CINCINNATI – Prior to the Monday Night Football contest between the Steelers and Bengals, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a tailgate with Bengals fans. After the fans had an opportunity to ask Goodell some questions, he was available to the media briefly.
Here is the Q&A from that media session:
Q. Can you keep essence of football intact with new emphasis on what is now considered an illegal hit?
A. Yeah, I think that's what our Competition Committee does every year. You see the techniques they have identified that will make the game safer if we remove them from the game. The game is still a very physical game. We want to do everything we can to make it safe as we can for the players.
Q. What are your thoughts on Troy Polamalu's comments regarding the need for an independent body to look at fines and/or appeals of those fines?
A. We have a former player who is the one who actually does the discipline, and they appeal that up to another former Hall of Fame player. You always want to try and find that balance, but I don't believe you can have active players and active coaches involved with discipline.
Q. After his meeting in New York last Tuesday, would you say the league and James Harrison are on the same page with regards to what is legal?
A. I think we came in doing a lot of listening. I think James did also. I think we were able to identify those techniques for him and identify those rules that we were concerned about, so we think it was a productive meeting.
Q. Are the fines being levied right now too costly?
A. We look at the discipline to make sure the discipline stops the behavior, so that's why we said we're going to look at increasing those fines and we're potentially going to have suspensions if those rules continue to be violated. The reality of it is I think you're having a culture change in the NFL, and I don't think that's going to happen overnight. I think you've had (it) throughout the decades. You saw it where we had the head slap removed or when you had the 5-yard bump change. There's always a cultural change in the league, and you take certain techniques out of the game and it takes awhile to adjust to that. But players, coaches do adjust to that, and I think you're seeing that.
Q. Is it working?
A. Yes. I think there's much more awareness of it, and I think coaches, players are all adapting to that."
Q. What has to happen next to change the culture further?
A. It's increased awareness. You need to do everything to make sure everyone understands the rules, and it will happen. People will adapt to it.
Q. Is there any update on progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement with the players?
A. We continue to have discussions, but we've got to focus on having productive discussions where there's actually progress being made. We're getting closer and closer to that March deadline and I think for the good of the game, for the good of the fans, for the good of the players, we need to reach an agreement that's fair to everyone. We have a lot of work to do, and we've got to sit down and work on it. We owe that to the game.