TRANSCRIPT OF ROGER GODell FROM HIS TRIP TO THE LIONS ALLEN PARK FACILITY ON THURSDAY!

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Goodell: Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be here. I flew in this morning and then we’re going off to Cleveland this afternoon but it’s part of the normal training camp tours where I get out and get a chance to see coaches, players, media and fans, opportunity to talk with them so it’s an important time of year for us and we’re talking football so it’s fun to be here and fun to be a part of training camp. I also spent about 15 minutes with Coach Marinelli this morning, which was a wonderful experience.  By the time we got done I was ready to go out and play myself. He’s really got a tremendous attitude, a positive attitude and the expectation of winning. I think you can sense the difference in this franchise and this program of the expectations to win and to create a great franchise here and I think that’s wonderful and when I had a chance to meet with the players a little later on, I had that same sense, that the players wanted to win, the players expected to win, and that there was an optimism they were going to win. So that was a terrific experience and I was fortunate enough to spend 15 minutes with the team, the players and talk to them about issues and take some questions. So it’s been a wonderful experience and I think that the fans here, they’re really are no more passionate fans than there are in Detroit about their football and I think that they’re hopefully going to have a great franchise here to be able to rally around this season. So I’ll be happy to take your questions.

Reporter: I wonder what your reaction is to the pending plea agreement from Vick and how quickly will you react with whatever action or whatever punishment the NFL takes after that’s done?

Goodell: Well, Mike, we’re going to do what we’ve always said we’re going to do which is rely on the facts. If there is some type of plea agreement then we will take the time to understand what that plea is and then see how it fits within our personal conduct. I don’t think that it’s overshadowing the season. I think our fans want to talk about football. So I understand the interest in the story, and I understand the aspect of it. Right now he’s not in camp, and if he does plea, we’ll take that in to consideration and see where we’ll go.Â

R: SO you don’t think the NFL’s involvement in the off the field stuff has overshadowed people talking about football? We heard people talking about Tank Johnson, we heard about pac-man. It just seemed like that dominated the news more than anything this off-season.

G: But that’s the offseason. Now we’re getting back to football. People now have football. They have games, they’re following their teams, they’re back to their passion. I think that will help us, because I think that will help us focus on the game. You’re talking about 4 players here. Can I finish? I just said four players that are getting a great deal of media coverage, I understand that. But we have over 2000 players in this league that are doing great things, both on and off the field. And fans want to talk about football, and I understand that. But I also understand the new point. But we’re back to football now, which is great. I’m happy to answer the question on Vick, and I’m happy to answer the question on any of these other players.Â

R: On a local level, Shaun Rogers got mixed up in a legal matter. At what point does something like that get on your radar?

G: Well, we were aware of it. We were aware of the reports. We monitor all of the activity that is going on. We try to deal with the facts. And the facts did not substantiate that a charge would even be brought. But I think that Shaun has obviously learned a lesson from that, and hopefully he’ll make better decisions about where he’s at and when he’s there.Â

R:Â Did you talk to him at all?

G: I did not, not personally. No.

R: When do you decide to make a disciplinary decision? When there’s enough facts to charge? When an arrest is made? When there’s a plea? When there’s a verdict?  Â

G: Well many times there’s a rush to judgment. Shaun Rodgers case might be a good example of that. So it depends on the circumstance and understanding what the charges are, if there are charges. Whether there’s a history. We have put a particular focus on the personal conduct on repeat offenders. And that’s what we really focus on. If an individual makes a mistake, we want to make sure that individual has a chance to have their day in court and, you know, be a penalty from that from the criminal justice system if there is one, and the league will operate and obviously take their own action.  Â

R: The punitive phase of all that and the punishment that you’ve laid out gets a lot of attention. I wonder if you have any way of figuring out yet, or knowing, if the policy you’ve enacted has had an impact on player behavior and there are fewer of these things happening or players still think, “I’m invisible, I’m bullet-proof. It’s not going to happen to me”Â
G: Well I think you’re always going to get that with some players. But I sense that from talking with the clubs. I get it from talking to the players that they’re mindful of this. They recognize the position they’re in, they understand the responsibility, the fact that they’ll be held accountable. And I sense it in this building. It’s very clear, one of the things coach Marinelli has is a “do right” list. And he started the meeting off this morning on the do right list. And the players sit up and they pay attention to that. And there actually was a round of applause because it’s a blank sheet. And I think that’s a great thing, everybody’s getting the message throughout our organization and frankly, beyond our organization. One of the things that’s important here is that we have an impact on the game of football, at all levels. Now I’ve heard from as many college coaches as I have NFL coaches about the importance of this and the impact it’s having. A POSITVE impact.

R: there was a situation here last year with a coach, Joe Cullen, I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Nothing happened with him. The team suspended him for a game but—

G: That’s not true. He was suspended by the team AND the league. He paid his price, I saw him in June when he was coming through New York to participate in a youth camp. I think he recognized that he had some issues he had to deal with and he’s dealing with that. We’re not perfect. Individuals make mistakes and I think he’s recognized that and he’s turning his life around. I’m frankly proud to see what he’s doing. Â

R:What did you discuss with the team? With the players in particular. What were your points of emphasis, and what did they ask you?

G: My generally message is that I’m just trying to get them to understand a little bit of what I’m about, what I believe in. We talk a little bit about personal conduct. We talk about responsibility to the game, to our fans, to our families, to themselves. We talked about the resources we had to help them make better decisions going forward. And then I take questions. And the questions vary from…I took one question the morning that was “How cool is it to have your name on a football?” So

R: Who asked that one? And how cool is it?

G: I don’t remember. It’s cool. That was my answer, I said “It’s cool”

R: Are you curious about some of thee things that they were asking about? It regards to personal conduct and that type of thing?

G: They didn’t ask a question about it this morning. I addressed it in my opening comments along the lines that it’s important for us to be responsible to our fans. And that we are in a position that people are watching and you’re in a different world right now, and you have to be responsible, you are going to be held responsible. And I think Coach Marinelli is doing that on the club level, and you can sense it in the room. And there is a desire to reprsent the lions in a positive way, represent this community in a positive way. And there is an expectation. One of the things we’ve had network seminars, and a lot of the national media, and there is an expectation that this franchise is moving in the right direction and is going to have an impact.

R:Â How close are you and the office monitoring the talks between Vick and the legal system, or do you just wait until its done.

G: We don’t have anything to respond to, so we’re waiting until we have something to respond to. If not, we’re completing our review, and if at some point its appropriate for me to take action, I will.

R: Back to football, small market, large market, there’s talk about, like franchises like Buffalo want to see a re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement.  I want o know how you feel that is working now, in maintaining an equal playing field.

G: Those are two different issues. There’s revenue sharing which is among the clubs, and then there is the labor agreement. The revenue sharing, as you know we have more revenue sharing among our clubs than any professional league in the world. It’s helped us, and I think it’s been really the backbone of the success of the National Football League. The labor agreement, we have just finished the first year of the new deal. I think we’re all evaluating how it’s working. Whats working, What’s not working. It’s no secret that a lot of our owners feel that there are aspects of the deal that are difficult for them, particularly from a financial standpoint. We both have an option in the fall of 2008 to opt out of the deal as early as 2011. So we have football without any questions until 2011. But our job is to continue the relationship we’ve had with the players, and make the deal good for the players and for the NFL.

R: The NBA yesterday had a referee charged with whatever it was that he was charged with. David Stern thought he had checks and balances in place so that that couldn’t happen. Have you guys reviewed your checks and balances with your referees, and are you satisfied with the way that can be, and is there any worry now about this happening in your sport?

G: We have always felt that gambling has a tremendous impact on the integrity of a sport. We spend a lot of time, with not only our players and our coaches and the officials, but also anybody in our office. We do everything to protect the integrity of our league, and we have significant system with regard to background checks constantly being done. And reviews of performances with the officials that are second to none.  We always re-evaluate what we can do, and what we can do better. We will, and have sat down with people from the NBA to make sure that we are doing everything possible, but I’m confident that we are leading our way with respect to our systems. I’m confident that our officials are doing the best possible job with no influence.

R: It’s reported or suggested that A) Pacman Jones after meeting with you in New York did go to a strip club and B)Michael Vick told you at the draft that he had no involvement at all. If these are true, how disappointing is it that they lied to you, at least Vick did, and Pacman went and…

G: Well again, let’s separate the cases. I’ve said to Pacman and to any player “You have to earn your way back into the National Football League You have to do it through your conduct. It’s not about what you tell the commisioner, or what you tell anybody, it’s your conduct and your actions.” So I was disappointed with some of the activity that Pacman got involved with this spring, after we had met and after we had had a lot of discussions. Michael knows exactly how I feel from the draft. I’ve spoken to him since then, and again we’re waiting to see what the facts show before we make any determinations.Â

R: …getting involved in handing out your own punishments and I’ll just give you an example in the NBA, Kobe Bryant had a rape case going on and the league allowed him to still play, the team provided him a plane to fly back and forth from court to play day-of-game and things like that, they allowed him to play throughout, why did you feel compelled to take a different stance than what most of the other leagues do?Â

G: Well, we don’t go by the standard of other leagues. We go by the standard of what’s best for the National Football League.Â

R: That wasn’t a policy before, I’m asking you…Â

G: What wasn’t a policy before?Â
R: This wasn’t the policy when the commissioner was suspending people for outside issues. It seems like it’s more right now.Â

G: I beg to differ with you. That’s one of the main responsibilities as the commissioner of the National Football League.Â

R: I don’t remember seeing… Â

G: You’ve never seen a player suspended?Â
R:Â Not like this, no.Â

G:Â (laughs)Â Ok.Â

R: Maybe I’m not paying attention.Â

G: Well, we can give you the facts on that but the answer to your basic question is that I do what’s in the best interest of the National Football League and that represents 2000 players, that represents coaches, owners, fans, and I do what I think is in the best interest of them and we do it with a great deal of thought and a great deal of consideration. I’ve met with well over 150 players now. I think the players are supportive of what we’re doing and we’re being responsible and we’re being responsible to our fans and to the game of football.Â

R: I just have one follow up question. Have you also looked into what would be the leagues response if you were to suspend somebody or take them out of or stop their career in like the Duke Lacrosse case where people were totally exonerated. How do you go back and give people…have you thought about that that maybe you… Â

G: That’s a hypothetical.Â

R: It’s hypothetical but it could happen.Â

G: If you manage your business right and you’re responsible then you don’t make those decisions.Â

R: You mentioned earlier you said there were only four cases, I could name four, six, seven more.

G: Four of them have gotten significant media coverage yes.

R Well there was the guy who was charged with pimping, there’s Henry out in Cincinnati; I’m not trying to belabor the point, I’m just saying, what is the cause of this? I mean, in your spot, trying to clean this up, you’ve obviously looked at the cause of what this is, what do you think it has been, and what do you think is the correction method to it?

G: Well you’re dead on, because that’s exactly the question I asked myself last fall, the question that Gene asked, and the question we asked of the players in turn – “What’s causing this behavior?” – and the answer’s not simple, and it’s also complex as it relates to just not the National Football League, but unfortunately in the society and culture we live in right now.

R: There seems to be a culture in the NFL, that’s almost like –

G: I disagree with that. I don’t feel that way, I feel like we’re restricted to a certain number of individuals. I think our job is to set the bar higher, to set the standards higher, and our players are gonna meet it. If they don’t meet it, they’re not going to be playing in the National Football League.

R: A great majority of teams are in cold weather areas and a lot of times, fans can’t get to a Superbowl that’s in the south, in warm-weather areas all the time, and when you had the Superbowl here in Detroit, a lot of people were able to drive out from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, whatever, you know, normal fans to come to Superbowl events because it’s in the North. Will it be coming back to Detroit and how did you like the Superbowl here in Detroit, and does the cold weather area deserve the Superbowl because a lot of teams are here?

G: Well let me start with your first one. Detroit did a spectacular job of hosting the Superbowl, we had that reaction from our fans, our sponsors, our network, and it happened to be terrific for the Pittsburgh Steeler fans because it was easy for them to get here – but we have teams in the South too. I know Steeler fans because I spent a fair amount of time in Western Pennsylvania, they’d drive to Florida or the West Coast to get to a Steeler Superbowl. I think it demonstrates the passion of our fans that they’re willing to travel, but I also believe as far as where the Superbowl goes in the future and how it continues to be presented on a national and global basis, there are a number of factors that go into that, that we want to balance. Our Superbowl advisory committee has been looking at that. Climate is just one aspect of that, bringing it more regionally around the world and the country is something else we’re considering. There are a number of factors that go into it.

R: Is Detroit going to be in the loop?

G: They have to bid on it.

R: About the marketing and global marketing, is there any truth to this cutting the exhibition season back and making it a 17-game schedule ?

G: Mike, that’s just one of the ideas. We’re not tied to that, we don’t believe – that’s at an extremely early stage that may take a lot of twists and turns or never get off the drawing board, as they say.

R: With number one picks now, getting in the excess of 30 million dollars and with the way teams are capped now, is it coming to a point where something has to be done about the rookie scale, where teams can afford, it seems like if you’re a last place team now you might not even want the pick because of how much you have to pay?

G: It’s a concern, I think it’s a concern also for a couple of other reasons that may be less obvious that came out when we were talking to players this year, that it’s difficult when a rookie player comes in to a locker room and has that kind of signing bonus, it’s difficult for the veterans to provide that kind of leadership that’s so important on teams, so money kind of changes that dynamic a little bit. I think from the stand point of – it’s certainly on our list to talk to with Gene – it has been in the past, we’re not trying to save the dollars, we just think the dollars should go to players that have earned that on the field through their accomplishments and through their leadership, but it’s the system that we have and we’re gonna do the best we can with it right now.

R: Commissioner along the lines of an earlier question that was asked about Detroit, there has been some talk about possibly moving the Thanksgiving Day game away from Thanksgiving. Can you say that that game is going to stay in Detroit?

G: We have no plans to change that. I expect to be here on Thanksgiving Day myself.

R: What about the former players that did a lot, Mike Ditka’s led this charge, about so much money in the game, and these former players that have come out with disabilities including severe head trauma, that the NFL has been quote-unquote “stingy” with the money that they give to them in these compensation cases, Conrad Dolder, you know what I’m talking about. What is your answer to that?

G: Well there’s multiple answers to it. First, I’m very sensitive to retired players that are facing medical issues. They helped us build this game, they’re important, and we’re working on a number of programs to be responsive to that. On the other hand, I think there’s an untold story with respect to some of this that the Players Association and the NFL, but it was driven by the Players Association, that went back and improved the pensions over the last four collective bargaining agreements, I think that’s something that goes unnoticed. And we’re here in a union town, that doesn’t happen very often, where pensions for retired employees get improvements, so I think there’s another side to that that has to be looked at; I think our players, our active players and the Player’s Associaton have been quite responsive on that front, and I’m not sure that that’s an issue that we’re going to be addressing unless we’re sitting at a collective bargaining table. But the medical side of it is a very important issue that we’re working on aggressively. We’ve created an alliance to pool all of our resources – I’ve met with a number of former players and we’ll meet again to try to understand the issues better and create solutions to that.

R: As a season ticket holder, it’s not just football, it’s basketball and hockey too, is there anything to be done where the process of – I call it “legalized blackmail” – where they make season ticket holders pay for pre-season games, full price, is there any way that can stop somehow, because you’re paying top-notch dollar for a minor league product.

G: I Disagree with you about a minor-league product. I find the pre-season exciting, one because it’s anticipation of the season coming, but two you’re seeing these players that are fighting to make a football team, and that’s part of developing your team, that’s part of creating your team that’s gonna compete during the regular season and hopefully during the post-season, but I understand the issue, and I understand the issue from a fan perspective, theres always a concern about pricing in any case, and we want to be careful to make sure that we’re not over-pricing our fans and also that we’re being responsive to our fans.

R: The last pre-season game the starters never play and that type of thing.

G: Well again, there’s another aspect of pre-season that’s exciting – exciting to me as one, and I think to a lot of professional football fans, that watching these young kids try to fight to make a team is fun, and how the team starts to build that comradery and who’s going to make that roster to represent this community, I think that’s an exciting part of it.

R: Is four games too long? Do you think four games is too long?

G: We’ve talked about it, as you know, pre-season used to be six, so that’s been debated and it’s something that we continue to evaluate on a regular basis. There are different viewpoints on that – some coaches will tell you that four is just right, some would say its too much, some say we want to go back to six. I think it’s important in getting players and the team most importantly getting prepared for that season, so they serve an important purpose in the season.

R: With NFL.com, NFL Network, and the way the NFL is becoming it’s own media company, how do you see that growing in coming years, and not only in how you present your games, but how you present content Monday through Saturday.

G: I think what we’re doing by creating these new media outlets like the NFL Network and NFL.com which just launched earlier this week, is we’re giving our fans more and we’re giving our media partners more; we’ve balanced our policies by allowing more access for media members with these new opportunities for us to get more information to more fans – and that’s what we focus on. How do we get more football to more fans, and I think by having an NFL network that’s 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, that gives us a chance to bring more football, and that’s the response we’re getting from our fans that this is great, we’re getting more football.

R: Do you think that you’ll show more games, you know there’s restrictive policies to what our companies can do to show video-wise, where do you see that going?

G: Well, the NFL to a large extent, having the good fortune of working in the league for 25 years, has built it’s success in large part on reaching the broadest possible audience. We’re one of the last sports that’s almost entirely showing its games on free television – that’s to reach the broadest possible audience, we found that a successful business model we want to continue that, but the media world is changing. Your business is changing, the television business is changing, and we have to be prepared to adapt to that new environment.

R: Also the issue of getting the NFL Network on some cable providers – you see any way you can resolve that in the next year, two years, whatever?

G: We’re working on it because obviously it’s a business negotiation and there’s two sides to that story, but we are trying to get the broadest possible audience and we want it in every home in America. We’re being told by some of our cable operators and one that took us down from seven main homes to one main home is charging the consumers more money than they got last year, and we don’t get that money, that’s going to the cable operators, and my concern there is that this is not good for consumers, and we want consumers to get the product they want. We would love to have this in every home, we are trying to struggle and negotiate with those cable operators to bring that into the home. Okay guys, thank you.

 End of transcript!

We apologize to the great Lions fans that can’t watch this as a video which would be much better for the fans. The new NFL rules prohibit that.  Thanks GODell! MOST OF ALL, THANK THE TEAMS. GODell WORKS FOR THEM AND THEY ARE ALLOWING HIM TO DO THIS!