Goodell's State Of The League Hits On Concussion Settlement, Expanded Playoffs
The status of the concussions settlement, the possibility of expanding the postseason and creation of a player code of conduct highlighted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's annual State of the League address Friday. He said District Court Judge Anita Brody, who is presiding over the $765M concussion settlement case, is “taking her time" before deciding whether the "agreement we reached is going to work the way we intend it to work.” He noted, “The No. 1 thing for us right now is to get the money in place so that we can help the players and their families, if they need it, and that is our priority" (NFL Network, 1/31).
EXPANDED PLAYOFFS: Goodell on several occasions in recent weeks has talked about the possibility of expanding the postseason. He said, "We always look at our season structure from preseason to regular season to postseason. There has been a great deal of focus over the last year on would we make any modifications to our postseason." Goodell noted there are a "lot of benefits" to adding two more teams to the playoffs, saying, "We think we can make the league more competitive, we think we can make the matchups more competitive towards the end of the season. There'll be more excitement, more memorable moments for our fans, and that's something that attracts us." He acknowledged the idea of adding to the postseason will continue to get "very serious consideration by the Competition Committee" (NFL Network, 1/31). Eagles Owner Jeff Lurie following Goodell's address said the league needs "to be careful" with altering the current postseason set-up, but noted, "I think adding one team per conference might work." Lurie: "We’ve got to schedule it in a way where the follow-up games allow for equal preparation for all teams. These are crucial games. You don’t want to have a competitive advantage because one team has four or five days to prepare and the other has seven" ("Super Bowl Live," NFL Network, 1/31). However, ESPN.com's Ashley Fox wrote there is "no need to have more teams in the playoffs," as the current format is "just fine the way it is." Fox: "Why become the NBA or the NHL with a regular season that means little and a postseason that is diluted by subpar teams that don't deserve to be there?" (ESPN.com, 1/31).
IMPLEMENTING A CODE OF CONDUCT: Goodell said he has "already begun discussions with outside parties" to draft a code of conduct for the players in the wake of the Jonathan Martin bullying scandal. Goodell said he has "discussed it with the union" and has met with "several groups of players, individually and then collectively, to talk about the circumstances." He said players need to "get back to respect," and the league is "going focus on this in the offseason." Goodell: "Some of it will be education, but some of it possibly could be policy change. ... We're far into that dialogue, and I do expect changes" (NFL Network, 1/31). The AP's Howard Fendrich noted the topic of workplace behavior is "discussed with players at the league’s annual rookie symposium, and all 32 teams are supposed to cover it in training camp each year." Chiefs Chair & CEO Clark Hunt said he is "certainly supportive" of considering fresh guidelines for locker-room behavior. Hunt called it "a positive for the NFL and for the Kansas City Chiefs to really study that." Fendrich wrote NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith is "often at odds with Goodell on all manner of issues," but "actually praised the NFL for its handling" of the Martin case. Some players on the Broncos and Seahawks said that they "expected the NFL to try to make sure this sort of thing did not arise again." Broncos S Michael Huff: "It was such a big topic, such a big deal" (AP, 2/1).
CENTRALIZING INSTANT REPLAY: The idea of centralizing instant replay at the NFL league office has been brought up several times this season. Goodell said, "What we all want is consistency, fairness in our officiating. We believe that we might be able to achieve more consistency when we bring instant replay where there is more of a centralized version and decision-making process.That is something the competition committee is going to consider over the next two months and come back to a recommendation for the membership. I do believe there is a possibility that some version of that will occur where our office can at least be involved in the decision. May not make the decision, but at least can provide some input that would be helpful to the officials on the field, to make sure they are seeing every angle, to make sure they have the proper opportunity to make the best decision" (NFL Network, 1/31). Goodell added, "It will be different than the NHL’s system, in any case. We have replay that probably deals with a lot more plays than the NHL does. We have to modify this for the NFL" (QMI AGENCY, 1/31). Patriots Owner Robert Kraft following Goodell's address said, "I personally like the idea of centralized. I’m not sure how the league feels. I think games should be standardized and we should have the same people making the calls. We don’t ever want to lose a game based on an interpretation of a rule (being) correct or not" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/1). Meanwhile, the Eagles' Lurie said he is "firmly in favor" of making all plays reviewable. Lurie: "I think what we can do is still limit the number of challenges, if we don’t go to a centralized system. ... It's frustrating when you find a play that could have changed a game and you can’t challenge it. I think we’ve got to address that and I think we will" ("Super Bowl Live," NFL Network, 1/31).
AT-HOME VS STADIUM: Goodell also addressed the ongoing battle between the at-home experience versus the in-stadium experience, saying of teams having trouble selling out Wild Card games, "I don’t take the challenges we had on Wild Card weekend as any kind of a reflection on our fans’ passion. Those were mistakes that were made by us -- the NFL and our clubs." Goodell said the “experience at home through our broadcast partners” is “incredible.” He noted stadiums adding new technology and “making people feel safe when they are in our facilities is a critical component" (NFL Network, 1/31).
EXTRA POINTS: In K.C., Randy Covitz wrote the Chiefs' Hunt "has an open mind" to Goodell's suggestion to eliminate the extra point. Hunt: "As much as I’m a traditionalist, I think it’s important for the NFL to continue to innovate. It took a long time to bring the two-point conversion to the NFL. It’s something my dad worked on for many, many years, and everybody now understands how much it makes the game more exciting. ... I can’t say I’m for any specific proposal, but I’m for anything that makes the game more exciting for the fans" (K.C. STAR, 2/1).