Roger Goodell Addresses Challenges Facing The NFL, Player Safety, Concussions
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during a speech at the Univ. of North Carolina yesterday said that the “biggest challenge facing the league is how to keep the game of football exciting while continuing to make it more safe,” according to Nicole Comparato of UNC student newspaper the DAILY TAR HEEL. Goodell said, “The game is thriving. But for any organization to grow, to thrive and to remain relevant, it must evolve and prove and face up to its challenges.” He added that the league “needs to further its leadership role in the discussion about player safety in order to set an example for high school teams and younger players.” Comparato notes Goodell has been a “topic of discussion this week" after an ESPN The Magazine article said Goodell told a Pro Football HOF player "his greatest fear was a player dying on the field." When asked by an audience member, Goodell said "he never said that.” Goodell: “I’m concerned about all injuries. Every Sunday night when I get done with our traveling or whether I’m watching games at home, by the time I get to bed I’ve already seen every injury that occurs in the NFL.” He said that the league “knows it can’t change the negative aspects of the game alone, and that it will take a collaborative effort to continue to evolve not only safety in football, but all sports” (DAILY TAR HEEL, 3/7). In Raleigh, R. Cory Smith notes Goodell addressed players "not coming forth with their injuries -- concussions or otherwise -- which the sport struggles with at every level.” Goodell: “The single biggest impact in the short term ... is changing the culture of our sport. There’s very much a warrior mentality. We have to make sure that it’s OK to raise your hand when you sustain these injuries so that you get the proper treatment” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 3/7).
MESSAGE RECEIVED, IF NOT SAID: The NFL also formally came out and claimed that Goodell did not say he is "terrified" of a player dying on the field in Don Van Natta Jr.'s ESPN The Magazine story. However, ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "It does terrify Roger Goodell, whether he’s ever said it or not.” Wilbon: “Goodell has to be afraid of this. It’s one of the reasons why safety has gone up in terms of prioritizing in the NFL.” ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I understand why you don’t want to admit to the word ‘terrified,’ because that allows for the prospect” ("PTI," ESPN, 3/6). ESPN's Bomani Jones said if Goodell is fearful about an on-field death, NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello “was not going to come out and say, ‘Man, we’re all scared somebody’s going to die out here.’ That is bad for the product and it makes people nervous." Jones: "I can believe Roger Goodell says that when nobody’s around.” L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "I’m actually thrilled if Roger Goodell is up nights thinking about this. ... He's showing us that he is scared to death of this, and that’s a good thing. He ought to be scared” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/6). CBSSPORTS.com’s Will Brinson wrote whether or not Goodell “actually does sit around and worry about a player dying is irrelevant.” He is “not going to put that quote out there for everyone to take out of context and make the NFL look bad,” and it is “hard to blame him for that” (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/6).