. We gave them some broad outlines, but that’s one of the issues we’re still addressing.

Q: Fan behavior issue and not having enough security manpower?

Certainly if that’s required, and they need more manpower to address their issues, then yes, we would seek to make sure that they have those resources available to them. Somebody made a comment earlier when we were discussing this issue about statistics. One of the things we want to do is get standardized information so we understand exactly what we are dealing with and, more importantly, understand what’s effective. So as we implement changes and we have various programs to address this issue, we know what’s working and what’s not working so we can focus on what’s working.

Q: Are there legal issues surrounding that?

I have yet to find something where there wasn’t a legal aspect.

Q: The game he attended as a fan and his opinion on the perfect model of an ideal game for fans?

I went with my 13-year-old niece and I sat in two locations. I sat all the way at the top on about the 40 and I sat in the end zone, and they were two different experiences, to be honest with you. I was actually quite surprised at how different they were. I think the model is, from the time somebody goes to a stadium, and that includes getting into the stadium, going through the parking experience, going through the gates, sitting there, concessions, restrooms, the whole experience – making sure that they feel safe, that they’re comfortable and that they can enjoy the game without being interfered with. I think people have a right to do that, so I think that’s the experience. We want them to go home safely, and when they arrive home, feel good about what they just did that day.

Q: 26 players being arrested or cited since the Super Bowl this year vs. 27 players at the same time last year, and how much he feels the personal conduct policy is working when the numbers show that it’s not?

I don’t agree with that. If you look at any particular window, it might not look like there’s been significant progress, but I think there’s a greater recognition of the issue. We’ve showed that there was a significant reduction in numbers. I recognize there have been incidents in the recent few weeks which concern me, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve raised it again. We will continue to address this issue; it is still a priority for us. As I said last year, this is not going to get resolved simply by issuing a new personal conduct policy. It’s going to be continuing reinforcement of the message: you’re expected to act a particular way if you’re going to be involved with the NFL, period.

Q: Pacman Jones and a possible partial reinstatement so he can work out with the team?

I really wanted to get through today’s meeting, but I will meet with Adam. I will see what his progress is. Depending on his progress, I will make a determination on whether it’s appropriate to have him work out at the team facility or work out with the team. As you know, I gave him that right at the end of last season to use the facilities, and then he lost it. So, I’ll have to make a judgment about whether I think he understands his responsibilities as an NFL player and we’ll go from there.

Q: Has Adam made any attempt to meet with you to get this issue resolved while you are here in Atlanta?

I have not heard from him here.

Q: It sounds like that meeting could take place very soon?

Yes, it could.

Q: With regard to the CBA, could you say something to the fans about whether or not they should be worried at this point? What is your level of confidence about reaching a new agreement with the players before the deadline?

I think our fans should focus on enjoying NFL football. They have got that for the next three seasons at a minimum. It is our job to be able to address these issues off-the-field with the players, not through the media, but directly with the players and do it responsibly so that we reach an agreement that is good for the players, good for the NFL, and, most importantly, good for our fans.

Q: Any level of confidence?

I don’t go around making projections. It’s our job to reach something that is fair and appropriate. I’m sure I will be held accountable to that.

Q: Can you talk about the plan to have rookies tour the Hall of Fame and talk about the importance of this connection between rookies and players in the Hall?

It’s actually an idea that Michael Irvin gave me at the Hall of Fame last year and as you know he made what I thought was one of the most emotional and powerful speeches when he was inducted. We talked about the power of the Hall of the Fame. We talked about the power of the players who played the game and the coaches that coached the game. The players coming into the league should have an understanding of that history, that tradition, and the people that came before them. We actually looked at the possibility of moving the entire Rookie Symposium to Canton. That could not be done, at least in the short term, because of facilities. So, this was an alternative that we thought was appropriate, bringing the rookies to the Hall of Fame and letting them go through. Many of the clubs will be sending their own Hall of Fame players with them to give them an experience. I hope they’ll understand that they’re walking in some pretty big shoes and that they have a responsibility to the NFL and that they will someday hope to be in that Hall themselves as inductees.

Q: What evidence did you look at as far as the preseason?

We didn’t get specific. This was really more of a broader concept. We really talked about the journey that starts with the college players by going through the process of being selected in the NFL, making the NFL, and how compelling that story really is. We should really look at the preseason not as the beginning of the season, but actually as the end of the process where they learn how to become an NFL player. They either make it or they don’t, and that’s really very compelling content to us. We compared that to some of the other entertainment that is going on and how we thought that there is a place for this.

Q: Is this content for the NFL Network?

I think it would go beyond the NFL Network, but clearly it is why we believe a 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year channel talking about the NFL is a very compelling proposition because there are great stories. Other networks have other programming and they have other interests. We think talking football 365 days a year is good because there a lot people who want to talk about it and that’s good for us and it’s good for our fans.

Q: With the hair rule being tabled again, will players be able to wear their hair the way they have been for at least this season?

Yes, I think that is safe to say. We’re going to be meeting with the players again. We’re going to be discussing alternatives. We will be at least looking at some of those alternatives and maybe even trying some of those alternatives out if players are willing to do so in hopes we would have some sort of solution for this in the future. I would assume that it wouldn’t come in on a broad level for the 2008 season.

Q: Are there any updates on the Patriots scalping Super Bowl tickets or them allowing a player to practice while on injured reserve?


Q: Was anything decided on the helmet communications system for the defense?

We passed it in March. Now it is just a question of implementing the actual communications system and making sure that it is in place and effective. We have done it within the policy we have passed in March.

Q: Have any teams experimented with it yet?

Not that I am aware of.

Q: Could there be fines levied against teams if there are too many rowdy fan incidents in their stadiums?

I never mentioned fines in that context. At some point that may be something that we entertain, but at this stage right now all the clubs believe that this is something we can do better at and we are going to be focused on how we can improve the experience. It is not a defining matter at this stage.

Q: Have you had any contact with Senator Specter since he called for an independent investigation last week?

No, I have not.

Q: Do you have any plans for that?