NEW ORLEANS — Commissioner Roger Goodell devoted much of his annual State of the NFL press conference to safety issues. The current and future health of players is a good topic for the league. Also a shrewd one.
Goodell and the NFL are looking down the gun barrel of hundreds of potential lawsuits from brain-damaged or mangled players. It's no surprise the NFL is cracking down on head-to-head hits and encouraging more fundamental tackling with shoulders and arms. The future direction of the league, both financially and on the field, is at stake.
Goodell said the No. 1 issue for him is "taking the head (hit) out of the game." It sounds good, but I wonder how former players saddled with the after-affects of many concussions feel about that.
"I believe the changes we're making to the game are making football safer and making it better," Goodell said. "Suspensions (for flagrant hits) get through to the players. We have seen an escalation in the discipline because we are trying to take these techniques out of the game."
The issue is also provocative because of this year's Super Bowl venue. New Orleans Saints fans feel Goodell blew up their season with excessive Bountygate punishments. It was pointed out Friday that several establishments display a photo of Goodell reading, "Do Not Serve This Man." Goodell responded that he still felt welcomed in the city and cited a Goodell float at a recent Mardi Gras parade.
Goodell also made news when he said there's a good chance that testing for human growth hormone_a tricky problem for football and other sports--could happen for the 2013 season. The NFL and the union actually agreed to the testing two years ago in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Knowing this, he expects an agreement for the tests before kickoff in '13.
Normally, Goodell would have addressed a larger range of matters, but safety carried the day.
Ron Agostini blog, 8:15 a.m.
Friday at the Super Bowl began with a joint press conference featuring the Harbaugh brothers — Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh.
Their attire said a lot about them — John in coat and tie, Jim in his everyday gear — black buttonless top with khaki pants.
Their father, former coach Jack Harbaugh, also was here. Jack was defensive coordinator at Stanford over three decades ago for head coach Paul Wiggin (Manteca High).
Jim was a student at that time at Palo Alto High, located across El Camino Real from Stanford Stadium.
Later this morning is the annual State of the NFL address by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who no doubt will give his thoughts on the player-safety rules that have provided a subplot all season.
Players no longer will be available to the media this week, and that's fine.
They were pretty much talked out after Wednesday. We've finally reached the point of the week where all arrows point to the game itself on Sunday.