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Annual Meeting Transcript: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

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Opening Statement:

We started off this morning with my annual report to the clubs. I did that with our executive vice presidents. The real focus was putting the game first and our fans first. We talked a lot about how we need to continue to innovate, how we need to keep looking at new ways of doing things and keep improving what we're doing. So the next three days is focused on how do we improve the game and how do we keep finding new ways to reach our fans.  We reminded everybody that we are in a challenging environment. Most importantly, our fans and our business partners are still in a challenging environment. We expect that will continue for some time. The good news is the quality of the game is outstanding. The interest in our game is outstanding. We will continue to grow in the sense of our popularity as a game. I think that is a positive thing for all of us.  

We did talk a little bit, in addition to the question of how do we keep innovating, about some of our key priorities. Player health and safety was the first thing that we reviewed very clearly and we'll continue to do that over the next few days. We also talked about fan engagement and how do we improve the in-stadium experience for our fans. The third thing was the CBA and continuing the focus of how we negotiate properly and get a fair agreement for not only the owners and the clubs, but also the players and the fans in general. We did distribute the competition committee report as we traditionally do. So that sits for 24 hours and at that point in time we can begin voting on it. When we went back into our owners' session, we had a report from the finance committee and we had a report from the CEC. That covers the morning. We had a good start. I am happy to take your questions.

Where do things stand with CBA? Have there been recent talks?

There haven't been any discussions for several weeks. We had a lot of discussions, as you know, leading up to the new [league] year [which began on March 5].

Aren't the CBA talks simply a "win-lose" situation?

I don't agree that it is ‘win-lose.' It is a ‘win-win' situation. If we can create the right economic system, we can grow the game. If we can encourage the investment and the innovation, all the opportunities continue to expand. By doing that you grow the pie or you grow the pool and there is more to share and everyone benefits from that. I firmly believe, and I think our ownership does also, that this is an opportunity to create a ‘win-win' situation.

Our negotiating team is outstanding in the sense that the owners have designated Jeff Pash.  We have a number of people that are working on that. The CEC has been directly involved in the negotiations. I think John Mara and Mark Murphy have been at almost every negotiating session. We've had Ozzie Newsome in some of those negotiating sessions and Robert Kraft has been at some of those negotiating sessions. There have been a number of owners involved. I think they will continue to be involved.

On overtime proposal and your expectations of whether it will pass:

I'm not holding my breath yet. It would have been a long time to hold my breath. I think what the Competition Committee has been reviewing, and I said this morning to the ownership, "don't let perfect get in the way of better."  I'm not sure there is a perfect overtime system. What we've tried to look at is how do we design a system that will be appealing to our fans, first off, and that will stay true to the competitive integrity of our game. I think the Competition Committee has come up with something here that is very much worth consideration. It keeps, for one, the sudden death nature of the game which makes our system unique and attractive. I love the idea that we are in a sudden death scenario. I think it's responsive to some of the issues that people have said in the past. I think it bears a lot of consideration and it will. We will have the discussion tomorrow morning with the full Competition Committee. I've met with them going back to Indianapolis. I met with the players in Indianapolis. I participated in a discussion with the Competition Committee last week and again yesterday.  It's getting a lot of thought. It's got the potential to be a better system.

On Ed Goren's comments about RedZone Channel detracting from the value of broadcast rights:

The same way we've responded to past criticisms like this. We're very careful with our content and how we allocate our content. I think we've been incredibly respectful to our broadcast partners and I think that there is what you see in the performance of our broadcast partners. Ratings continue to increase. Our viewership continues to increase. All in light of the same concerns expressed with Sunday Ticket as you may remember several years ago. We introduced RedZone this year and our ratings continued to see about a 14% increase. The facts don't really bear up the issue. But it doesn't mean we're not sensitive and respectful to the issue. We just have to continue to innovate and that's what the RedZone Channel is. It's an innovation that is allowing our fans to engage with the game in different places and on different platforms. That is good for us and good for everybody, including the networks, which is born out of the fact that the ratings have increased so dramatically. To give our fans and our consumers the opportunity to see more football and to see it on a mobile basis is a pretty exciting opportunity.

On Rams sale and potential hurdles:

We haven't gotten to that this week yet. We will update the ownership before we leave here this week. I don't see any significant developments this week.

On Jerry Richardson and his impact on the CEC:

He's been terrific. Jerry is back. He is very engaged. He's very focused. He's involved at every level with us. Today, for the first time, we had a little more of an interactive session in the opening. He was one of the owners that spoke.  Other owners also spoke and asked questions along with other personnel. Jerry is very involved and is providing the kind of leadership that ownership wants on this issue.

On Ben Roethlisberger situation and any current actions:

The most important thing is we take the issue very seriously. We are concerned that Ben continues to put himself in this position. I have spoken to the Steelers. I have spoken to Art Rooney directly about it. At the appropriate time I will be meeting with Ben.

On the in-stadium experience competing with the comforts of home:

It may be more comfortable but it's not more exciting. That's what we talked about this morning. And we are actually going back this afternoon and we will be spending more time over the next couple of days. The issue for us is we are our own competitor in that sense.  High-definition television and RedZone, all of those things do make it attractive to watch on television. It's also exciting to be in the stadium. Our challenge is to continue to make it exciting for people to come to our facility. And that comes from a lot of different perspectives. You start with fan conduct. We talk about making sure people feel safe and they have a positive experience when they come to our stadiums. You talk about how we entertain them when they come to our stadiums. We have to do more with technology. That is where we come back to innovation.  Can we bring the RedZone into the stadium so that people come into the stadium and feel like they're being entertained, they are not missing any action around the NFL and they are there enjoying a great football game. Our facilities themselves. How do we keep investing in and improving on those stadiums so that they come and have a great experience and great facility? It's a challenge. You are absolutely right. It's something that the clubs are meeting head on. We as a league are focused on it and it's one of our priorities, as I mentioned earlier. Everybody understands it and everyone is dedicated to continuing to invest, innovate and make sure that we make it a great experience for our fans.

On recent coin flip and impact Jets-Giants disagreement will have on potential NY Super Bowl in 2014:

The direct answer to your question is no. I don't think it will have any effect at all. I have to make decisions repeatedly and I am subject to criticism.  And I understand that is part of the job.  I think we came up with a great solution.  It's a win-win for both organizations and their fans. We really have moved on.  I'm working on the rest of the schedule now.

What will it take to restart meetings between NFL and NFLPA?

Part of it is just logistics. They had their meetings in Hawaii last week and we are having our meeting in Orlando this week. In the next week or so the two sides will talk and my guess is it will be setting up some meetings shortly.

On Mike Holmgren:

Mike actually came to our last league meeting in Miami. Mike has always been very involved in the organization, whether he was with the Packers, the Seahawks and now the Cleveland Browns. He actually came into our office last week.  He spent the day with one of his key executives going through our entire operation, what he needs to know and what are the various factors. Mike is very engaged and obviously understands the game and the business. I think Mike is going to be terrific.

Did Mr. Ross do a presentation this morning or will he? Is there a point at which all the things you give to fans distract them from watching the game?

Everyone is multitasking here. Kids are consuming three or four different media at once. That is the future. People are going to do that. We all now through technology and these various advancements are getting the chance to experience things we never experienced before in an immediate basis. We can't ignore technology and we can't ignore innovations. We have got to lead. That's what the NFL is doing, leading, so that we are providing our fans that great experience. Specifically, Steve raised the Kangaroo product at the Business Ventures Committee earlier this month. He will be making a presentation to the full ownership tomorrow.

According to Woody Johnson, he had suggested having a coin flip and the league rejected it. Why ultimately did you decide to flip a coin with neither team present? People also told me you were angry at Woody's statement Monday night. Can you respond?

I don't know who is characterizing my reaction, but I did not have a reaction to it. As I said, I'm used to criticism. If you are not used to criticism, you better not be in this job.  As it relates to how we solved it, we think we created a win-win solution for everybody. We offered both teams the same opportunity and it was clear the two clubs were not going to be able to resolve it on their own and frankly weren't even agreeable to the process of resolving it.  So it was my decision to make. It was my authority and I did so.

On Mark Murphy's value to CEC:

Incredibly valuable. As you pointed out, Mark obviously had a great NFL career. He was actively involved with the NFLPA so he has seen it from the other side. He now is seeing it from the side of management. That perspective is incredibly valuable for our ownership and frankly I believe it will be for the players when the dialogue continues. He has been very effective in the meetings and negotiations. He is a smart guy who understands what needs to get done to create a system. He is also very reasonable. He's fair and he wants what's best for the game and the players, as we all do.

On NY Super Bowl in 2014:

I don't have a vote and I can't even take a position with the ownership.  It's the 32 clubs that make that decision.  I think it was right for us and continues to be that it is one of the alternatives. I think it can be very attractive to the ownership and to the NFL in general.  And I continue to believe that.  They will be competing against Tampa Bay and Miami. But not at this meeting, at the next meeting.  We will have very little discussion about that other than potentially an update on the process.

On StarCaps:

We just finished the trial. The judge is accepting documents and various papers. At some point he will be making a decision. Certainly we will abide by whatever decision he makes, but we are not going to preclude any alternative. This is something that is important to make sure we have a uniform, credible program. You cannot have that if you have certain states or certain players by different standards. That's not just true in the NFL. That's true in any sport. This is something that's of great interest not only to the NFL but also other sports and frankly, I think anyone who has been supportive of having strong, credible drug programs.  We'll continue to pursue this and get an appropriate resolution.

On the chances of playing football in 2011:

The best thing I can say is we are still at a very early stage. Let's allow the collective bargaining process to continue.  We are in the first quarter here. We are in an uncapped system now and we'll continue to negotiate. Hopefully we'll all be able to figure out the right way to structure something so it works for everybody and we can reach a fair agreement for the players and the game.

On adjustments to offseason workouts:

You never rule it out, but we're already in the offseason. OTAs will be beginning shortly and offseason training programs. We'll continue to work on it and talk to the Madden committee, the Competition Committee and the players themselves about the kinds of changes that are necessary. I met with a number of players directly through the Tony Dungy committee and it's been an issue that we've spent a great deal of time talking about.  I think some changes should be made, but you want to look at it in the context of how we're preparing our players to play and how do we make the game as safe as possible for all of our players.

Did you have expectations for an uncapped year?

I really didn't have any expectations. It's a new system. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. Every club was going to make its own decisions and approach it differently. I think there's been quite a bit of normalcy in the sense that people are getting ready now for the Draft. We have a great deep Draft coming up.  For the first time I have heard a lot of personnel guys say that. It's terrific. I think teams are going about preparing themselves for the 2010 season. I think every fan has the right to look forward to a great season again.

On restructuring the season to 17 or 18 regular season games:

It is one of the things we've discussed with the players and continue to discuss with the players. Again, it's one of the ways we can continue to innovate and grow opportunities. It's also focusing on something we talked about a little bit this morning, which is to improve the quality of what we're doing. Particularly in the environment we are in right now, you need to continue to deliver value to the consumers and fans, whether you are in the football business or making any other kind of product. You want to make sure you have the highest quality product. One of our products is football.  We have to make sure we are doing the best we can to produce the best football. I think we've done a pretty good job of it.  But our job is not done. We think we can get better. And we're going to get better. That includes looking at every aspect of our offseason, our regular season, and our postseason. One good example is the Pro Bowl. You cannot continue just to do things the way you did them. You've got to look and find new ways to innovate and new ways to improve what you are doing.  I think the Pro Bowl was a good example of that.  I think the RedZone was a great example of that. I think NFL Network is a great example of it. The NFL's not going to stop. We are going to continue to lead in this area.

On three-day Draft:

It's consistent with what I was just talking about - innovation. It is about finding new ways to expand upon what you are doing and to find new ways for fans to engage with football. We've seen the tremendous growth of the Draft and popularity over the last several years. We think this is another way to do that.  By creating a primetime event and doing it over three days, we be able to allow more people to experience the Draft, not only in person but also on television, with both of our partners, the NFL Network and ESPN. It's another step in trying to innovate and trying to create greater opportunities for people to engage with our game. We think it is going to be a nice change and a positive change with our fans.

On schedule:

Mr. (Howard) Katz (senior vice president of media) is hard at work in the next room working on that. We usually get the schedule out, and I presume it will be around the same time, in mid-April. Howard is making all those decisions.

On Rams sale and status of Stan Kroenke and potential to relax cross-ownership rules:

Let's cross that bridge when we get to it. But I don't think so. I think everyone understands we're going to respect our policies and make sure we treat everyone the same. We have great respect for Stan and he has to make some choices. But he also understands the league wants to continue to have policies that we think are beneficial to the league in general and fair to all 32 clubs.

Was there actually a coin flip to determine who played the first game, Jets or Giants?

There was a coin flip. I did it myself so I know. We didn't call heads or tails.  We used the head of the coin for the Giants because it says "In God we trust." So the "G" for Giants.  It's that simple. I think we came up with a great solution.

On lack of public funding and its impact on Dolphins hosting another Super Bowl:

We haven't really focused on the bid process. They have until March 31 to complete that. I said this morning to our full ownership that the hospitality in South Florida was terrific this year. They did a terrific job with our new concept of the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in the same city. It's something we will continue to work with them on. We want to work with the communities because we want to continue to be in South Florida.