At the conclusion of the 2013 NFL Owners’ Meetings, Commissioner Roger Goodell held a news conference that covered a wide range of topics and focused primarily on the rules changes that had been voted upon and approved by the membership. Here are some of the other topics he touched upon:
ON THE FUTURE OF THE PRO BOWL:
Goodell: The Pro Bowl next year will be (on the Sunday) before the Super Bowl. I don’t know the exact date. The answer going forward will be, again, if some of these changes are effective positive and lead to a better event, we will find a way to make this game better and hopefully more popular with our fans. Ultimately, that’s what we are looking for. I have also spoken with several players who have participated in this game this past year, (asking them) what we can do to make it better for them and how can we improve the experience a little bit. We want to do that. We have to find ways to do some of those things.
ON THE LOCATION OF THE PRO BOWL:
Goodell: We are open-minded about that. Our agreement with Hawaii is just for the coming year, but I would expect that we will continue to be in Hawaii on some kind of rotational basis.
ON THE REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE, EXPANSION OF PLAYOFFS:
Goodell: I think we will have further discussions about it. I wouldn’t want to point to it saying we will be making decisions by the spring of 2014. I feel strongly that we have to do the work, we have to do the analysis until we’ve gotten to a point where we have the right input, and frankly, we’ve talked to all of our partners. That includes players, the networks and, obviously, the 32 teams. There is a lot of work to be done, so I would not tie myself to that time frame. I think the discussions will continue and maybe be a little bit more intensive by then.
ON ROONEY RULE DISCUSSIONS:
Goodell: We spent quite a bit of time yesterday morning on that. Not just the Rooney Rule but also our overall efforts to promote the best talent in the NFL, in all positions. One of the major focuses we had was we are going to reinstate the symposium program that we’ve had in the past. It was primarily focused on coaches in the past, but we are likely to have some potential GM candidates also attend with the coaches. This will be a learning experience. This will be an opportunity for us to help give them greater tools to be able to advance their careers. We also want to be able to give them greater feedback on the interview process for those that may have interviewed. There was some discussion about the Rooney Rule. We did talk a little bit about giving more flexibility to teams when they asked for permission to interview candidates. It’s good practice for you (the teams) to allow your employees to seek better opportunities and I’m hopeful the teams will do that more voluntarily. I think there are some very positive things going on and we’re anxious to get into some of those programs, which will happen in early May.
ON ENHANCING THE IN-GAME EXPERIENCE FOR FANS:
Goodell: The primary responsibility is going to go to the teams. They are focused on this and I think we are all feeling the pressure to add value, to create a better experience for our fans in the stadium. Starting with Sunday night, where we had one of our broadcast partners here, Les Moonves, we talked about that the experience at home is outstanding, and it will continue to get better because of technology. Les made the point: the reality is we want people watching on television saying, ‘I wish I was there. I want to be in that stadium.’ We’re fortunate. We are at 98 percent capacity on a league-wide basis, which is very positive. We have to find ways not only to bring fans into stadium, but make it a better experience for them. That’s technology, security, making sure we take care of parking, concessions and the other things fans expect. We did spend a lot of time on this. We heard directly from some of those fans that were here this week about the things that were important to them, and what we have to do. The very subtle things as an example: instead of season ticket holders, they are season ticket members. We have to start finding ways in which we can engage with those fans on a year-round basis, and to demonstrate how important they really are to the game and our teams. I think you will see some very dramatic improvements. Will we have some league-wide efforts that go across all stadiums? Yes, I do see that.
ON PROHIBITING COACHING HIRES UNTIL AFTER THE SUPER BOWL:
Goodell: We had quite a bit of discussion about that; we did not see how that was really going to work. There were a number of issues with it. We think the smarter approach here is to have the Rooney Rule in place, which we think has been incredibly effective. We were disappointed in the results this year. We think that some of the changes we are making to make sure we get the right candidates better training, and we really are doing a better job of getting them in front of the people who are making the decisions. That is going to be the best way to pay dividends.
ON MAKING THIGH AND KNEE PADS MANDATORY:
Goodell: Yes, we passed that. We have had discussions with the union going back four and five years on this issue. It was passed at the May meeting last year for implementation this year. We have done some additional testing of those pads with some of our partners. I think the University of Virginia was the one who implemented the testing. They can have a very positive impact on the safety of our players. We are going forward with that.
ON WHETHER TO INCLUDE THE HIRING OF COORDINATORS IN THE ROONEY RULE:
Goodell: We are going to continue to talk about that. We have talked about that a lot with the Fritz Pollard Alliance. We have talked a lot about it with our internal committee. We did raise it with the membership. One of the clubs made the point about (needing) to do more about the flexibility for our people to interview. When there is an opening, it is good practice to allow your best people to interview and have that opportunity to get a new job. That will attract even better people. That is what the whole effort here is about: to get the best people the best opportunities. That’s what everyone is asking for and looking for. We are making progress on that and hopefully, some of the changes we are making will even be more beneficial.
ON NEGATIVE COMMENTS FROM PLAYERS ABOUT THE RULE CHANGES:
Goodell: The No. 1 thing is these decisions are not made in isolation. They are made with a lot of input from almost every one of the entities you just discussed: current players, former players, current coaches, former coaches, general managers and fans. You have to balance all of those issues. They spend a lot of time going through this and they come back with recommendations of techniques that they think can improve the game, but more importantly improve safety. We have demonstrated that the game is safer and the game is better. We can do both of those. That is what we are proud of. We are going to continue to do that intelligently.