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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual state of the league press conference Friday, and touched on topics ranging from concussions to stadium funding. Addressing the assertions of former players that the league is indifferent to the concussion issue, Goodell said, "We will always make sure that player health and safety is the No. 1 priority in the NFL." He added in the new CBA, the league committed over $1B to retired players and said, "We're not done yet." Goodell: "What we've done now is made this a significant issue, it's a serious injury that needs to be treated seriously." He also denied a report that the NFL would try to change contract language for new players entering the league so they couldn't sue the league for head injuries saying, "We have no league-wide initiative to do that" (NFL Network, 2/3). Goodell said, "We are going to continue to do what we possibly can to help our retired players, the current players, and future players by making the game safer. We will do that with rules. We will do that with improving the equipment and we will do it by making sure that we pioneer research that’s going to make sure we understand all there is about brain injuries and brain disease; and make sure that we are being responsible as leaders" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/4).
TESTING PLAN: Goodell addressed the issue of HGH testing, saying the league "would like to implement" a testing plan in the offseason. He added, "We have been working to try to address the issues that the union's raised. We believe the science is clear ... on the fact that this test is valid and that we have the basis to put in and implement an HGH test that is fair to the players. We expect to be able to do that." Goodell after the press conference said, "We're all going to have to compromise a little bit ... and it needs to get done." Referencing last summer's CBA talks and the current HGH negotiations, NFL Network's Rich Eisen asked, "Didn't we learn, get the lawyers out of the room. Wasn't that the lesson learned?" Goodell: "I believe this is going to come down to the same type of thing" (NFL Network, 2/3). ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote, "My read is that both sides will get a deal done before the start of the 2012 season. The league contends players have received plenty of information about how tests are conducted and the accuracy of those tests." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said that the union "would accept a plan if it receives a population study that details how results are tabulated." Smith is "still getting his players to accept the idea of blood tests, a concept uncomfortable to players." Clayton: "I wouldn't be surprised if they get something done around the time of the April draft once more information is given to the players" (ESPN.com, 2/3).
ROOM TO GROW: Goodell said that the NFL "has not talked about expansion" and the issue "has not been on our agenda." He said he does not see expansion "in the foreseeable future." Several teams have been rumored to be moving to L.A. when a new NFL stadium is built there, but Goodell said, "We want to keep our teams where they are. We believe that that's healthier for the league in the long-term." Asked if the NFL feels any "urgency" to bring a team to L.A., he said, "We would like to be back in Los Angeles if we can do it correctly. There are a lot of issues that have to be balanced there." He noted the new CBA and media deals "should give us the foundation to make smart decisions and try to find a good solution" in L.A (NFL Network, 2/3). Goodell also explained his comments during an interview with NBC's Bob Costas Thursday "about the possibility of expansion that were widely misinterpreted." Goodell had said that if the league "were to expand, it would probably do so by two teams so as not to be left with an odd number of 33" (L.A. TIMES, 2/4). In California, Brian Charles noted Rose Bowl officials "took Goodell's lack of commitment with a dose of skepticism." Rose Bowl Operating Company Board President and Pasadena Council Member Victor Gordo: "Until the NFL is serious about talking with us and until an NFL owner is serious about moving to the area, it's a wait and see game" (PASADENA STAR NEWS, 2/4). In Detroit, Jerry Green wrote, "I'm not sure whether the NFL abandoned Los Angeles or Los Angeles abandoned the NFL. Some of each, I suppose." The NFL has "thrived without a team in" L.A. Both L.A. stadium groups, "despite the rhetoric and good ideas, at the moment lack a shovel." Neither "has started to dig." And as "Goodell says, he wishes for the 32 franchises to stay just where they are" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/4).
GOING OUTSIDE THE U.S.: Goodell said the Bills playing games in Toronto has helped to "regionalize that team" and not only "broaden its exposure, but also its fan following." The Toronto series, which expires after the '12 season, has been "very helpful to the Bills in building that fan base (and) we've seen the kind of response and what its done for the season ticket sales for them down in Buffalo." Goodell said he believes there is a "willingness and interest to try to extend the agreement" and play more games in Toronto (NFL Network, 2/3). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly wrote it is "now clear that Toronto was never more than a life-support system for the Buffalo Bills in Roger Goodell’s mind." In addressing a question specifically about Toronto, Goodell "barely mentioned the city." He went on to say that he "hopes the current five-year deal that sees Buffalo visit the Rogers Centre once a season is renewed for another go-round." What he "didn’t say was even more clear -- if you are one of those who believe the NFL sees value in extending their operation outside of the United States, you are right." If you "thought that meant they were coming to Canada, you are wrong" (TORONTO STAR, 2/4). Also in Toronto, Mike Rutsey wrote if there is a "global stage that the NFL wants to penetrate, Canada doesn't appear to be very high on the list" (TORONTO SUN, 2/4). In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote, "This much is clear: The NFL views Toronto as a rich suburb of poor Buffalo." Goodell "doesn’t really have an interest in having a team in Toronto," but he "wants your money to keep his Bills alive" (TORONTO SUN, 2/4). Meanwhile, Goodell said the league "would like to get back to Mexico with another regular season game." He added playing games internationally is "all about a collective strategy to make our game more successful on a global basis." Goodell: "The efforts that we're putting in in London, as an example, are all designed to build a model that's going to grow our game in its popularity in the U.K. If that's successful, we'll expand throughout Europe" (NFL Network, 2/3).
HOME IMPROVEMENT: Goodell said one of the benefits of the 10-year CBA was "to have the 10 years of stability to be able to project down that path so we can make smart decisions and get stadiums built and the players, as partners, are contributing and helping us get these stadiums built." The G4 Fund "helps bridge that gap, find ways to help communities build that public/private partnership so we can get these stadiums built" (NFL Network, 2/3).
Global RallyCross and Speedway Motorsports Inc. reached an agreement late last week that will see the series take five of its events to SMI-owned racetracks this year. Global RallyCross grew out of the X Games and features action sports stars like Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan racing each other in compact cars on tight courses that feature jumps and other obstacles. The nascent motorsports series will hold races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Las Vegas race will be the only standalone event. The Charlotte, New Hampshire and Atlanta races will take place on the same day as NASCAR Nationwide Series races, and the Texas race will take place on the same weekend that the track hosts the Izod IndyCar Series. Financial terms of the deal were not available. SMI will be promote the event and pay a sanctioning fee. Global RallyCross Founder & President Brian Gale said, “When we started this thing, we never dreamed we’d be running with the big boys. Getting in front of the NASCAR crowd brings our brand and youth culture to a new audience.” The deal is the latest in a string of moves by a member of the NASCAR industry to tap into a sport with ties to the X Games. Michael Waltrip Racing last year partnered with Pastrana and Joe Gibbs Racing hired supercross champion James “Bubba” Stewart. NASCAR and its stakeholders have been focused on appealing to young people in the last year, and the partnership with Global RallyCross offers SMI a new way to attract young fans. Tentative plans call for Global RallyCross to put its paddock outside the SMI tracks and hold the races inside the facilities. Gale said that the series and SMI have no conflicting sponsors, so Global RallyCross partners will receive at-track signage and other inventory. Global RallyCross is in the process of finalizing a TV schedule on ESPN. Some of the events will be shown live while others will be shown on a same-day, tape-delay basis following ESPN’s broadcast of a NASCAR Nationwide Series race.