As the 2011 NFL Annual Meeting came to a close March 22 in New Orleans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the media on several subjects, chief of which was the status of negotiations and litigation between the league and NFLPA.
Goodell also spoke about the upcoming NFL Draft, his letter to NFL players on the CBA negotiations, and the status of free agency, which normally begins in early March, but is on hold until the legal issues are settled.
The transcript of Goodell’s remarks was provided by NFL PR.
Good afternoon. We had a good two days of meetings. Our primary focus was obviously on our labor dispute and on our planning and preparation on that. The second piece was obviously this is our annual meeting and we traditionally focus on our football-related matters, including the Competition Committee report which we did yesterday and again voted on all of those matters today.
On an operational plan if the players are granted an injunction blocking the lockout:
I can tell you that we are prepared for every eventuality. What we have said over the last couple of years is that our goal and our objective here is to get a collective bargaining agreement that is fair to all parties. We want to do that as fast as possible but we also recognize that we had to be prepared for other alternatives. Clearly, the union chose to litigate and we knew that was a possibility. We are prepared for that.
On the goal of his letter to NFL players:
It happens frequently when you get into labor disputes. What the ownership wanted to make sure was that the players knew what their leadership had walked away from in the mediation process. We sent that directly to the players. They are claiming not to be a union but we think it was important for us to send that so the players understood what the owners had offered and what came out of the mediation process. I understand there is usually a reaction when those things happen but the most important thing is that people are informed.
On the status of Playing Rule Proposal No.1 pertaining to launching and further definition of illegal hits on defenseless players:
It wasn’t that it didn’t get votes. We tabled it. There was a lot of discussion, which is what we encourage in this kind of a format from coaches and clubs, making sure that the rule that is being proposed is clear. What we agreed to do was to table it at this meeting and come back to it at the May meeting. We will work on some clarifications to that policy and that rule.
On resuming negotiations with the NFLPA due to pending litigation and his confidence a full 2011 season will be played:
We are certainly planning on having a full season. That is our objective and we are going to work as hard as we can to make that become a reality. The players chose to litigate. We are going to have to obviously defend that, but I’ve said that litigation is not going to solve this problem. It is clearly going to be solved through negotiations. The faster we can get back to mediation, the faster we will get an agreement and the fairer it will be.
On continuing discussions with the NFLPA due to pending litigation:
I’ll let you speak to the lead negotiator. He’ll give you a better answer. It is important that the negotiations continue through mediation. That would be with the union and management. That is the way collective bargaining works.
On the owners’ confidence that games will not be missed:
That is certainly their intent, their hope, and certainly that is something that we are all working as hard as we can to get to. The owners want to play a full season. I think the players want to play a full season and I know our fans do.
On if there is any possibility of free agency before the Draft:
There will hopefully be negotiations before the Draft. It would be terrific if we could sit down and work towards an agreement before the Draft. We’ll have to wait and see on the litigation steps and see what the courts determine.
On if the Commissioner is more confident after mediation that there will be a season this year:
We made a lot of progress in mediation. The 17 days we were there forced us all to consider our positions, find the common ground, negotiate, and come up with solutions for the issues that we’ve all addressed that are important to the game, important to the players and important to the clubs. I’m hopeful that we’ll get back there and resume them.
On how you justify to the fans that 31 of the 32 teams require season ticket payments during the lockout:
Very simple – we’re getting prepared to play for the 2011 season. We’ve identified policies for refunds if that is necessary. Our clubs are in communication with our fans. That’s a positive thing for our clubs to be communicating with our fans. We’ll continue to do that. They are important to what we are doing and we want them to know what is going on. They are certainly an important part of what we are doing here.
On the use of replacement players:
We have not had any discussions or consideration of replacement players. That hasn’t been discussed. It hasn’t been considered. It’s not in our plans.
On suspended players being reinstated during the lockout:
There are no player transactions so there would be no reinstatements on that basis.
On why the owners were not available more often during mediation:
We were. I was there the entire 17 days. The entire negotiating team was there. We didn’t miss a single moment. We had owners that were not only available but came in when we felt it was appropriate. We had the full ownership there on the Thursday and Friday as the Union pushed away from the table. We had our entire negotiating team. Our ownership is acutely aware of every aspect of our negotiations. We kept them informed. We had calls with them. They are very well informed on the issues and willing to participate at any moment.
On the possibility of the union having an alternative Draft event:
When you look at the Draft, the core success of the Draft is that it is a great day. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for players to enjoy the success they have had and to start their career. To be able to do that on the stage and participate in the Draft is a great moment for me personally, but also for the players and the families. I hope that is not denied and I hope that the players are not put in the predicament of having to make that determination. It’s a great opportunity for them and their families and I hope they get the chance to enjoy it.
On level of concern with how negative headlines are affecting fans:
The most important issue is our fans. We certainly recognize that our fans want football. They don’t want to read about this. They don’t want to hear about it. They want an agreement and they want it done quickly. That is why we say let’s get back to mediation and get to that agreement as quickly as possible.
On the status of the CBA proposal the NFL made on the final day of mediation:
I’ve said very clearly that the proposal we gave them specifically identifies this to avoid a work stoppage. Every day that goes by makes it harder and harder to keep the elements in that proposal and so that’s another reason for urgency and to get back to negotiations.
On players’ skepticism of his ability to enforce the personal conduct policy during a work stoppage:
I don’t know anything about that. I’ve never heard anything about it.
On the concern on the players part seeming to be that if the amount of gross revenue went up significantly under your proposal that they would not get what they perceive to be a fair share of that:
That’s why we should be back collectively bargaining. That’s exactly the kind of issue that you address across the table and we thought they would engage in it on Friday afternoon. They got the proposal and they didn’t express that to us at the time. That’s something that you would expect would be a reasonable thing to raise and that we should be discussing. That’s why we should get back to the table to discuss those issues.
On if he has spoken with NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith since the union decertified:
I have not.
On the lack of trust between the owners and the players and what it will take to restore it:
These things happen when you have a labor dispute and you have collective bargaining. The best way to get over it is to get in there and address those issues directly, seek solutions, negotiate and reach an agreement, and get this behind us so we can continue to build the great game we have. That’s what we should be doing.
On how the Personal Conduct Policy applies during a lockout:
It’s a hypothetical. The Personal Conduct Policy continues. It applies to everybody in the league. I don’t know how it would apply to the players under this circumstance, but it’s something that I feel strongly about, that we owe to our fans. We owe it to our game – the respect for the people who played the game before us and that were involved with the game before us. That it’s something that’s important to the league, that’s important to our fans, and I believe it’s ultimately important to the people involved with the NFL.
On George Martin’s message to the owners on retired players:
This is the fourth time he’s addressed the ownership in the last year and a half or so, and he is a tremendous advocate for the men who played the game. He makes that very clear. You can hear it in the passion. You can hear it in how strongly he feels about making sure we do the right things for retired players. The ownership has heard from George four times. Mike Ditka has addressed the ownership. This is an important issue for us, and in the proposal that the ownership gave last Friday to the union, or 10 days ago, there were significant improvements in benefits for retired players, including a 60 percent increase in pension payments for pre-1993 players. So there are some real things that need to be addressed. The ownership continues to address those things outside of collective bargaining by improving some of the medical programs we have, but we need to, again, get into the negotiations and make sure we get those improvements done, and he wants to make sure that happens.
On whether teams can have verbal commitments with undrafted players after the Draft:
No. There are no team transactions, even unofficial. Especially unofficial.
On whether teams are allowed to give their playbooks to drafted rookies:
I don’t believe they are. They are not allowed any contact, including sending them information. As draft prospects, I believe they can have contact with them. Once they are drafted, they can no longer have contact with them.
On not enforcing rules that govern what is permissible prior to the start of the offseason program in light of the Dolphins QB Chad Henne situation in Miami a few weeks ago:
I don’t think your statement is accurate. I think your question is based on a false premise because we have pursued it. We are in contact with the teams, and we are pursuing that, and we believe five teams have already been contacted on those issues for violations.
The bottom line is that it is not accurate. I am not blaming anybody, but it is just not accurate. We have pursued it.
On what the discipline would be for those violations:
They were just fines. It happened [already].
On possibly rescheduling the Rookie Symposium down the road:
Yes. I think it is an important event. It is important to get our players that type of foundation. We are moving it to Ohio this year so that we can also take them to the Hall of Fame and demonstrate to them the importance of the game and the importance of the people that came before them. So the answer is yes, we will consider [rescheduling] if it comes to that.
On the Lions and Chiefs tampering case:
It was appealed. I hope when I get back to my office I can pay some attention to that.