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Volume 24 No. 117
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Goodell Hits On Several Hot-Button Topics During Stop At Panthers' Training Camp

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell participated in a fan forum yesterday at the Panthers’ training camp in Spartanburg, S.C. In the first of six of these events NFL officials have planned for training camps, Goodell answered questions from about a dozen fans among the few hundred in attendance as part of the 40-minute discussion. He said that the toughest obstacle to overcome during the CBA talks was "getting people to listen to one another." Goodell: "When you get into a situation where you have a labor dispute, the immediate reaction is get entrenched in your position and not listen. The most critical moment in our negotiation is when we had the principals talk to one another. We threw all the lawyers out, all the negotiators, everybody but five owners, myself, DeMaurice Smith, head of the players' association and five players. We had three days of discussions in Chicago, starting with an informal dinner where we talked about each other and understood what we were all about. In those two days that followed, we made more progress than we had done in six months before that. Once you do that, you can find solutions. It takes compromise.”

LEAGUE'S ROLE IN DRUG TESTING, PERSONAL CONDUCT: Goodell said the NFL has had a "leadership role" in enforcing drug policies and personal conduct, and the league "will continue to do that." He said, "We were the first to have a drug policy leaguewide and we were the first to really have a personal conduct policy that sets us apart. We will continue to improve those because I think you have to do that. In the collective bargaining agreement, it’s no secret we’re negotiating over extending our testing to HGH, a new form of performance enhancement. But the message is clear: you don’t play in the NFL if you don’t act properly. If you don’t conduct yourself and reflect well on the league, you’re going to have a short career in the NFL.” Goodell noted he would not allow a third-party committee outside of the NFL to handle discipline for players, coaches and owners. Goodell: "I am not going to hand off the brand and the reputation of the NFL to somebody who is not associated with the NFL. It is one of the No. 1 jobs as a commissioner in my opinion. [Panthers owner Jerry] Richardson probably doesn’t like this, even though he’s one of my 32 bosses ... I have had the unfortunate experience of fining him too, by the way." Upon hearing that, Richardson held up two fingers. Goodell said, "Twice. Obviously, he didn’t forget. It’s something critical, that you have that authority to make sure teams are following rules.”

PRESEASON TO BE ADDRESSED: Goodell noted he hears "consistently" from fans about reducing ticket prices for preseason games, and that is why the league "started to evaluate the potential of an 18-game regular season." He said, "We know the quality of the preseason is something we have to address, we talked about that a great deal during collective bargaining. There’s another side to that, which is health and safety, that’s why we’re implementing some of these rules [such as eliminating two-a-day practices] and then we’ll discuss this with the union over the next couple years and if we’re successful in addressing that properly, maybe reducing the preseason, which I think is a better solution than just reducing price.”

HOPING FOR L.A. RETURN: The commissioner said the NFL has been "very open that we would like to be back in the Los Angeles market, a market where we know we have milions of NFL fans." The league is "working toward getting a stadium built there and hopefully someday we’ll be able to get a team back there." Goodell added the new 10-year CBA "is going to give us this ability to look way down the road ... internationally." Goodell: "We continue to have regular season games in Toronto and London, and I believe that it’s not unrealistic to think that we’ll have a franchise in London some day.”