Chris Mortensen: Before we get to the regular season, I got to look at the preseason here a little bit. There's been a lot of discussion about is the preseason too long, what do you do with these four games, should consumers be charged regular-season ticket prices. Do you have any ideas on this?
Commissioner Goodell: I think it needs to be reevaluated, Chris. There are a number of factors that go into the pre-season. You've got competitive issues, teams trying to evaluate players, particularly players 35 to 53 on their rosters. You also have fan issues that are critically important to us. You have financial issues and you have labor issues. We're going to look at all of it and try to determine what is the right mix of pre-season games versus regular-season games and try to make a decision that's in the best interests of our clubs and our fans.
CM: Globally, London regular-season game between the Dolphins and Giants. Football is such an American game. What are you trying to accomplish by taking this overseas?
CG: Well, we believe it's the greatest game in the world, and it is America's passion. But that also adds a great deal of intrigue from an international standpoint. People want to see NFL football on a global basis and we are trying to deliver more football to that global fan base. Every time we brought a game, either an NFL game or an NFL Europe game, pre-season games, we have been able to generate tremendous excitement in those markets. We're trying to bring more of that to these markets. And the reaction we're getting in the UK right now with the Dolphins and the Giants is extraordinary.
CM: So what's your vision? Could you envision a Super Bowl in London one year?
CG: I think it's possible. We have had such a tremendous reaction in the UK
over this regular-season game. We know there's a great fan base there. We've
been playing there for over 20 years. It's been on television on a regular
basis. And there's a tremendous fan base. And it's a great international city.
So it is possible.
CM: How soon?
CG: I don't know. We've got a lot of interest in playing our Super
Bowl here in the United States, but it is becoming a global property.
CM: Now about the very sensitive issue this off-season of retired players. Why should we not believe that the league and the union, whose cup overfloweth, have turned its back on retired veterans?
CG: Well, there are a few reasons for that. One is I believe that we as a league, we as a union, need to do more for our retired players. I firmly believe that. I know Gene believes in that. We have to be intelligent about how we approach this issue. What we're trying to do is figure out exactly what it is we can be doing to be responsive to our former players. There are medical issues. There are disability issues. There are pension issues. We have been focused primarily on the medical issues over the last several months. Our union has gone back four times in the Collective Bargaining Agreement over the last 13 years and improved pensions, and quite significantly. Obviously there's more that can get done. If they were making improvements to that, they obviously recognize there are things that should be done from a pension standpoint. But I think our union deserves some credit for going back and looking at the former players. Gene and I have agreed we should be looking at this going forward.
CM: You talked about the players, concerned about the image that they as a
group are projecting. For those who have an impression that this is a league
full of criminals or those who have lost their moral compass, how do you
CG: We have two thousand of the greatest athletes, both on the field and off the field. And I firmly believe that. We have a few players that have made some bad judgments, made some mistakes. That has gotten most of the media attention. And we all understand that. It's the world we live in right now. But it should not override or overshadow what our players are doing both on and off the field. I have never been more proud of our players. I think they are doing terrific things both on and off the field, and I know they'll continue to do that.
CM: Just popped into my mind. Does it bother you that your image right now, when people say Roger Goodell, it's like he's the heavy-handed commissioner? Does that bother you at all?
CG: It does 'cause I certainly don't rule the roost at home. And it's hard for people to understand that. I don't look at it that way and it's one of the reasons that I've gone out to our clubs to meet with our players, because I think there is a misperception of how I approach this job. One of the things -- one of the first things I did as I got this job is to make sure I went out and I got the perspective of the players. We have a player advisory council of active players which has never been done before in the NFL to help advise me, to give me feedback, not only on player conduct issues but on broader issues in the league. I think that's valuable to me. They are part of creating this personal conduct policy, and I think that's been important for them to understand.
CM: On that note, I saw where the Detroit Lions elected four team captains. They're going to have the capital C on their uniform. Why is this loosely connected to player conduct?
CG: It was actually an idea that was generated from the player advisory council. They talked about the locker rooms, leadership that as necessary in the locker rooms, particularly for the young guys coming into the league. They needed veteran leadership. They needed to be told, This is how we do things in the NFL. This is how we do things at a particular club. And we felt that reestablishing the role of captains, where you could see that leadership come through in the locker room on a season-long basis, was critical. So we're celebrating, we're acknowledging and we're promoting the values that come with being captains and that leadership responsibility that comes with it.
CM: So did you hear what I've heard from veteran players, that there's a bit of a disconnect between the veterans and the young players that come into the locker room every year?
CG: Absolutely. We talked about that with the veteran players a lot, and even the rookie players will talk to you about that, that there is a disconnect. They're not sure where they stand when they walk in the locker room as a rookie, and the veterans are not sure where they stand when a rookie comes in with a big contract. So there is a dynamic going on there. There are cultural changes even in a 10-year period from a veteran to a rookie with the things that players are going through nowadays. We want to try to bridge that gap and try to bring in more resources to those rookies so they know how to make good decisions as they go forward.
CM: You mentioned rookies coming into the locker room with big contracts. I know you've at least addressed a possible rookie entry wage scale. I think Gene Upshaw pretty much frowns upon that. Is that something you think will happen one day?
CG: I do think it's important, Chris. I think it's important for our veteran players who would ultimately benefit. This isn't about saving money; this is about shifting the dollars that we spend on players to the veterans that have earned it. On the other hand, I think it's great to see rookies getting well-rewarded for what they've accomplished. But I think everyone feels that there needs to be some shift, making sure that the money is going to the players that have achieved the greatest success in the NFL.
CM: Takeo Spikes, the veteran linebacker, he's now with the Eagles, he's now on your advisory committee, I think.
CM: He said recently that he believes your policies are definitely swaying players, in his words, who are on the border. What kind of encouragement is that to you?
CG: I've had incredible encouragement from the players as I've gone
around to minicamps, training camps and talking to players individually. I get
calls frequently here at the office from players talking about what's working,
what's not working. Almost uniformly the players have been very supportive of
the policy because they're the ones whose reputation is at risk. When they look
at NFL players and they say are all NFL players like this, we want to make sure
they recognize the answer to that is no. Our players are great people who have a
lot to be proud of and are doing great things on and off the field. And the fact
that they recognize the importance of their reputations as a group is important.
And I know they want to do whatever they can to promote the image of the league
and the individual players.
CM: On another down-the-road note, the Pro Bowl has been criticized as the All-Star Game that has no value compared to the NBA and Major League Baseball. Any fresh ideas about it?
CG: Well, the one thing that we should recognize is that the game of football is different than any other game. We are very much a team sport. I think the All-Star Game is going to be different as it relates to any sport. And I think football's the ultimate team sport. So our All-Star Game will probably always be slightly different if that standpoint. But we're evaluating what we can do as far as when it is played, what we can do as far as rules are concerned and how we can showcase our athletes on a broader level. One of the things that we've talked about is whether we should play the Pro Bowl in advance of the Super Bowl as a lead-up to the Super Bowl, again, showcasing our great athletes during the season and finishing on the high note of great Super Bowls.
CM: You're suggesting in that off week between the championship games and the Super Bowl, we could have the Pro Bowl played?
CG: Yes, that is a very strong possibility.
CM: But that means the Super Bowl players, a lot of them are headliners, Peyton Manning last year, wouldn't have played in the Pro Bowl.
CG: That's correct. And there's obviously things you have to balance here. But, again, they're going to be showcased in the greatest game of all, which is the Super Bowl. This is an opportunity for us to showcase our other great athletes on the week before the Super Bowl, leading up to that, and finishing on a very climactic note with the Super Bowl.
CM: How soon do you think that could happen?
CG: It won't happen this year just because we have commitments both to the state of Hawaii and to our broadcast partners. But it's something that we would look for as soon as 2009.
CM: As you look back at this first year as commissioner, are you glad you took the job? Is there anything that surprised you at all?
CG: Well, I'm certainly happy I took the job because I'm a guy who's living the dream. This is the game that I love. I have a tremendous passion for it. I think it's the greatest league in the world. And I just am thrilled every day I wake up and I get to come here and try to make a difference. There's no question I'm the luckiest guy in the world.