NEW ORLEANS — Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday at his annual State of the NFL address at the Super Bowl that eliminating low blocks — the type of hit that injured Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing and ended his 2012 season — is an example of what will help make the game safer, which is the league’s top priority.
“I believe safety is all of our responsibilities,” Goodell said. “The players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it. All of us are going to have to do it. I’ll do anything to help make our game safer and better, and they have my commitment to that.”
Goodell also mentioned the importance of implementing an agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association regarding the use of testing to detect human growth hormone in players. HGH testing of players was part of the collective bargaining agreement ratified by the league and union before the 2011 regular season.
“I think that for the players, for their health and well-being long-term, it’s the right thing to do,” said Goodell, who believes HGH testing will be implemented in time for the 2013 season. “The science is there. Baseball, the Olympics, everyone believes the science is there and is utilizing the test, so we need to get to that agreement.
“Off the field, it’s very important for us to maintain our integrity and our brand. We expect the people that are involved in our game, from the commissioner to players to the coaches to make sure they uphold those standards. I’m proud of our players. I’m proud of what they do, but we always have to make sure that we’re reflecting positively on the shield. When there are violations, that impacts the integrity of the game, and that is something the Commissioner has had authority on, we’re going to always uphold the standards of the NFL because the fans deserve that and I believe the players deserve that. That’s the Commissioner’s role.”
Goodell said he is trying to help the game evolve to a safer place. To him, the No. 1 issue is taking players’ heads out of tackles by eliminating helmet-to-helmet hits and emphasizing the use of shoulders and arms to bring down opponents in what Goodell called “the strike zone.” Goodell also hopes the NFL has seen the last of bounty programs like the one the New Orleans Saints once operated and for which they were punished.
“We have the most talented athletes on earth and a game that those players and fans love,” Goodell said. “Our mission is to make things better.”
– Matt Florjancic, ClevelandBrowns.com Staff Writer