Super Bowl XLV live: Roger Goodell says NFL owners committed to agreement
Commissioner Roger Goodell is holding his annual state-of-the-NFL press conference in Dallas. Here's a quick transcript from select parts:
His opening remarks include: This "will go down, at least until next year, as the most watched season" in NFL history. As for Super Bowl XLV: "It just sounds like football: Packers, Steelers." Competitiveness and "hope that you can always win" even with small-market teams distinguishes the league.
An AP poll found that only 27 percent of respondents favor 18-game schedule; only 18 percent are fans.
"We started this with the fans. The fans have clearly stated that they don't like the quality of our preseason. ... Repeatedly, the fans have said that the quality of the preseason doesn't meet NFL standards. That is one of the basis of which we started to look at the 18-2 concept [turning two of the low-quality games into high-quality games]. I talk to fans all the time. ... I feel an obligation to make sure we're doing the best we can to present the best football. And that includes how do we make preseason as effective as possible and the regular season as effective as possible."
What will happen when the collective bargaining agreement with players ends? Will players be locked out? "We have not made any determination what will happen March 4th. The ownership is completely focused on getting an agreement that is fair, to the players and the clubs. And that's their focus right now. They are prepared for every outcome as they should be. That's only smart negotiations as I assume the union is doing the same. We have to focus on making sure we get an agreement that works for everybody. At that point in time, if we're not successful in getting an agreement, I'm sure a lot of steps are going to be taken, which is why I believe the window of opportunity is in the next few weeks to get an agreement that works for everybody."
Why should anyone expect a deal before August? "If we are unsuccessful in getting an agreement by March 4th, I expect that the uncertainty will continue, which will be bad for our partners, the players, it'll be bad for the clubs. That uncertainty will lead to a reduction, potentially, in revenue and when that revenue decreases, there'll be less for us to share and that'll just make it harder to make an agreement. What we have to do is remove the uncertainty. A series of things will happen in March if we're not successful. There will not be free agency, which will impact on the players. There'll be a number of things that I'm sure both sides will consider that strategically, I believe, will move us away from the negotiating table rather than toward the negotiating table. I have frequently said, and I will be as clear as I can on this, this will get resolved at the negotiating table. All of the other public relations, litigation strategies, congressional strategies--this is about a negotiation. And we have to address the issues and find solutions."
A number of teams already have begun laying off long-time workers in anticipation of a work stoppage. Is there concern with how this affects the NFL's image? "I don't think anyone is using anything as an excuse. When you make decisions on personnel -- and I've had to make them in our organization two years ago when we were going through some difficult times in the economy -- there are still difficult economic challenges out there. And all our clubs and the league and every other business, including businesses that you all are involved in, have to make very tough decisions in this kind of environment. When you're dealing with employees and their future, there is nothing harder to do. But the reality is, this is a tough environment out there and we want to make sure that we're making smart decisions for our employees, our players, our clubs for the long term and make sure that we can continue to have a successful product. No one likes to see our employees be let go. It's a very, very difficult thing."
More on that looming March 4 date. "I frequently said that I think that March 4th is a very critical date because, again, a lot of different strategies will take place if we're not successful in getting an agreement by that time. We need to have intensive, round-the-clock negotiations to address the issues and find solutions. If we're committed to doing that, I think we can be successful. But we have to demonstrate that commitment and get to work."
Goodell promises more work, with the head, neck and spine commitee, on player safety.
How is 18-game schedule consistent with Goodell's expressed concern for long- and short-term health of players? "The No. 1 thing here is that we are still staying within our 20-game format. We are not playing 22 games, which is permitted in the current collective bargaining agreement, by the way. We are taking the 20 games that we are looking at and we're proposing and working with the union to figure out the best way to do that. If we can't do it right, we won't do it. But consistent with the safety issues, you always have to keep safety as a priority, under any format. Injuries occur in preseason games, including the four preseason games. So you have to try to look to see what you can do in the offseason.
"We've talked very extensively about: do you alter the OTA structure and what happens within the OTA structure, do you alter the training-camp period, do we need extensive training-camp periods and how much contact should occur, what happens in the regular season, do we really need to have players practicing in pads at some point during the season? I think all of those things have been addressed by the ownership for the last couple of years. Our committees have been focused on this. John Madden and Ronnie Lott in the safety committee are looking at these issues. All of this is going to help us make better decisions -- and the right decisions -- to make the game as safe as possible."
Is an18-game schedule a deal-breaker as far as negotiations go? "There are no deal-breakers. We need to sit down and have healthy negotiations about how we address the issues that we have. There are many different ways of addressing the issues we have, but the only way to do is that is by sitting down and making sure everyone understands what those challenges are and addressing them in an appropriate fashion. In a negotiation, there's give-and-take, and that's how you get to an agreement that makes the game better. That's our entire focus. How do we make the game better? Status quo is not acceptable. We have to address these issues going forward."
As for weather and that 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey... "The most important lesson is that you have to be prepared for everything. North Texas was prepared if this happened and certainly in New York, not only are they prepared, they're probably planning on this type of weather."
Chad Ochocinco, representing his OCNNews (powered by Motorola!), says he's there speaking for over 1,800 NFL players and wants a serious, not politically correct answer to his question: "Do you know how far we are from getting a deal realistically done? ... I see a lot of things being prepared on your guys' end. You guys are somewhat preparing for a lockout."
"Chad, as I said, before, I think both sides are going to be prepared for every outcome. But I can tell you that the commitment on behalf of the ownership is to get an agreement. And we will get an agreement. I think that is only going to happen when there are intensive negotiations between your union and the owners. And that has to take place now. This is the window of opportunity to get this done right. Because otherwise uncertainty is going to seep into all of our operations and make it harder for everybody to reach that agreement. Right now, I'd say let's get to work, let's get an agreement that works for everybody."
How concerned was Goodell that initially Michael Vick was reportedly linked to a big Super Bowl party? An Eagles spokesman has said Vick will not attend.
"...I spoke to Michael three times in the last two weeks about his schedule here, what he'd be doing. He has said that, on numerous occasions, that people have been using his name about being involved with some type of a party and he had no intention of participating in that. I'm extremely proud of what Michael has done. He's taken his responsibilities seriously, he's made a commitment to himself to make better decisions. He is committed to doing the right thing going forward and I think that's a great thing. We're looking for success stories. We're not looking for players to fail. And this is a young who made horrific mistakes. He dealt with them, he paid a very significant price and now he's doing the right thing. I support him on that and I want to make sure tht he doesn't put himself in a position where he's going to make bad decisions or bad things are going to happen around him. He takes that seriously also. I'm frequently in contact with Michael and I want to see him to continue off the field as well as on the field."
What about fans, who just see billionaires arguing with millionaires in labor impasse? "I think at this point, when I hear from fans, they just want football. And the fans aren't forgotten here. We want to bring more football, better football to our fans. That's the focus both sides have to keep their attention on. We need to get an agreement that works for everybody, that's fair to everybody but also continue the great game that we have for our fans. I think they care about just getting an agreement. They don't care about the details. They just want to make sure that football is going to appear on Sundays and Mondays and Thursdays. They want to make sure that they have the great game that they love. That's our responsibility and I don't think that anyone is going to feel sorry for any one of us--including yours truly--if we're not successful at doing that."
Goodell is asked about NFL Players Association's request to see owners' financial information. "We have to get beyond this negotiating ploy of opening the books 'cause that's all it is. The players have more than sufficient information to understand why the economics of this deal does [sic] not work. They recognized that 12 months ago when I was sitting at the table and they said, 'we recognize the clubs are being squeezed.' [NFLPA president] Kevin Mawae himself said just last week, it's been a great deal in 2006 for the players. They recognize why the economics aren't working. It doesn't pay us any service to sit here and talk about where the give-and-take -- we are not going to negotiate this at a press conference. But I can assure that the owners are willing to have a give-and-take and I believe the players are willing to have a give-and-take to find solutions that work."
Is the NFL insulated from a backlash over a work stoppage? "No, I do not think we're immune from that. I have said repeatedly that the fans want football and if we are not successful in reaching an agreement, that will be towards the commissioner, towards the clubs, towards the players, everybody involved. That's why collectively we have to work and make a commitment to get something done that makes sense. I don't want my salary to go to a dollar. My wife doesn't want my salary to go to a dollar. But the reality is it's a collective sacrifice. It's a bad outcome if we're not able to reach an agreement and it should affect everybody in the league, yours truly."
| February 4, 2011; 12:25 PM ET
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