morning. Welcome to
"Also, let me thank the two teams – the New England Patriots and New York Giants. I congratulate them on a tremendous season. They have played terrific football and they have gotten here in two different ways, but nonetheless, both with records. They certainly deserve the honor of playing in the Super Bowl. We wish them both luck and congratulate them on their success to date. So, thank you to them.
"Thirdly, as you look back at the 2007 season, you'd say by any measure that this has been an extraordinary season. The competition on the field, the ratings, the record attendance are all barometers that the NFL is extremely healthy and that the interest in the NFL continues to grow. We're excited about that. Let me assure you that none of us take that for granted. We are working to see what we can continue to do to grow the game. We believe the NFL can grow and be even more popular than it is today. That's what we spend our time focusing on: ‘What are those opportunities? What are those risks? What are those challenges that the NFL can face?' We will address those as aggressively and as proactively as we can so we can keep our fans focused on football. That's what we think is our job."
Roger, as you know, Sen. (Arlen) Specter is calling you before the Senate Judiciary
Committee to talk about what he described as "the inexplicable destruction
of the spygate tapes." Can you give us any information
on that, and do you think it will taint
"Let me address that in reverse order, Dave. I don't think it taints their accomplishments. The action that we took was decisive and it was unprecedented. It sent a loud message to not only the Patriots, but every NFL team that you should follow the rules and you better follow the rules. I think what they did this season was certainly done within the rules on a level playing field. I think their record is extraordinary. As we all know, it's never been done before at 18-0. I think they should be congratulated on that. As it relates to Senator Specter, of course I am more than willing to meet with the senator. I think there are very good explanations for the reason why I destroyed the tapes or had them destroyed by our staff. They were totally consistent with what the team told me. There was no purpose for them. I believe it was helpful in making sure our instructions were followed closely, by not only the Patriots, but also by every other team. I think it was the appropriate thing to do. Our discipline sent a loud message, and I think the team should be congratulated on their success."
"Let me first
say to our fans in the
There are still a lot of unanswered questions that you have never said, like why did they (New England Patriots) do it, how long were they doing it, what advantage did they get, what did they do with the information, and did it help them win any games. Did you find out the answer to those questions?
"First off, the answers to why they did it have to be answered by the New England Patriots. That is not something that I was really concerned with. As far as it relates to what we found, it was totally consistent with what the team told us. Many of you saw it because it was leaked, one of the tapes. It was very clearly a coach making signals and it shows the down and distance. I believe there were six tapes and in fact, in one of the tapes, one of the coaches was waving at the camera, indicating that they understood that they were being taped. I think as far as the actual effectiveness of taping signals, as you all know, taking signals from opposing football teams or in other sports is done and it is done quite widely and teams prepare for that. There isn't a team that doesn't go into a game prepared for that because of the complex nature of the way they handle either their wristbands, different coaches sending signals in live or not. They all protect against that. I think it probably had a limited effect, if any effect, on the outcome on any game. But that doesn't change my perspective of if you are violating the rules, you should be punished for that. You should be disciplined, and I think we did that very aggressively."
are entering our 13th year now with no NFL team in
first point I will tell you is that you don't have to entice us in the sense
that we think
Please give your reaction to the Buffalo Bills plans to stage regular season games and preseason games in Toronto beginning in 2008 and also what concerns the Canadian Football League (CFL) has about the NFL coming to Canada?
you may know or may not know, earlier this week we completed our process,
our due diligence on the proposal for the Buffalo Bills to play a limited
number of games in
Rightly or wrongly, there is a perception that the NFL would love it if every team were 8-8, complete parity. In that context, you have a dominant team that could possibly go 19-0, in your eyes, is that good or bad for the league?
"First, let me say, we get criticized that we have parity and then we get criticized that we have a small number of teams that are dominant and I don't think either one is actually accurate. I think that is the beauty of the competition that is going on in the NFL right now. The margin between a victory and a loss is very small. I think you saw that, even in the Patriots' 18-0 streak. There were some teams that gave them a pretty good run, including the Baltimore Ravens, who didn't have one of their more successful seasons, so I think that margin of competition, that margin of the difference between winning and losing in this league is very small, and I think that is great for the fans because every team comes in with an opportunity to win."
There are beginnings of some very strong rhetoric back and forth between the union and owners about the upcoming deadline about the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you guys opt out of it and there is a labor war of some sort, how do you think the fans are going to understand that, and can you explain to them what you think some of the main issues are that your owners are upset with?
"First Jason, I'm not really much into the rhetoric. I think these issues don't get resolved by making comments publicly, but rather sitting at the negotiating table and working, and addressing the issues that we may have. I don't think it is any secret, as you point out, a number of our owners are concerned with many aspects of the current labor deal. That's something we need to improve, we need to address, and we will do that, directly with the union. I believe we will be able to come to a resolution that is good for the game, good for the players, good for the owners, and good for our fans, most of all. As it relates to what I would say to our fans, I think it is important for our fans to understand that the labor agreement is critically important to our business, and that our business has changed over the last several years. The cost of operating an NFL franchise, not only in labor costs that are 60 percent of the gross, but the cost in stadium operations and building stadiums, operating them, and capital improvements, these are all additional costs that we didn't have just several years ago, and I think they need to be recognized in this labor agreement, and the union has done that. We think there is probably going to have to be some additional consideration in how they do that, but that is the give and take of negotiation. They have, I'm sure, other issues they want us to address. We will do that, we will do that responsibly, and I hope we'll come to a successful conclusion on that because it's good for the game."
I'm curious if you have a timeline yet for a test for human growth hormone, and what you think the level of usage is right now in the league?
"I don't, because I'm not involved in developing that test. Obviously there are some scientists and some personnel we have engaged, that we've invested in, just recently $3 million with the United States Olympic Committee, to develop a test for HGH. It's not at the point where there's a valid test that is widely distributed, that we can use, that we can be comfortable with, but when there is, we certainly will evaluate that, and in fact, we are investing in trying to develop that test. I don't think there is a significant amount of HGH use, but I have no factual basis for saying that. I think our athletes are extremely well trained. I don't think they want HGH or performance enhancing drugs in the game. I think that is why our drug program has been so effective, and the gold standard in sports, because our union supports it, wants it eliminated from the game because it is good for all players. So I think we'll continue to take that leadership role in how we develop our policies, our drug program, so it continues to be the gold standard."
Will international play remain voluntary for teams?
difficult to tell the future beyond the next several years. We had an overwhelming
response from our clubs this year in the number of teams that wanted to go.
Maybe part of it was because the Giants went last year and now they're in
the Super Bowl, so maybe they think there's a connection. The reality is the
teams had a great experience when they went to
How often will teams play overseas?
"There is a resolution that says we will not take a team more than once in a given period."
Is the new trend of teams that have secured their playoff berth tanking their games towards the end of the season an issue and does you feel the need to look in to Kerry Collins statement accusing Head Coach Jeff Fisher and Head Coach Tony Dungy of conspiring to end a game early?
don't believe the accusation. I don't believe it's legitimate. I have spoken
to both teams and our staff has. I do believe that this is something we need
to address as a league. The incentive should be for every team to win as many
games as possible. We owe that to our fans and it's important for clubs to
be incented that way. We are going to look into the potential
of seeding our teams differently after they qualify for the playoffs, so that
you could potentially make more of the regular season games have significance
for the postseason. Last season there were nine games, in the last two weeks
of the season, where at least one of the teams did not have any impact on
their postseason seeding. We think that by looking at our seeding process
that we could have affected three of those nine games and made those have
meaning. In fact, it could have affected two playoff games this year. The
Has there been any progress made in the negotiations with Comcast with the placement of the NFL Network on the sports tier? Do you think that Senator Arlen Specter's interest in the ‘spygate' tapes is related to the fact that Comcast is one of the biggest contributors to his campaign?
"I'm not addressing that point. Unfortunately, there aren't any new negotiations. We believe that the NFL Network is very important to us. It's an important strategy. It's giving more fans more football. It promotes us on a 24-7 basis, 365 days of the year and it's high-quality programming. It deserves to go to a broader audience. Very few of the cable operators, two or three of the largest cable operators, want to put it on the sports tier, which we don't believe is the right thing for our fans. They're just finding another way which they can charge our consumers more money. We think it should be available on a broader basis. We think it's pretty clear that the demands of the NFL are much broader than a sports tier. We're objecting to that. I certainly hope it's going to be resolved in negotiations."
As you may know, in a forthcoming book, a forensic pathologist, who did brain autopsies on Mike Webster, Terry Long and Andre Waters, suggests that there is a syndrome that some football players suffer from that is similar to the syndrome that some boxers suffer from, in terms of brain damage from repeated head trauma. He urges that the league and the union pay for continued medical follow-up for all retired NFL players to determine just how serious of a problem this is. My question is: do you acknowledge that this is an issue, and would you support that sort of comprehensive follow-up for all retired players?
"Two points: I think we've been very clear about concussions and the importance of dealing with concussions as a medical issue, making sure that we take a very conservative approach that would make sure that we are doing everything to benefit the players' health and safety. I don't think any of those claims are backed up by scientific or medical facts. That's what we're trying to deal with. We have a committee that has been dealing with concussions for 12 or 13 years now, which has done ground-breaking research. Certainly, I think we will continue to do this and focus on this. In fact, they are doing a study on former players to make sure they understand, from a scientific and medical standpoint, what is the long-term effect of concussions. I don't think any of us has an answer to that, and we would like to get that answer, but we'd like to get it on a factual basis, rather than making a lot of charges that can't be supported medically."
Speaking of retired players, I know the league is concerned with the issues of the retired players, and there seems to be a consensus that there is money there. I don't think that's the issue. The issue is qualifying for some of these disability funds. My question is: can the cumbersome and arcane rules and regulations that are defining what disability is, are those things that can be negotiated or modified or relaxed? That's the one answer I can't ever seem to get. It's not so much that the money is not there, but it's the way to get it.
"The answer to your question is yes. In fact, we have made some changes that I think will take some of the red tape out and make the process, hopefully, simpler. It will get to the result that we are looking for, which is to have an effective, responsive disability program. We just spent four or five hours with Gene (Upshaw) last week, talking about further changes in our disability program. This is not unusual just to our industry. Disability programs are complicated. You see these come up with veterans—lengthy delays. We don't have that experience. I think that any delay, though, is unfortunate. Our players, who helped build this game, deserve to have a system that is responsive, professionally done and independently done. That is what we're working on. I'm confident that we are going to make some changes that are going to be beneficial to our former players."
I wanted to follow up on the Patriots' video situation. If you wouldn't mind telling us, exactly how far back did the evidence go? (How far back) did the practice of the video taping of the signals go? What, if any, conversation did you have with the involved teams, in other words the teams who were taped?
"We did speak to a number of different people who were either directly involved or not directly involved. I believe there were six tapes, and I believe some were from the preseason in 2007, and the rest were primarily in the late 2006 season. In addition, there were notes that had been collected, that I would imagine many teams have from when they scout a team in advance, that we took, that may have been collected by using an illegal activity, according to our rules. We wanted to take that information and destroy that information, also. We did that. They may have collected that information within the rules of the NFL, but we felt it was appropriate, since we couldn't determine it, that we take all of it."
The NFL has always been known for being very well-organized. This week a lot of people have felt that media day has become a circus. What might the league do to address something like that?
I wasn't here on media day, but I was watching it on the NFL Network back
you considered having a rookie symposium in
"I thought that was Michael Irvin's idea and I think it's a great idea. He mentioned that to me last August at the Hall of Fame that it would be great if all our young players coming into the league could understand the rich tradition, history and the people that helped build that game before they came into the league. I agree. We're looking to see if we can do that. There are some logistics that are difficult to deal with so I don't know if we're going to be able to accomplish it this year. In the short term, we're looking at alternatives where we may require rookies to come in and spend a day at the Hall of Fame so they can better understand what led to this opportunity that they're about to engage in. I think it's a terrific idea."
With your actions in the player-conduct issue, how do you feel about the results?
"Let me address the first part of your question. I believe that our policy – in respect to player conduct and personal conduct for everybody involved in the National Football League – was well communicated. I think they understand the policy. I think that we made progress. I think that we are beginning to understand that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Everybody associated with the league must do that. As I said when I first came out with the policy, I didn't expect it to solve all of our problems in one quick moment. It was going to take some time for people to understand. One of the most encouraging things in addition to there being a 20 percent reduction in incidents this year is that we saw a tremendous reduction in rookie incidents because I think we were able to do programs that educated players on what we expect of them and to help them and to make them understand. I must tell you, none of this would have been successful without the support of the NFL Players Association and the players. They wanted this and they helped make this an important priority for us. I think it was effective."
Will there be any modifications?
"As it relates to making changes in the policy, just like every policy, we are evaluating and looking to see what we can do to improve, what we can do to better educate our players and help them make better decisions."
On the flip side of that, can anything be done at the league or team level to help players that are targets, such as the Sean Taylor incident?
"The last part was about players being targets. This is a big issue for us. The tragedy of losing Sean Taylor, and in fact we lost four players, all 24 years old, in the past year, which is clearly the lowlight of the season for me. It's a tragedy. We have to do everything that we can to educate our players of the simple things that they can do to protect themselves and their families. They are celebrities. There are people that want to associate with our players, our coaches, and they have to understand that there is some risk involved with that. There are some very simple things that we can do and we have been doing with our security department just to make sure that they understand that you need to lock your homes, put your alarm on. If you have the ability to live in a secured environment, in a community that has private security, that's a benefit. There are a lot of things that we can do, that we are doing with our players. I think we will help them make better decisions, and more importantly, protect them."
Was there any indication that the confiscated tapes may have benefited the Patriots in any of the Super Bowl victories that they had?
"No, there was no indication that it benefited them in any of the Super Bowl victories. I think I've said before and I've repeated here, I'm not sure that there is a coach in the league that doesn't expect that their signals are being intercepted by opposing teams. That's why they go to great lengths. I think it was coach (Bill) Parcells earlier this season who said, ‘Any coach that doesn't expect his signals to be stolen is stupid.' It's pretty simple but teams understand that it's a risk and they prepare for that. I don't believe it affected the outcome of any games."
What was accomplished by destroying the tapes?
"I think (destroying the tapes) was the best way to make sure that the Patriots had followed my instructions. I wanted to make sure that that bit of information did not appear again. If it did appear, I would know that they didn't hand me all the information. They certified to me, in writing, that they gave me all the information on tapes or notes, and that there was no further information relating to this incident or any other taping of games. Not having those tapes out there prevents a potential leak, like unfortunately it did. Now I know that if something arises, that I wasn't told the truth."
Why do you think Congress is getting involved in something that is an in-house matter?
"I can't answer that. You'll have to ask Senator (Arlen) Specter to answer that."
the status of the G3 stadium financing plan as it relates to getting new projects
off the ground, particularly the project in
"Right now, the G3 funding program is not in effect. We have maximized the amount of money that's available through the G3 funding program. We think it's important for the league to continue to assist in getting these facilities built. They're great for the fans, they're tremendously beneficial to the players, because it drives new revenue, which they share in. So we want to make sure we do everything possible to keep these facilities being built, and we have always had a stadium assistance financing program that we had prior to G3, which was a club seat waiver. I think it's fair to say that would be available to a club right now until we find something that may be G4, the next generation of G3."
On player conduct, and how last year you had said you made improvements with the penalties and got players to understand that there are responsibilities, not just to the league and each other, but to their families and communities. There are so many players in this league who are people of family, faith and community. On what ideas the players have come to him with about keeping them from getting to that point where they make a mistake, and his ideas about getting the perception to change from the few who do it wrong to getting the fans of this league to understand that so many of the players are doing the right thing.
"I agree with your final point, which is that our players are doing wonderful things, obviously on the field, but also off the field, and their commitment and dedication to their community I think is terrific. I'm extremely proud of what they do in their community. In fact, I think there was a press conference before for four of our final candidates for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. I think they're just four great examples of a number of terrific young men. We just recently, at NFL Charities, gave away over $1 million to 85 different players that have created their own foundations and are doing great work. I'm very proud of what they do. I think they should be saluted for that. Unfortunately, there are a few that either don't get the message or reflect badly on the broader population, and that's why I think the players supported what we did. That was critical. They didn't want to have the reputation of NFL players to be a negative, because it shouldn't be, because of the wonderful things that they do. We've done a number of things to try to demonstrate how wonderful our players are. Announcing the final winner on Sunday is one of those. Bringing four of them in this weekend was one of them. We've done spots, we've done information to make sure people understand how much our players are doing in their communities. I think it's important for our fans to understand – we have recognized that responsibility and we're going to meet that responsibility. I feel comfortable saying that on behalf of the players."
On how the first player chosen in April's draft will instantly become one of the highest-paid players in the league, with a contract guaranteeing him maybe $30 million, and if it is time for the NFL to rethink the way it slices the salary pie so that more money goes toward proven veterans and less to unproven rookies.
"It's a point that we've discussed with our Player Association. We think it is an important thing. We're not trying, in this case, to pay players less money. What we're trying to do is make sure that the money that is allocated to the salary cap goes to the players that have earned that, that have done it over a period of time. So I think we want to talk about the impact of the rookie pool, what it should be, how it should provide opportunities for players that come into the league and be paid appropriately and be paid fairly, but also make sure that that money goes to the players that really have performed on an incredible level. I think that's something that we'll continue to engage in with the Players Association."
On what his concern would have been about locking up the evidence against the Patriots rather than feeling he had to destroy it, and if he felt that by destroying it he might create the impression that something was being covered up.
"No, I didn't. In fact, we thought we had locked it up, and it got out five days later. That was one of my concerns. We thought that we had a chain of command that would not have been broken when we discovered that this activity was taking place. We aggressively pursued it. We obviously were the first to tell the media about it, so we've been very open about it. Unfortunately, that weekend, it appeared on television and we were disappointed in that. We didn't want there to be any question about whether this existed. If it shows up again, it would have to be something that came outside of our investigation and what I was told existed."
decision by the Bills to play some games in
know there is tremendous fan interest in the NFL up in
Does that mean that expansion is off the table?
is off the table for right now. It's really not a focus for us, so it's not
Is the Canadian market off the table?
is off the table. We are not looking to expand as a league. If we do look
to expand, certainly markets in
In the investigation into the Patriots, how many teams did you find that they had either taped or gained information outside of league rules? To what degree did you inform those teams?
"Well, the question is determining whether they acquired the information with tactics that are legal within our rules or whether they were taping using videotape, which is not within our rules. Obviously if you have a tape, you know that it was acquired illegally. We had roughly six tapes. I think it was six tapes. There were notes from other teams that indicated that they were likely done in part through electronic taping. But we think it was quite limited. It was not something that was done on a widespread basis. Again, we acquired all that, and destroyed all that so they don't have that anymore."
Did you inform those teams?
"We didn't. We didn't see any need to."
will there be another regular season game in
as you know, our experience down there in 2005 was one of the things that
changed our entire strategy of playing regular season games internationally.
And we started with
You spoke earlier about re-thinking the seeding in the playoffs. Were you thinking about the individual conferences independent of each other, or is it worthwhile to think about re-seeding all 12 teams for the playoffs?
"There are a number of variations on it, you're right. You could re-seed right from the beginning, but I think we'd probably address this in smaller steps here. The focus that we will probably give it in the short-term would be to look at our seeding process. You qualify if you win your division, then you have the two wild-card teams. I think what we'd like to look at is if a wild-card team has a record better than a division winner, should that give the advantage to the wild-card team that has the better record? That will probably be our short-term focus. But as we look at how we continue to innovate and we continue to make our game more interesting to our fan base, we'll probably look at the broader issues at the same time."With baseball revenues expected to top football, what's the next revenue driver for football?
"I think we have great opportunities. I think they are primarily focused on media. I think the quality of our game and the quality of our media opportunities are extraordinary. I think with digital media becoming so prevalent and fans wanting to have it on so many different platforms, there is just a world of opportunities for us. In fact, I see us trying to take advantage of wireless opportunities. Fans are more on the go. They want to have this information at any time and in any place and we'd like to be there."
am living in
"Let me deal with the second question first with Adam. I don't think I dealt with him harsher than anyone else. I think these are actions he's taking. He has to demonstrate through his actions that he's going to change and that he's not going to make the bad decisions that he's been making. I want to see that over a sustained period of time. If he doesn't, he's reflecting badly on the entire National Football League, including all of the other players. If he doesn't understand that message and he needs more time to understand it, then I'll accommodate it.
"In respect to your first question, I did speak to Kathy Urbanski last spring at the suggestion of a mutual friend. There were a couple of misunderstandings with respect to a fine for Pacman versus the fact that he was just losing salary, and also there was some discussion that they were going to do some kind of fund-raising effort, which I said that we would gladly participate in. She was very clear at the time that the NFL had no responsibility. I, of course, expressed my condolences about the tragedy. It was a terrible thing that happened, and I am sorry for what they are going through. It's a life-changing event. I spoke to her again, and even I think her husband later in the spring, and unfortunately that turned into a lawsuit. That's a whole different dynamic, which I'll let the lawyers talk about at that point in time. But it's been clear. I have had that conversation with her and I'm sorry about the tragedy the family is going through, but I don't feel we have any responsibility, nor did she."
Senator Arlen Specter indicated that one of his concerns as he serves the
constituents of Pennsylvania is that the 2005 Super Bowl was tainted and that
the Patriots gained an edge in that game. He wants assurance from you that
it was not the case. When you get a chance to speak with him, will you give
him the assurance that the game was on the up and up and that the Patriots
actually won it fair and square?
"Yes, the same way I'd give it to you, and the same way I've said it from day one. This incident is now almost five or six months old and I think we've been very forthright in it, and I don't believe it affected the outcome of any game. Coaches prepare for people being able to intercept their signals and they make modifications and changes. Andy Reid is a very smart coach and I'm sure he did the same."
then lay such a harsh fine on the Patriots for the spying incident?
"Because you have rules that will promote fair sportsmanship. You have to have that in the game of football. You have to have that in most sports, and it's important that everyone work and operate on a level playing field. In this case, that didn't happen and that's why we issued unprecedented discipline."
The illegal contact penalty has become so prevalent that you see it on every Sunday, causing such chaos for teams who are 3rd and 22, and god forbid, a defensive back breathes on a wide receiver and suddenly you've got five yards and a first down. Is there any talk amongst the Competition Committee, the league, the coaches, or referees about lessening the severity of the illegal contact penalty by taking away the automatic first down?
"I don't think there is any chance of lessening the severity, or any thought about that. I think there is discussion about how we can develop more consistency in the way it is called, which is what I think players and coaches all want to have. They want to have consistency in the way the game is officiated so that the players all know how they can play and the coaches know how they can coach, but I don't see us looking at the severity of the penalty."
"Okay, before I quit, unless there are any further questions, I would like to thank everybody here in Arizona—from Governor (Janet) Napolitano to the (Arizona) Host Committee; Mike Kennedy and Bob Sullivan—for all the work that they have done. It has been an extraordinary buildup to the game and we are grateful for all the work that they have done. Of course, we wish the two teams tremendous success and wish them all luck going into this weekend. Thank you."