(Note: You can find the full Q and A at the end of this post)
NFL Chancellor Roger Goodell gave his annual state of the NFL address, showing optimism that a deal between the league and the union will get done before the uncapped 2010 season.
Indicated the Competition Committee will look at tweaking overtime, perhaps moving up the kickoff to serve as something of an equalizer when a team wins the coin toss. He said 47 percent of teams winning the OT toss won the game on the first possession this season.
This is a huge jump after Clark Judge wrote that 30% of the teams that received the opening kickoff in overtime, won the game. However, Judge said his numbers go back to 1974 when the existing overtime rules were adopted. There's no telling how far Goodell's numbers go, or even if it was beyond this season. So either someone has bad information, or Goodell is serving a greater purpose to publicly spin a fact to point out ownerships support of tweaking overtime rules. Who the hell knows how that man thinks?
For instance, he began pointing about the country's suffering economy, but then said he's hopeful for putting another regular season game in Mexico in 2010. Yes, real good. Take the city's money away from them during regular season games for a city that's not even in our country. He said of the game that the Bills played in Toronto, “We said that the objective was to regionalize the Buffalo Bills, and it achieved those objectives. We were able to increase our season ticket sales in the Toronto area significantly — over 40 percent. And I think from that standpoint, we achieved what our initial goal was.” What about having an NFL franchise in London?
Still, it's the pending labor agreement that's critical to the NFL's future, which has complications of its own due to recent allegations, or "drama" surrounding the search for permanent NFLPA leadership. At least he's not suspending Bengals players to show the league setting examples; so perhaps there's progress, right?
You can find the entire Q and A after the jump.
”Good morning. Let’s get started, if people want to sit down. First, let me welcome all of you. We’re glad to have you here and we hope you’ve had a good week. It’s great to be here in Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII. As always, we’d like to thank our host. The city of Tampa, the St. Petersburg area and all of Florida have been great hosts for us. We thank them very much.
“I know you have a lot of questions, but let me first offer a quick perspective on our season. I think it’s been an incredibly exciting season for our fans. The one word I like to use is unpredictable. Each week, there’s another unpredictable event, and I think that is the hallmark of our season, and frankly, the hallmark of the NFL. But there are three ways I’d like to describe this season, thinking back about it, and it’s with three key words: hope, inspiration and teamwork, all of which are very important in football. Hope that your team always can succeed and overcome the obstacles. We saw that with Atlanta, Miami and Baltimore coming from a difficult season the year before and going into the playoffs with first-year coaches. Inspiration from the efforts by some of our great players each week and our coaches and the teams when they come together and inspire communities, and we see that very clearly. And of course teamwork, which is so critical for what we all need to achieve. It’s working together and coming together at exactly the right time. And that’s particularly evident with our two teams at the Super Bowl. My congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals for representing their conferences. To Dan Rooney; the Bidwill family, Mike and Nancy and Bill Bidwill, that are here. They have great organizations and they deserve to be here and I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting matchup. With that, let me open it freely to take questions. I think we’ll start with Mr. Goldberg, so you’re up Dave.”
We all are going through hard economic times, but there seems to be mixed signals coming from the NFL. For example, your TV ratings are up, but you’re laying off employees and teams are laying off employees. Going back to the other direction, you’re paying some coaches a lot of money – $20 million dollars in one case – to not coach for the next three years. Just how do you assess where the NFL is at this point economically, and what the future may hold?
“Well Dave, I’ve been very clear that we’re not immune to what’s going on out in the economy. There’s a tremendous amount of uncertainty; uncertainty clearly breeds fear. And I’ve said to you before, it’s in three buckets for us: First, what’s happening for our business partners? They’re all going through difficult times. Some have, obviously for us, significant financial commitments and they’re being stretched. We hear from them every day, and it’s important to us how we manage through that. Clearly our fans, which is the most important thing. For people who’ve lost their jobs, can they continue to afford to come to an NFL game, or to any other event? The good news for us is that we have a tremendous product. People want to continue to be associated with that. People want to continue to be involved with the game and get emotionally involved with the game, and I think that’s to the benefit of the NFL. There’s a healthy quality to times like this. I also believe, very firmly, that in a time like this, the NFL can become an extremely invaluable escape for people. This Sunday will be a great example of it. As you see, we have a lot of issues in our country and around the globe, and we have to be able to deal with those aggressively. I think for a few hours Sunday, hopefully we’ll all be able to come together and enjoy a great football game and come together as Americans around a great event.”
When the celebration is over on Monday, what are some of the specific things that the NFL will do to address the impact of the economy?
“We’re not part of the economic crisis in the sense that we have any specific steps that we can take for the broader economy. As it relates to the NFL, we have announced, very aggressively, that we are going to look at all of our season ticket prices. Each team is doing that evaluation. I believe about three quarters of the league will hold their ticket prices flat. They’re going to have to work harder and be more creative and offer extended terms in some cases to our fans to allow them to try to get through this difficult cycle. We’ll continue to work with our business partners, who are facing challenges on their level, to figure out what we can do to help them during this time. Unfortunately also, we’re doing our own cuts at the league level. You’re seeing it across the league. Many of our clubs are having the difficult process of letting go employees. We’re doing that at the league level, and it’s incredibly difficult to do. But it is a difficult period of time. There is uncertainty out there, and we have to cut our costs so that we can continue to keep this business a successful business and grow this business at some point.”
How does the NFL determine that a shared stadium project in Northern California is the best option for those franchises, and if so, how would the league assist the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders in the construction of this badly needed facility?
“The point that you point out is that this facility is badly needed in the bay area. We have asked both teams to evaluate the possibility of a shared stadium. We can’t come to a conclusion right now if that’s the best solution. And in these times, when it’s more challenging to get these stadiums built, we have to be more creative. It’s been successfully done in New York with the Jets and the Giants, and we think it’s something that at least can be explored and evaluated by the two teams and by both communities. If it ends up being the best solution, then I think that’s a great thing.”
When the NFL goes outside U.S. borders, usually the response has been overwhelming. The Bills and the Dolphins played a game in a 54,000-seat stadium where there were visibly empty seats in December. Can we get your reaction to that, and can I get your working relationship between the NFL and the CFL?
“Let me start with your second question about the CFL. We’ve had a great relationship with the CFL. We’ve had long negotiations with them, and they determined – in their perception – that they did not need an alliance or any type of formal arrangements. We will continue to look into the best interests of football. We would love to see our CFL partners be successful, and we’ll continue to communicate with them. I just reached out to the CFL commissioner this week. Your second question: the two games up at Toronto this year were tremendously successful for us. We said that the objective was to regionalize the Buffalo Bills, and it achieved those objectives. We were able to increase our season ticket sales in the Toronto area significantly - over 40 percent. And I think from that standpoint, we achieved what our initial goal was. The other issue is that it’s a building process. When we first got in, we wanted to make sure it was a good experience for the two teams, that they were successful and that they could do it without any negative competitive consequences, and we achieved that objective. I met with the people that are promoting the game, Rogers Communications, along with the Bills this week, and I’m very confident that next year’s game is going to be bigger and better. I think we’ll evaluate every aspect of the game, including pricing, and I think they’ll do a terrific job and it’ll be a great game.”
The year 2016 will be the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl and also the 70th anniversary of the first integrated major professional sports team, the Los Angeles Rams. How seriously will the league consider returning to Los Angeles for the 2016 game and would it be nostalgia enough, or would it have to be tied in to a team returning to Los Angeles? Also, if the decision could be made before the 2014 or 2015 games are awarded?
“Let me start with your initial point, which is 2016 being the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl and being that LA was the site of our first game. We think that is a very attractive opportunity. It’s something we want to evaluate. We’ve heard from some of the people in Los Angeles that this would be a great way to celebrate our 50th anniversary and we will do that; we will evaluate that. It is something that we will probably do sometime over the course of this next year. Whether the timing is before the next awarded Super Bowl, I wouldn’t commit to that at this point. But it is significant in that we would like to celebrate our 50th anniversary. The 70th celebration is also important to us and I think it would be a unique opportunity for the fans in Los Angeles.”
What is the latest with the negotiations to bring back a regular season game to Mexico City and maybe even be a Monday Night game?
“Specifically, we would love to be back in Mexico. As you know, it was the first city outside of the United States, in Mexico City, to host a regular season game and it was a great, successful one. We would love to be back there. It won’t happen this year, but we are in negotiations with our partners down in Mexico. I am confident that we will get there for the 2010 year.”
The union released an economic study this week that concluded essentially that the clubs remained financially healthy and profitable and contending that the players, therefore, should not have to take less in terms of revenues in this next labor negotiation. You have some owners that feel otherwise. How difficult and contentious do you feel this negotiation will be, and are you wary at this point that you’re looking at the labor peace you’ve had for so long could be interrupted in 2011?
“Let me start with your first point. I haven’t had the chance to review the report in great detail. But, I’ve seen some of the broader summaries of the report and let me just say there is a lot of fiction in that. That report is not accurate. We are very clear and we understand our system, we understand the numbers. The ownership has spent a tremendous amount of time evaluating the current collective bargaining agreement. They came to the conclusion that it was better to terminate that agreement and go into a negotiation where we could work to try to come up with something that would work for all clubs and our players rather than continue on with that system. The economics were difficult prior to the economy turning south on us. What’s happened now with the economy turning difficult for all of us, I think that it just accentuated the negatives in that collective bargaining agreement. I think the owners feel that it’s critically important for the future of the game, for the future of the business, that they re-evaluate this. It is being done all across the country in every industry. We’re evaluating our product. Labor unions and management have to work together to address this. In many cases, labor unions have voluntarily come in saying, ‘We’d like to avoid layoffs. We’d like to give concessions because we understand the circumstances.’ I am optimistic that we’re going to be able to sit down with the union and reach an agreement that will continue labor peace and allow the players to continue to flourish, but most importantly, allow the owners to continue to invest in the game.”
I have two questions. One, taking the Thanksgiving game away from the Lions is an issue every year. Will that become an actual league issue? Two, five Lions games were blacked out this year with a bad economy, a bad team with an unfilled stadium. Will you revisit the blackout rule concerning the economy in certain situations?
“Let me address the second part of your question first, which is we will not. The blackout policy is a long-standing policy in the NFL. It’s served us well. It’s served the public well. I do not anticipate any changes for the blackout policy. With respect to the Thanksgiving Day game, as you know, I attended that game a little bit over a year ago. I understand it’s a great tradition in Detroit and in Dallas. It’s something that our owners have raised from time to time. It will not change for this season. As to whether the ownership feels the same, we will discuss it as we get later into the year. We certainly will raise it.”
There are plenty of questions from the floor this morning about global expansion regarding our friends in Toronto and Mexico City as well. Your London project is continuing with the game between New England and Tampa Bay. 70,000 tickets sold out in a matter of minutes this week so it appears to be successful and ongoing. I spoke to one of the senior executives from your office yesterday who actually said he spoke to you about the possibility of a London franchise and you said, ‘Hopefully within 10 years.’ What are your thoughts on a London franchise in the NFL?
“Give me his name. We are so thrilled with the reception that we’ve got from our fans in the UK. Each year, the excitement, the passion has grown. We saw that this year when we went back with the Saints and the Chargers. The event was bigger and better, and I think that they have demonstrated that they are tremendous football fans and that we’re continuing to grow the game over there. As you pointed out, earlier this week, the tickets went on sale in a difficult economy and were sold in a record time. With that passion, if it continues, maybe someday they will have an NFL franchise, but I’ve never put a time frame on it. Let me know his name, or hers.”
If the NFL is suffering through financial difficulties, why won’t you open up your books and prove it to them?
“It’s very simple; the union has very in-depth knowledge about our economics. They know all of our revenue down to a penny and they share in all of that. It’s part of our system. They also know our largest costs are player costs. What’s happened, very clearly here is the system has changed and our environment has changed. We’re now investing in stadiums. We’re operating stadiums. Those are significant costs and significant risks to our ownership and that’s a risk that’s borne by the ownership alone. So, the model has shifted over the years and we have to address that and we will do that directly at the collective bargaining table.”
Is the league concerned that the lease is up on the Vikings stadium and will force the team to relocate, and would Los Angeles be an option for the Vikings?
“I know that Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf want to continue to have the Vikings in Minnesota and a new stadium and I share that. They have worked very hard to be able to get to that point. They have understood the priorities of the community. They have stood by and allowed the baseball stadium and the Gophers stadium to move forward because they recognize those priorities and there are all these priorities in the community. I think we have to continue to work with the governor and the leadership in that community to understand those priorities and figure out how we get a new stadium built. That is necessary for the Vikings and we all want the Vikings to be there in the long term successfully. They need a new stadium. That’s clear. I think it’s recognized by all parties and we need to get down to the difficult business to figure out how to do it.”
Dallas experienced an ice storm this week and the Super Bowl is coming to North Texas in a couple of years, do you have any concerns?
“I did notice that. I don’t think so. I heard the next day that it was sunny and beautiful, too. We understood that risk when we awarded the game to Dallas and we’re all excited about being there. It’s a great community. It’s going to be a terrific stadium. I can’t wait to see it this season, but I think it’s going to be a great event for us.”
Football should not be decided by a coin flip in sudden death and I think there should be a rule change just like the college game and as other sports have. Will this be explored, and your thoughts on if Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson should be in the Hall of Fame?
“Well he’s sitting right over here, and I bet there are a lot of people in this room who agree with you. He’s a great man and has contributed an awful lot. With this being the 50th anniversary of the AFL, we all know the tremendous things that he’s contributed to the game, so I appreciate you saying that. And your first point, let me address overtime for you. I think every year we look back at our overtime rules. I would disagree very strongly with your point that the game is determined by a coin flip. The point of the game is to win it in regulation. There is a great coach over here, Tony Dungy, who said something to me earlier this year and I think it’s important -- that once that coin is flipped and you’ve determined who gets the ball, you still have to get into scoring position. So, this game is about teamwork. It’s about offense, defense and special teams. You have to earn your way to get that opportunity and if you do, you win the game. So, there is a lot of debate about all overtime rules, including the college overtime rules. We’ll look at that. We’ll look at every alternative and we’ll try to come up with something that we think makes sense. We think the rule we have is a terrific rule and it’s served us well."
In the meeting, Mr. (Richard) Berthelsen talked about — in the extended CBA from a couple years ago — there was a mechanism in there that adjusted to revenues going up or down, that if in our economy … revenues were down, then the players would get an adjusted amount. But because the owners opted out, that got thrown out and that doesn’t apply. Is that fiction or non-fiction? If it’s non-fiction, was that a mistake opting out in retrospect because of what’s happened?
“I’m glad you asked the question because it is fiction. There is a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that says the cap can’t go down. It’s a long-standing rule since we started this new collective bargaining system back in the early nineties. The cap continues to increase. It will be up to $123 million per club this year. The players do a great job, and deserve to be paid fairly. In 2008 and 2009, they will be seeing an increase of $500 million, just in those two years. That averages about $250,000 per player over those two years, so those are pretty significant increases. But I would tell you that the cap can’t go down is the long-standing rule.”
The league hasn’t taken any action on the Plaxico Burress situation and we were told from your office you’re going to let the legal situation play out first. I’m curious (as to) why, because players have been suspended in the past when charges were filed. Chris Henry is certainly one. Reportedly, the suspension could’ve been lifted if he was acquitted of charges. Is the difference here that it was in season with Burress, number one? And number two, if you do take action, you do suspend him, will you count the Giants’ four-game suspension as – for lack of a better term – time already served?
“Let me start with your first question. It is not because it was in season. Our rules and our policy are quite clear from when we revised our personal conduct policy that we’re looking to deal with repeat offenders. We may not wait for the legal process to conclude when we have repeat offenders. You can have a false accusation once, maybe twice. When you start getting into multiple accusations, you are putting yourself in the wrong position. You are making the wrong decision. You are in the wrong places. At that point in time, you are reflecting poorly on the NFL, yourself, your teammates. That does damage for all of us. I’m very firm on the fact that everyone deserves the opportunity to be defended, everyone has the opportunity, if they make a mistake, to deal with that, and deal with it within the legal process. We understand that many times, our players are targets, and we can’t rush to judgment. But again, multiple offenses over a period of time, you are putting yourself in the wrong position. And it reflects poorly. We have three great players sitting right over here, nominated for Man of the Year. All terrific young men – Brenda, excuse me, because Kurt’s not here right now – Kurt Warner, Brian (Dawkins), Matt (Birk), they’re all great people, and they represent this league extremely well. I think it’s unfortunate when people get a stereotype of an NFL player. I think these men do great things on and off the field, and their families do also.”
A somewhat related question: there’s no doubt that the security of your players off the field has become an issue over the last couple of years … But because of their status in the community and because they’re so easily recognizable, there are a few of your players that feel they may be targets in the community. Is this something that the league feels it needs to address?
“I think we have. One of the things that we try to talk to our players every year about is you have to be aware of your surroundings. If you’re going to go certain places and you feel unsafe, you probably shouldn’t be in that surrounding. But yes, we recognize that there are people out there that make our players targets. We make sure that we provide all the services we can from a security standpoint to advise players on how to make yourself safer, and put yourself in a position where you can make good decisions, and in a position where you can’t be accused of something falsely, or put you or your family at risk.”
All this talk of labor rancor and strife, one of the many cooperative ventures that you have with the union is the “88 Plan.” You and some others have occasionally mentioned that in your efforts to help former players with dementia, it can be hard to find those who need the help. Can you explain why that is and where the challenges are?
“It’s very simple if you know NFL players: they’ve got a lot of pride. When they have a lot of pride, they don’t always want to come forward with their needs. I don’t think it’s as big an issue as it relates to medical issues, but it happens from time to time. The good news is, we have a number of programs that reach out to our players. We’re communicating more with our retired players; we’re recognizing that we have to do more in this area with greater programs that are responsive. The “88 Plan” is a very good example: we have 99 players and their caretakers that are taking advantage of that, and it’s been a tremendous program. We have a joint replacement program. Again, a number of players and their families are taking advantage of that to get the best possible medical care. I think that’s been very responsive to their needs. So all of us need to do a better job of communicating the facts, making sure we identify people who are in need, making sure that we can help their caretakers, and do a better job of helping the people who helped build this game.”
The mayor of the city of Chicago has raised the possibility of having two teams in the city – two NFL teams. I just wanted to get your reaction to that.
“I’ve heard his comments. He’s made those comments for several years. I respect the passion he has for football and for his community. The Bears are a great team in that community. We are engaged in efforts to try to make sure all our teams are successful in their current markets, and I hope we’re going to be successful in doing that.”
This has to do with excessive celebration which the league has always taken a proactive role to try and stop; you’ve got the 15-yard penalty on kickoff. It seems, without knowing statistics though, that there are some players who could care less about that and are seemingly repeat offenders. Any thought of taking it a stop further, even radically taking away the play and penalizing 15 yards and taking away a touchdown? Don’t you think that would stop it in its tracks?
“Right now, we deal with it the way we deal with most issues and violations of policies which are: there’s a penalty on the field and if necessary, we will fine for that. I don’t sense that that we need to do an awful lot more on that. We’ve been aggressive in enforcing our policies, and we think we’ve found a balance with respect to the excessive celebration. When it becomes excessive, it’s unsportsmanlike and it becomes taunting, and it usually gets a response from the opposing team, which is usually not good. We think it is important as far as sportsmanship that when you achieve something great on the field, be professional. Deal with it. You are going to go make another play. I think our policy serves us well, and I think the way we enforce it serves us well. We do a good job with it.”
I am curious what you think of the current negotiations that are going on with the Saints lease, and how optimistic are you that a deal can be put in place in the next couple of months? If there is a deal in place in time for the bid for a Super Bowl, how important is it that the Super Bowl comes back to New Orleans?
“Let's take your questions one at a time. Clearly a long-term arrangement between the Saints and the state of Louisiana is something that we would like to see occur. The Saints have been terrific for the community, and I think the community has been great to the Saints. It's a partnership that works very well. We hope that those negotiations will be successful and we’ll do that as quickly as possible, but we understand the priorities that are going on. Beyond that, it's been a great Super Bowl city. If the stadium can be put into a first-class condition that we believe would make a great host stadium, along with a great city, when they go up against the competition, it will serve them quite well.”
A couple of things, can you comment on the impact of Wayne Huizenga’s 15-year run of ownership, and secondly, what are the primary challenges generally faced by a new ownership group?
“Wayne has been a terrific owner for the NFL, the Miami Dolphins and that community, not only in football but in multiple sports. I think he's had a huge impact in the Miami area. He’s had a great impact on me personally as well. He's one of those smart guys who knows how to get to the bottom of a problem pretty quick. He’s not afraid to give you his opinion, and he's done that from time to time with me. I think that’s helpful. I think the ownership will miss him at that level. On the other hand, in typical fashion, he's left the franchise in good hands. Steve Ross is a terrific man. He’s a very successful businessman and he’s spent the last year or so learning the business from Wayne. He has good people who he has surrounded himself with and I think that’s the key to everything – surround yourself with good people and put them in a position where they can make the decisions and ultimately, you’ll have a successful franchise.”
In the past I’ve talked about the development of programs for players off the field. You’ve talked about your concern for that. You hear about the few players who do get in some problems and that you’ve helped, but as you said the majority of players we’ve found are guys who do it right in the community and are mentors and make a difference in young peoples’ lives. Could you elaborate on some of the other programs since last year that you are working on in this area? With these three behind me (finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award) who are deserving of this award, what will you be doing in the future in terms of mentoring and using these examples for young players coming into the league?
“You’ve touched on a lot of issues here, but as it relates to programs, services and resources that we can provide our players, we evaluate that constantly. What is it that we can do to provide these players coming into our league, or the veterans, what services (can we provide) to help them make better decisions? It covers everything from training to special programs that they believe are high priorities. We spend a lot of time talking to our Player Advisory Council, and I speak individually with players to ask what are the priorities? What are things that can be most helpful to players as they continue their career, and move onto another career? The one thing every player shares in common is that you will be a retired player someday, and you need to make that transition and you need to start thinking about that almost from the time you enter the league, and hopefully before you enter the league as you go through your college years and get your education. I think we've been really successful in these, but you can always improve them and that’s the focus for us.”
The NFL, its teams and players have an excellent program to welcome home the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. I’d like to know what made you most proud that the NFL or teams did this year for the veterans, and also, what do you think needs to be done to bring spirit, support, honor and teamwork to those men and women who return from Iraq and Afghanistan?
“There are a number of things. First off, I think the thing that made me proudest was the personal opportunity I had to go with Drew Brees and Osi Umenyiora to Iraq and Afghanistan last summer. To see our troops and what they go through on a daily basis was extraordinary – the sacrifices they make, the commitment they make. It’s just something that would make you all very proud. I know I can say on behalf of Drew and Osi, it was an honor to be over there. As it relates to different programs, in fact, we were over there as part of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral [Mike] Mullen’s entourage and we spent an awful lot of time talking about that because they face similar issues. As one example, an issue that we share is concussions. Those issues are impacting veterans. We have been working with the Defense Department to share our knowledge of what is happening and make sure that they can treat concussions in a conservative fashion, and they can do for our veterans the things that we are doing for our players. I think there are a lot of things that we can do that will be beneficial and we’ll continue that dialogue.”
With the gradual increase of Australian punters coming over here, is there a way the league can parlay that into promoting the game in Australia, even if it’s impractical for the game?
“We had a game over there, a preseason game and it was successful. And I think we’ll continue with our television policies over there. I think they continue to expand interest in the game. I do think the more that players come over from Australia and play American football, as we call it, I think that that will lead to greater and greater interest, and I encourage that.”
Can you say what your impetus was to shift the Pro Bowl from Honolulu to Miami? Was it a farewell gift to Wayne (Huizenga), and is it just an experimental basis?
“Well if it was a farewell gift, he left. No, the entire premise of shifting the Pro Bowl was to make our event bigger and better than it is right now. We’ve had a great experience in Hawaii. We expect to continue to be in Hawaii. We expect it will be in the rotation. What we thought, though, would be a very interesting alternative would be to play the game as part of the lead up to the Super Bowl. So we’ll be playing it on Sunday night in Miami in advance of the Super Bowl. That will bring more interest, clearly. It will bring more exposure for our great players, and we think be a positive. In addition, we think that while we’ll miss the Super Bowl guys, it really puts an emphasis on team accomplishment. Make it to the Super Bowl: that’s the crowning achievement. But if you get the opportunity to play in the Pro Bowl, it’s a great opportunity and it’s something that you deserve as an individual player, those accolades, and we’d like to put you on the biggest stage, and we believe the biggest stage is prior to the Super Bowl. But we do continue and hope to be in Hawaii.”
You said that there was a lot of fiction in the NFLPA’s report. In another answer, you said that they know your finances down to the penny, because they’re a partner with it. Considering those two statements, where’s the fiction if they know your finances so well? Second question is, what are your concerns with their election of a new leader coming up in March?
“You’re going to have to address a lot of the first part of your question to the union. I said they know our revenue to the penny. Our finances, they know the cost side, the most significant of all our costs are the players. About $4.5 billion goes to our players. They know all of that. The also know a great deal about the costs that are associated with building stadiums. As I said, I haven’t studied their report yesterday. It was not done by them. It was done by somebody independently, and I don’t know how much knowledge they have of the NFL. But I do know our finances, and our ownership knows our finances. And I think our players know enough to know that adjustments need to be made so that we can continue to grow this great game. Second part of your question was union leadership, I believe? Well, you know, eventually whoever is selected as the head of the NFLPA is an important decision for us. We will obviously work closely with that individual. We’ll rely on that individual to set their priorities and make sure that they’re giving us feedback. Their leadership will be critical in making sure we continue to grow this great game, and we do what’s right for our players as well as the game, as well as for the ownership.”
Would you and the Competition Committee ever consider simply removing a field goal as an option on the first drive only of overtime, and if not, why not?
“It’s been considered before, and I’m sure it will be considered among the alternatives. There are other ways of addressing the field goal on the first drive, and I think it is something the Competition Committee needs to consider because what we’ve seen in our statistics is that historically about 30 percent of the games in overtime are decided with a team who wins the coin flip scoring on the first possession. That number has risen to about 47 percent, and I think that’s significant, and I think it’s something our committee needs to look at. When you couple that with the fact that our field goal kickers are much more accurate than they have been in the past, that is a danger. We have talked about different concepts, and the committee will discuss this. And I’ve had some discussions with some of the committee members individually. Should we move the kickoff so that the ball, theoretically at least, would be, the drive would start further back? If they drive down and they kick a long field goal, they deserve to win. So, that suggestion that you’re making has been discussed. We’ll discuss it among the other alternatives, and I’m sure they’ll come up with a recommendation by the end of March.”
Super Bowl XLIII marks the end of John Madden’s 30th season as a broadcaster from the booth. Can you speak about his impact from a league-wide perspective?
“John Madden has contributed on so many different levels. I think that makes him very special. First he was a great coach. Then he went on and had a great broadcasting career. And of course his name is associated with the most popular game of all time in the electronic game world. That, and I think he’s had a huge influence over millions of people, both young and old, who watch our game, play our Electronic Arts game, and I think that’s something that he’s uniquely qualified to do because he has such a tremendous role. He has such a great way of communicating the game of football, the importance of football, and he’s so passionate about the game. At his core, he just loves the game of football, and that’s one of the reasons I love John Madden.”
You said that all the owners have made their finances available, and that the players are very aware of all of that.
“I didn’t say that, by the way, but go ahead.”
What did you say?
“I will repeat it for the third time. What I said was that the players know our revenues down to the penny. They also are well aware of the fact that we have $4.5 billion in our player costs. They are well aware of that, and because of the stadium involvement, they have a very good understanding of the cost of building our stadiums. So, they have a very good understanding of our economics, and they understand the risks associated with running a football team. It has heightened in this kind of environment with this economy.
Since it’s a point of contention with them, in good faith on your part, would you compel the owners to open their books to the players to make it a more open and honest negotiation as you go forward?
“I am confident it is going to be an open and honest negotiation. As I said, we don’t have to open the books for everyone to evaluate that. The people at the table, the players and the owners, will understand the economics in the NFL. I think that will be done and will lead to a constructive dialogue, and hopefully a very positive agreement for both parties.”
I know you haven’t seen details of the economic report by the union, but off the cuff could you comment on their finding that the average team is making $24.7 million in profits a year?
“The best way to answer that is it’s completely inaccurate.”
The solution they seem to come up with in the CBA is you better share revenue among yourselves rather than cut into their pie?
“Let me address that because I think it is a very important issue. The National Football League shares more revenue amongst their teams than any other league by far. It has been the foundation of the success of the NFL and they do it in a way that I think has created a tremendous product. It has made it a tremendous gain. It goes back to my original point. It’s about hope. It’s what allows teams to compete against one another. We have a great game and a large part is due to those types of policies. Our ownership continues to evaluate how to share revenue. We have done it more and more over the last several years, including when we realigned, including when we extended the last agreement. More money went into revenue sharing. I think we exceed any expectation about revenue sharing. That is not the issue. The issue is the collective bargaining agreement and what the economics are to our ownership and our players.”
“I will take one more question, but before I do I would like to more formally thank everybody here in Tampa for their hospitality – most particularly the Glazer family, our hosts as the Buccaneers. They have done a marvelous job. Clearly, we would not be here without their leadership and we thank them for everything they’ve done. Of course, the governor and the mayor who I’ve seen frequently this week, they’ve done a terrific job. We are so grateful for all of their hospitality. The Tampa Bay host committee – again a terrific job – terrific leadership. We are thrilled to be here and thank them for their hospitality.”
This is a health question. We lost Tom Brady early in the season and there have been some tremendous hits. We all know it’s a dangerous game. Are you worried about losing the stars of the game in that way? And are you worried about the studies on head injuries that seem to be coming in, that players – maybe not immediately – but within 10, 20 or 30 years will have onset Alzheimer’s and the other problems that they may not be aware of?
“Well, you are drawing connections there that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with. Let me start with the safety of the game because I think that is a high priority for all of us, and it’s not just about the stars of the game. It’s about every player that puts on a helmet and wears a uniform in the NFL. We have to do whatever we can to remove any of the techniques and any of the tactics that can unnecessarily risk injury to those players. We have very aggressively done that. We have worked with the committee in the offseason. We made changes this season and aggressively penalized and fined, and we had an impact. The second half of the season, we saw a dramatically different game. I watched the tapes myself. We saw techniques that were being used in the first half of the season that were completely removed. It made the game safer for our players, and I think we’ll continue to evaluate that. I spoke to the committee about low hits to quarterbacks. We are still looking at defenseless receivers. Should we eliminate the launch entirely? Should we be careful of any hits to the head, including shoulder hits? Should there be rules against that? These take a lot of study to consider and they take a lot of time and energy. For the Competition Committee, the number-one priority for them will be player safety, but for all players.”
“I thank you all very much. Thank you for being here and enjoy the week.”