NFL commissioner Roger Goodell touched on a wide range of topics Friday during the annual “State of the NFL.” Among the highlights:
Goodell defended the league, which has come under increasing scrutiny following new studies about the long-term effects of concussions as well as recent suicides by former NFL players.
Goodell says steps the league has taken in recent seasons have made the game safer, and more steps are likely going forward.
“We will not relent on this,” he said.
Neurosurgeons will be part of game-day medical staffs beginning next season, he said. The league is also looking at eliminating certain low blocks and will continue to impose harsh punishments for illegal hits – particularly for players who are repeat offenders.
Proper tackling technique also needs to be emphasized, getting players to get away from using their heads and return to using their shoulders and arms.
“The No. 1 issue is, take the head out of the game,” Goodell said.
Goodell refused to apologize for his harsh treatment of the Saints’ bounty program, even if it means he’s not the most popular man in New Orleans this week.
Coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season, and four current or former Saints players were punished after an investigation found the club had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned.
“There’s no question that there was a bounty program in place for three years. I think that is bad for the players, it’s bad for the game,” Goodell said.
Despite eight coaching vacancies and openings for seven general managers, no minorities were hired for the NFL’s most high-profile positions this off-season. Goodell says that’s unacceptable.
“There was full compliance of the Rooney Rule. In fact, I believe there were a record number of interviews,” Goodell said. “But we didn’t have the outcome we wanted.”
Goodell said the league needs to look at whether the rule needs to be adapted.