By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that he believes the player safety rules that have been instituted during the past few years have been very effective.
"The evidence was clear today," Goodell said during his press conference on the first day of the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla. "You've seen some of the injury data. We released it around the Super Bowl.
"We went through greater detail with the outside firm that has been tracking that for us. It's been very clear that the rule changes we've made have had the positive impact we intended."
The Competition Committee reported to the owners Monday that fines for hits on defenseless receivers dropped from 40 in 2012 to 25 in 2013. The Competition Committee also found concussion rates for wide receivers and defensive backs decreased last year and ACL injuries for wide receivers and tight ends have not increased.
That follows the research released Jan. 30 during the NFL's annual Player Health and Safety press conference that said concussions last season were reduced by 13 percent from 2012 and concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet hits had decreased by 23 percent. The NFL had 228 diagnosed concussions during the 2013 preseason and regular season combined, down from 261 in 2012. Concussions caused by helmet-to-helmet hits dropped from 117 in the 2012 preseason and regular-season practices and games to 90 this season.
Also, ACL injuries were down, falling to 57 in the 2013 preseason and regular season, compared with 63 in 2012. MCL injuries were relatively flat with 133 in 2013 and 132 in 2012.
"While there are some that say (the rules changes) have had negative (effect) -- on say ACL injuries -- that's not the case," Goodell said. "What we've seen is players have adjusted to the rules and they are finding that target zone.
"And it is a safer and better game because of it."
Goodell said the Competition Committee, which is led by Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, has spent many hours looking at film of player safety trends during the past two months.
"The report I got yesterday from meeting with the committee is that we think the changes have been very effective and have led to a better game," Goodell said.
In other player safety matters, Goodell discussed the Miami Dolphins locker room investigation. He said there will be no discipline until the three players who were implicated for causing mental distress to offensive lineman Jonathan Martin and others -- Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey -- receive a medical evaluation.
"The first phase for us is to get the evaluations and determine what the treatment is," Goodell said. "Depending on what the doctors prescribe, it could prevent them from being a part of football for some period of time."
Goodell said league officials will meet with representatives of the NFL Players Association on April 8 to discuss ways to make locker rooms a safer workplace.
"I have been involved with our staff -- led by Troy Vincent primarily -- with 40 players from nine different teams since early January, talking about our workplace," Goodell said. "Talking about what do we need to make sure we have a workplace that we're all proud of.
"Those (talks) have been very productive and this will be an important meeting with the union."