NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is one busy man, in light of the heavy work schedule he has incurred, especially recently. Consider that Saturday (today) is the day of the draft and you just know that Goodell has his hands full. Nonetheless he found time on Friday to talk with Sporting News Today and a group of sportswriters from the Associated Press. Discussed was the current economy, Michael Vick and the possibility of the regular season being expanded. Below is the interview in its entirety:
Q: What is the state of the NFL like right now?
A: I’m very encouraged. … The competition has never been more intense and I think the game itself has never been more popular. The access that fans have to our game is extraordinary, and I think that is a positive. I think at this point while we have our challenges, we have to be satisfied that things are good.
Q: What was behind the decision to move the Pro Bowl to the mainland and play it the week before the Super Bowl?
A: We don’t think it has reached its potential being a week after the Super Bowl. A secondary issue is that in Hawaii it’s received extremely well by the fans there, but the mainland, because you guys aren’t there, I think it’s had a negative impact on the event. So bringing it to the mainland addresses one of those issues and, two, I think putting it leading up to the Super Bowl will give us an opportunity to put the players on a platform that they deserve.
Q: What impact has the economy had on the NFL?
A: Financing is an example. We have financing that we are trying to secure in the marketplace. It is costing more than it used to cost. … We also had a series of layoffs, and a lot of our clubs are going through the same thing. … It was necessary because our revenues were off, principally in sponsorship and licensing last year. … And you have to monitor your business partners. How is this environment impacting them?
Q: Are you confident the NFL will weather the storm?
A: I really do believe in this type of environment when people have less disposable income and companies are more careful about what they invest in, they go to quality, and that’s what the NFL represents.
Q: Will there be discussion about reinstating Michael Vick when he completes his prison term?
A: When he has finished his involvement (with law enforcement), I will meet with him and his representatives. … We will make an evaluation of where we think he is. What has he learned from this experience? Does he recognize the mistake that he made? Is he prepared to show genuine remorse and, most importantly, be a positive influence going forward.
Q: Will it take long to make a decision regarding Vick?
A: Nobody’s heard from Michael since before he went in. People are making judgments about where he is, and this includes me, by the way. So I think everyone ought to wait and see what he says and how he says it. I’d like to at least give him that opportunity.
Q: Will there be a rookie salary scale?
A: We have a system designed to give the team that performed the worst the best opportunity to improve. But now it is getting to the point where the risk is so great by having that high draft choice that if you make a mistake, the impact can be so great that is can set you back from a competitive standpoint. … We want the players who have performed on the NFL level to be compensated. In the first round alone (today), we’re going to commit $600 million, $400 million guaranteed. So if a player doesn’t make it, that money is out of the system. … There is something wrong with that.
Q: Should the NFL expand the regular-season schedule?
A: I haven’t declared either to the ownership or privately my position on it because I really haven’t settled. From our standpoint, we said we thought this was worth pursuing and analyzing. And I don’t believe in coming to a conclusion before the analysis is done. I think there are a lot of positives to it. … But there are also some cautionary things. You have to be sure you are not overexposing your sport. You have to look at the impact it is having on the players. But the idea clearly has merit.
Q: Are you concerned that the season could become too long?
A: This would not extend the season, in fact, because we would be staying within the 20-game season. I think what we would be doing is taking the quality of what we are doing and improving it. If you can take two meaningless preseason games and make them meaningful, that would be a good thing.