“Good morning. Welcome to Super Bowl XLV. We are all thrilled to be here in North Texas. We are concluding one of the greatest seasons in the history of the NFL. It will always go down, at least until next year, as the most watched season in the history of the NFL. We thank our fans and all of the people who supported us in this great season. It was really one of the more competitive seasons we’ve had, just from a reflection of the fans reaction to this season. We had great performances, both individual and by teams. And we want to congratulate the two teams that have risen above all of it: the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers. Congratulations to both organizations. It just sounds like football. Packers. Steelers. This is what has the whole country excited about this weekend and this year’s Super Bowl. When you think of the great history, the great traditions that come from both of these organizations, and recognize that both of them are small markets, it says a lot about what is unique about the National Football League – that competitiveness, that hope that you can always win. I know that it is going to lead to a great Super Bowl here in North Texas.
“Certainly, we’ve had a winter to remember. Some may say to forget. It’s happened here in North Texas this week but it hasn’t dimmed any enthusiasm of the NFL or the people here in this community. We are so grateful for the tremendous work that this community has done to put on an absolutely fantastic Super Bowl week. We know that we are going to have a great weekend, but we want to thank the leadership here in this community for all they have done. All of the public officials who have been focused, prepared for all outcomes. You can see it in the way they are dealing with the issues. This storm is approaching and attacking most of our country, and here in North Texas we are prepared and all of our events are going on as scheduled, and we are grateful to all of them. That includes Jerry Jones, and his family of course, who have been working tirelessly to make this a great event, and Bill Lively, the head of the North Texas Super Bowl Host Committee. To you and your organization, an extraordinary job. I know we have a few days left, but we are grateful for all of the work you’ve done to make this a great weekend. And of course the two co-chairpersons: Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Your leadership is greatly appreciated by us and we know it is going to be a great week.
“Like any organization, we have our challenges and our challenges are ahead of us and we are focused on that. We believe in better and we will do better and we will improve. We are not satisfied where we are, but I promise you we are going to work hard to be better in everything we do. This is your press conference so I’m going to take your questions, but before we move forward, there is an individual who we wanted to recognize from the Fort Worth area: Dan Jenkins, who I understand couldn’t be here this morning, having difficulty getting out of his home, but I wanted to acknowledge and recognize him for what he’s done for your industry as well as our industry. You mean so much to the National Football League, and Dan Jenkins epitomizes that. His work over the years has made a huge difference in pro football and the National Football League, and we want to recognize him. I don’t believe his daughter Sally is here. I hear she is helping to get Dan over here, but in any case, ‘thank you’ to both of them.
“Okay, I think Barry Wilner, you are up first.”
Q: Roger, this week in the Associated Press poll, [it] found that 27 percent of the respondents, only 27 percent, favor an 18-game regular season schedule and when asked if they are NFL fans, only 18 percent say they strongly favor that. Dan Rooney’s also said he sees no reason to go to an 18-game schedule. My question is: How much feedback have you gotten from owners about the 18-game schedule and how much feedback have you gotten from the fans and the public about an 18-game schedule?
A: “We started this with the fans. The fans have clearly stated that they don’t like the quality of our preseason. As you know, our structure is a 20-game format. We have four preseason games and 16 regular-season games. Repeatedly, the fans have said the quality of the preseason doesn’t meet NFL standards. That is one of the basis on which we started to look at the 18-and-two concept, by taking two of those low quality, non-competitive games and turn those into quality, competitive games that the fans want to see; they want to support. I talk to fans all the time. I get that feedback from them, including season-ticket holders who are the ones who are going to those preseason games and paying for those preseason games. I feel an obligation to make sure we are doing the best we can to present the best football, and that includes [asking] how do we make the preseason as effective as possible and the regular season as effective as possible, and I believe we are on the right track to get that done.”
Q: With the possibility or probability of a lockout, what is your message to Indianapolis with the Super Bowl next year, whether it will be impacted and if it is, is there a Plan B? Do they go to the next in line, the end of line? What happens to that Super Bowl?
A: “The message to our friends in Indianapolis is to continue their planning. We believe we are going to be playing there in the Super Bowl, and we believe it is going to be a great community for us to be in. It takes a lot of work as you know to have these events and I’m confident that all that planning will be done in the best possible way. Our focus is on trying to get an agreement done and get it done without any disruption, whether it be to the Super Bowl, or the preseason or regular season. We want to get this deal done in the next few weeks. That’s where our focus is, Mike.”
Q: You touched on this a little bit in your opening marks, but if I could get you to expand on it a little. We know of the ice storm in Atlanta and how the Super Bowl has never gone back there. This is obviously the biggest stadium in the NFL, and it’s going to be a financial windfall for the NFL. Will the weather at all, even though you don’t have a vote on this, will the weather at all affect future bids for Dallas/Ft. Worth?
A: “You know there are a number of factors that our owners take into consideration when they make the decision of where to have the Super Bowl. They each have their priorities. I think the stadium is a priority that is consistent across all 32 clubs, because quite frankly that’s our stage. You are going to be playing – we’re going to be playing, and you’re going to be seeing the Super Bowl from one of the great stadiums in the world. I think that will demonstrate the importance of having great facilities for all of our games, including the Super Bowl. And the fact that it can handle the weather by closing the roof is a benefit in this case. As I say, I think this community has done an extraordinary job under some very difficult circumstances that are across this country today. There are very few communities anywhere right now who have not been impacted by this storm. This community has pulled together and done an extraordinary job and my hat’s off to them.”
Q: The position of the ownership in the labor dispute seems to be that since the 2006 season the players have gotten too great a share of revenues. Yesterday DeMaurice Smith said, I quote, ‘The undeniable fact is the share of all revenues that has gone to all players has gone down since the 2006 deal.’ How do you explain the difference in those two sets of facts?
A: “I think one is a fact and one isn’t. In fact, if you want to deal with facts, the president of the union just in the last week said that the players got a great deal in 2006, and that clearly is indicating that the pendulum has shifted too far in one direction. And in any agreement, you want to have a fair agreement. You want to make sure that it’s fair to the clubs. You want to make sure it’s fair to the players, but allow our great game to grow. Since 2006, we have not built a new stadium, and that is an issue for us. You will point to Dallas. You will point to New York. You’ll point to the renovations in Kansas City, but those were all in the ground or on their way. This agreement needs to be addressed so we can make the kinds of investments that grow this game and make it great for our fans.”
Q: You said you talked to two dozen non-Steeler players and none of them supported (Ben) Roethlisberger. Mike Tomlin said, ‘Why would you expect non-Steeler players to support him.’ What was the point of those conversations with those non-Steeler players?
A: “The context of that entire discussion, as you know, Sports Illustrated did a profile piece and in the context of that Peter King was asking, ‘How do you go about making these decisions’ and I said, ‘You talk to a lot of people.’ You try to get input, and one of the most important inputs for me is players. How do players perceive this? How does it reflect on players as a group? What should be done? I am not taking a vote. I’m not allowing them to make decisions on what the discipline is against other players. I am well aware of that issue, but I do believe in seeking out input to try to make a fair decision that considers all aspects, and that’s what we were trying to do.”
Q: You said that Bill Belichick deceived you. Did you follow up on that or just let it pass?
A: “No, I didn’t do anything further with that.”
Q: If there is not a new labor deal by March 4, or substantial progress toward one that leads to that deadline being pushed back, will the owners lock out the players? And does the owners decision on a lock out depend, in any way, on whether the union decertifies or not?
A: “There were a lot of questions in there, Mark (Maske). I guess the first one is that we have not made any determinations of what will happen on March 4th. The ownership is completely focused on getting an agreement that works and is fair to the players and the clubs. That’s their focus right now. They are prepared for every outcome, as they should be. That is only smart negotiations, and I assume the union is doing the same. We have to focus on making sure we get an agreement that works for everyone. At that point in time, if we are not successful in getting an agreement, I’m sure a lot of steps are going to be taken, which is why the window of opportunity is in the next few weeks to get an agreement that works for everybody.”
Q: If it’s not a good value for the fans and it could threaten players’ welfare over time, why not be a little fan friendly and maybe knock down the prices for the two preseason games, each home game? Don’t make them regular season prices and they’ll get their bang for their buck and the players will stay healthier:
A: “I think the first thing you started off with, I believe you said, ‘If it’s not good value for the fans.’ I would disagree. I think fans, when they understand that you are going to take two preseason games and turn them into regular season games, they do see value in that. They do see the fact that you are improving the quality of what they are paying for. That’s what we are trying to do, increase that value. Everybody - everybody, including people in this room - has been impacted by the economy, and we are trying to find out how do we create more value in everything we offer our fans. Whether it be new stadiums, whether it be on television, whether it be on our merchandise that we offer, you have to create value in this environment. We look at every aspect of that. We have looked at every alternative that you’ve mentioned there, but what you also want to do, is you want to continue to grow the pie. That’s good for everybody. It’s good for the game, it’s good for the players and it’s good for the clubs, so you keep looking for ways in which you can grow revenue, grow the pie, that’s good for everybody.”
Q: On the CBA front, if this gets past March 3, March 4, and we get into some kind of a work stoppage, the team and the players make most of their money from August or September through the rest of the season. Why would we expect there to be a deal done any time before August?
A: “David, if we’re unsuccessful in getting an agreement by March 4, I expect that the uncertainty will continue, which will be bad for our partners. It will be bad for the players, it will be bad for the clubs. That uncertainty will lead to a reduction, potentially, in revenue, and, when that revenue decreases, there will be less for us to share. That will just make it harder to make an agreement. So, what we have to do is remove the uncertainty. A series of things will happen in March if we’re not successful. There will not be free agency, which will impact on the players. There will be a number of things that I’m sure both sides will consider, that, strategically, I believe will move us away from the negotiating table rather than toward the negotiating table. I have frequently said, and I will be as clear as I can on this, this will get resolved at the negotiating table. All of the other public relations, litigation strategies, congressional strategies, this is about a negotiation. We have to address the issues and find solutions.
Q: The Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t expire for another month, and already teams like the Chiefs and the Jets seem to be using the possibility of a lockout as an excuse to reduce their work staffs. The Chiefs recently let go 11 people, including three employees that had been with the organization for a combined 72 years. Do you have a problem with any of this, and are you concerned with how it makes a league that is producing record revenues look when it lets paycheck-to-paycheck people go like this?
A: “I don’t think anyone is using anything as an excuse, Paul. When you make decisions on personnel – and I’ve had to make them in our organization two years ago, when we were going through some difficult times in the economy – there are still difficult economic challenges out there. All of our clubs, and the league, and every other business, including businesses that you all are associated with, have to make very tough decisions in this kind of environment. When you’re dealing with employees and their future, there is nothing harder to do. But the reality is, this is a tough environment out there. We want to make sure that we are making smart decisions for our employees, our players, our clubs, for the long term, and make sure that we can continue to have a successful product. No one likes to see our employees let go, Paul. It’s a very, very difficult thing.”
Q: Jerry Jones said that he thinks that urgency is necessary to get a deal done in this type of situation. DeMaurice Smith followed that up yesterday, saying he views March 4 as a hard deadline. Do you see it that way and do you sense the proper sense of urgency is out there on both sides right now to get something done that’s fair on both sides?
A: “I frequently said that I think that March 4 is a very critical date, because, again, a lot of different strategies will take place if we’re not successful in getting an agreement by that time. We need to have intensive, round-the-clock negotiations to address the issues and find solutions. If we’re committed to doing that, I think we can be successful. But we have to demonstrate that commitment and get to work.”
Q: Do you feel that sense of urgency is there now, or do you still need to find it?
A: “I can assure you that I have that sense of urgency, and I believe that both sides do. And I’m glad to hear you say that DeMaurice (Smith) said that yesterday.”
Q: In terms of player safety, has there been much discussion about players wearing all of the equipment that is available, specifically leg pads and mouthpieces, and how much research is being done on helmets?
A: “There’s a tremendous amount of research being done on helmets. We shared all of that information with our players prior to the start of this season, and we will do more work on that through our Head, Neck and Spine Committee this offseason and share all of that with our players as we get into the 2011 season. As it relates to pads, as you know, we proposed to the union last spring that we would require players to wear the thigh pads, the knee pads, and potentially the hip pads. They wanted to do some work, they wanted to do some studies along with us. We did that this season, and we believe that those should be implemented and that they should be required for all players to wear at least the hip and knee pads. We’ll be addressing that this offseason, but I expect that will happen for the 2011 season.”
Q: Given the rate of injuries we’re seeing during the regular season, how is the push for an 18-game schedule consistent with the concern you all express for the long and short term health of the players?
A: “Tom, the number one thing here is we are still staying within our 20-game format. We are not playing 22 games, which is permitted in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement by the way. We are taking the 20 games that we are looking at and we are proposing and working with the union and figuring out the best way to do that, and if we can’t do it right, we won’t do it. But consistent with the safety issues, you always have to keep safety as a priority, under any format. Injuries occur in preseason games, including the four preseason games, so you have to try to look to see what you can do in the offseason. We’ve talked very extensively about - do you alter the OTA structure and what happens within the OTA structure? Do you alter the training camp period? Do we need extensive training camp periods, and how much contact should occur? What happens in the regular season? Do we really need to have players practicing in pads at some points during the season? I think all of those things have been addressed by the ownership for the last couple of years. Our committees have been focused on this. John Madden and Ronnie Lott and the safety committee are looking at these issues. All of this is going to help us make better decisions and the right decision to make the game as safe as possible.”
Q: Just a follow up on the 18-game schedule. From the standpoint of the owners and the League, is the 18-game regular-season schedule, does it have to be in the next CBA? In other words, is it a deal breaker?
A: “Sal, there are no deal breakers. We need to sit down and have a healthy negotiation about how we address the issues that we have. There are many different ways of addressing the issues that we have, but the only way to do that is by sitting down and making sure everyone understands what those challenges are and addressing them in an appropriate fashion. So in negotiations, there’s give and take and that’s how you get to an agreement that makes the game better. That’s our entire focus. How do we make the game better? The status quo is not acceptable. We have to address these issues going forward.”
Q: Earlier this week, Anschutz Entertainment Group announced a 30-year, $700 million naming rights deal with Farmer’s Insurance. Keeping in mind as you mentioned there have been no stadium started since 2006, can you look ahead and tell me what a naming rights’ deal, which would be the largest in history, would mean to bringing football back to Los Angeles, and is this a game changer?
A: “Well Sam, I think it’s obviously a positive development because it’s an important revenue stream, but even with that positive development the financing of the stadium in Los Angeles is still a very difficult proposition. We have to get the Collective Bargaining Agreement addressed in such a way as to make it so that it is a smart investment that that can be financed so that we can create the kind of economic activity in Los Angeles that I believe can happen if we’re successful, whether it be in downtown or out in the City of Industry. There are some great opportunities for us to continue to grow the game, but we have to recognize that cost is associated with that and address it in a way that incentivizes everyone to make those kind of investments. I think this is a positive thing for the league, for the players, for the game, and for, most importantly, our fans in Southern California.”
Q: What I wanted to do is sort of enlighten you with what he said about the equipment, and I wanted to ask you, couldn’t you as the Commissioner have someone do like they do in colleges where the umpire goes and makes sure that all of this equipment starting with the helmet down to the kneepads, the hip pads, and the shoulder pads, all of these things be on the players, all of the players that play for the National Football League. This is not a track meet, and a lot of these guys are not wearing their pads, and I’ve known some of them to have their legs hurt for the rest of their life. Once you injure yourself arthritis comes and I was hoping you could have someone like the umpire come in and make sure that he has to wear certain pads from his head down to his knees.
A: It is something that we’re very focused on. We actually do have personnel at every game making sure that the uniform is properly worn, but what has been the focus is those pads are not required. We think they should be required. We think that the players are safer having those pads, so that’s why we believe we need to make them mandatory. I think anytime you have players, you’re going to have the issue of safety vs. performance. We believe they can perform with the new technology that’s out there with respect to thigh pads and kneepads at the same level. We want them to be safe. We also want them to perform well, but we think you can do both, and safety should be the number one priority.”
Q: With the weather problems here in Dallas struggling to keep up with the snow – looking into the 2014, you have an outdoor Super Bowl in New York – are there any concerns moving forward? Any lessons to be learned from this? Especially any concerns that would happen on game day in the event of a storm?
A: “The most important lesson is that you have to be prepared for everything. North Texas was prepared if this happened. In New York, not only are they prepared, they’re probably planning on this type of weather. The fact is they are going to be prepared for this. It’s going to be a fantastic Super Bowl here and I also think it’s going to be a fantastic event in New York.”
Q: (From Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco) You represent 32 NFL owners and right now I’m standing here representing over 1800 NFL players. We want to know one thing, seriously. I don’t want the politically correct answer as far as it will be done in a week. Do you know how far away we are from getting a deal realistically done? What is the real time-table for us really getting it done? Because I see a lot of things being prepared on your guys’ end – you guys are somewhat preparing for a lockout.
A: “As I said before, both sides are going to be prepared for every outcome. The commitment on behalf of the ownership is to get an agreement. We will get an agreement. That is only going to happen when there are some intensive negotiations between your union and the owners. That has to take place now. This is the window of opportunity to get this done right. Otherwise, uncertainty is going to seep into all of our operations and make it harder for everybody to reach that agreement. Right now, I would say, let’s get to work and let’s get an agreement that works for everybody.”
Q: This weather here in Dallas has been unexpected, but we are two years away from the New Meadowlands. You praised how well Dallas has handled everything and hosted the Super Bowl. Would you be open to cold-weather cities based on how things have gone here from your perspective? Also, with the New Meadowlands being outdoors and hosting a Super Bowl in two years?
A: “We have and we are. We’re going to Indianapolis next year. I need to emphasize again, this is a storm that is impacting most of our country. There are very few places that aren’t dealing with the after effects of this storm. It’s an extraordinarily rare storm. It’s something that this community has responded well to. When we chose to play in climates where this is more likely to happen, they are very capable of dealing with these types of issues and we have been very comfortable playing there. We’ve played in Detroit. We’ve played in Minnesota. We’ll be playing in Indianapolis next year. I think the people in those communities recognize the preparation that is necessary, and we’ll be in that position.”
Q: I understand the CBA is important, but Michael Vick is an important player to the fans in Philadelphia. How do you feel about his progress, now that you’ve seen him back in the league for a couple of years? How concerned were you that initially he was a part of another party that was scheduled here in Dallas for the Super Bowl?
A: “I spoke to Michael three times in the last two weeks about his schedule here – what he’d be doing. He has said that on numerous occasions people have been using his name about being involved in some type of party, but that he had no intention of participating in that. I am extremely proud of what Michael has done. He has taken his responsibility seriously. He has made a commitment to himself to make better decisions. He has committed to doing the right thing going forward. I think that is a great thing. We’re looking for success stories. We’re not looking for players to fail. This is a young man who made horrific mistakes. He dealt with them. He paid a very significant price, and now he is doing the right thing. I support him on that and I want to make sure he doesn’t put himself in a position where he is going to make bad decisions or bad things can happen around him. He takes that seriously also. I am frequently in contact with Michael. I want to see him continue to succeed off the field as much as on the field.”
Q: The NFL has come out and said that teams will be allowed to start franchising players on March 10. The union said yesterday that it will challenge those franchise tags. How will you reconcile that, and are you expecting a court battle after February 10 on the franchise issue?
A: “I assume if the union does not believe that the franchise tag can be applied then they will challenge that through the normal process, and that will go through the normal process and be determined.”
Q: There seems to be a massive disconnect between the owners and labor, and trust seems to not exist or at least exist in a very scant amount. Why should fans trust either side when it’s looked at as billionaires arguing with millionaires?
A: “I think at this point, what I hear from fans is that they just want football, and the fans aren’t forgotten here. We want to bring more football – better football – to our fans. And that’s the focus I think both sides have to keep their attention on because we need to get an agreement that works for everybody, that’s fair to everybody, but also continue the great game that we have for our fans. I think they care about just getting an agreement. They don’t care about the details. They just want to make sure that their football is going to appear on Sundays and Mondays and Thursdays. They want to make sure they have the great game they love. That’s our responsibility, and I don’t think anyone is going to feel sorry for any one of us, including yours truly, if we’re not successful at doing that.”
Q: A Steelers player on Tuesday at Media Day said that his ultimate scenario for Sunday would be to see you have to hand the MVP trophy to either James Harrison or Ben Roethlisberger and have to “eat humble pie like you never have before.” How would you feel about having to give that trophy to them? And to answer an opinion that has been voiced on a number of occasions at Pittsburgh, a lot of Pittsburgh fans are saying it’s a bigger deal to see you have to do that than even beat the Packers – that beating you is a bigger deal than beating the Packers.
A: “I know Steelers fans; I don’t buy that. Listen, I would be happy – if the Pittsburgh Steelers win, I would be more than happy to hand the MVP trophy off to Ben Roethlisberger or James Harrison. They’ve had extraordinary years, and I think it’s great for the game of football. I think it’s great for them as individuals and I hope they will have terrific games on Sunday. I can’t root for anybody, but whoever gets up to that stage, I’ll be proud to hand the trophy off to, I promise you that.”
Q: When you came up here today, you talked about how the NFL had its most-watched season and you hoped for bigger, better things next year. On a personal level and looking at the CBA and everything it involves, do you reach out to anybody like a Paul Tagliabue in any type of situations? And how much do you want to avoid the blemish on your record? I know when Paul left it was a big boost to him to leave the NFL without that void and working stoppage. For you on a personal level, what do you think about that?
A: “As I said earlier when we were talking about it, I believe you need to talk to a lot of people in this job. You represent a lot of constituents and a lot of perspectives: the fans, the clubs, the players, our business partners. You need to understand what’s happening out there and you need to listen. The number one thing we need to do is listen to one another and understand the issues and figure out how to address them. I am not worried about legacies or how I am going to be perceived; I’m worried about doing the right thing for this game, for our fans, and for the long term. This isn’t about the next three months; this is about the next 10 years. This is about our game and making sure we get an agreement in place that is going to ensure the success of our game going forward.”
Q: Given San Diego’s inability to make any progress on a stadium and the fact that 90 miles up north you have progress – at least you have progress with AEG and Farmers Insurance. Is there any reason to believe the Chargers are not headed for a move to L.A. and is it more important for the NFL to have a team in Los Angeles than keep a team in San Diego?
A: “The second part of your question, we want to keep our teams where they are. The Chargers have been committed to getting a solution in their stadium in San Diego for, I believe, well over eight years now. They’ve been working on different alternatives. They’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time and resources to try and develop those solutions and they still continue to this day to do that. They want to be in San Diego. They want the Chargers to be in San Diego, and so does the NFL. But, we need to find a solution to the stadium issue in San Diego.”
Q: You said earlier today that in negotiations there has to be give and take. What are the owners going to give in this negotiation? Jeff Pash told reporters earlier this week that you made concessions. Did you make any concessions on the economic issues? And yesterday Kevin Mawae said you have to open your books to get this deal done, for them to take this kind of pay cut. Are you willing to move on those issues?
A: “Well Liz, you’ve raised several issues in there. We have to get beyond this negotiating ploy of opening the books, because that’s all it is. The players have more than sufficient information to understand why the economics of this deal do not work. They recognized that 12 months ago when I was sitting at the table and they said, ‘We recognize the clubs are being squeezed.’ Kevin Mawae, himself, said just last week, ‘It’s been a great deal in 2006 for the players.’ They recognize why the economics aren’t working. It doesn’t pay us any service to sit here and talk about where they give and take. We’re not going to negotiate this at a press conference, but I can assure you that the owners are willing to have a give and take and I believe the players are willing to have a give and take to find solutions that work.”
Q: A few Steelers players have been somewhat critical of the NFL recently in their administration of discipline regarding helmet-to-helmet hits, and specifically some of the ambiguity regarding that administration. What will the NFL do in the future to perhaps provide some clarity for teams?
A: “As commissioner, I have to take ultimate responsibility for making sure that the integrity of the game and the safety of our game are going to be implemented in a consistent and fair way. That’s my responsibility. We will continue to work with the Competition Committee. We will continue to work with the players who contribute into the Competition Committee, their input, in trying to help the players, the coaches, all of our clubs and the general public understand the techniques that we are looking to eliminate from the game, but also the techniques that we think should be used. This has been discussed every offseason by our Competition Committee and our football people, and the rules are determined by 32 clubs. There were no rule changes this year in the season. It was made in the offseason and they were made by the collective 32. The rules apply to 32 teams and every player in the league, no exceptions. I’m the commissioner for the entire league, for 32 teams. Everyone’s going to play by the same rules. We will work harder to make sure they understand the appropriate techniques, and I think people have adjusted. If you look at the game this year, they adjusted. The players adjusted, the teams adjusted and the game of football was extraordinary, and it was safer.”
Q: If you do choose to lower your salary to a dollar, do you have a particular part-time job in mind to make ends meet? And secondly, do you worry about a backlash from the fans towards the popularity of the game, or do you feel like it’s more immune from that?
A: “No, I do not think we’re immune from that. I have said repeatedly, the fans want football. If we are not successful in reaching an agreement, that will be toward the commissioner, towards the clubs, towards the players, everybody involved. That’s why I think collectively, we have to work and make a commitment to get something done that makes sense. I don’t want my salary to go to a dollar. My wife doesn’t want my salary to go to a dollar. But the reality of it is, it’s a collective sacrifice. It’s a bad outcome if we’re not able to reach that agreement, and it should affect everybody in the league, including yours truly. We have to make sure we work as hard as we can to avoid it and get something done as quickly as possible.”
Q: Can you talk about what it means for the League to have two storied franchises be playing in Super Bowl XLV and two fan bases that travel like they do?
A: “Well, that is a refreshing question. When you look at this matchup, and I said it earlier, you say ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’ and ‘Green Bay Packers,’ that’s football. There’s no doubt about it, that’s football. These great organizations who have had so much success in the past, it represents the traditions of our game. The fans are tremendous in both of these communities. I lived in western Pennsylvania for five years and those fans, there aren’t any better fans than Steeler fans. Then you look at the Packer fans and they’re the same way. Tremendous passion, they support their team through thick and thin, and it means a lot to these communities. And they’re both national teams. This isn’t just about fans in western Pennsylvania or in Wisconsin, they have national followings, and I think that’s what’s so exciting for this country and our world, to look at this game and say, ‘Wow, that’s real football.’ This is fun. This is celebrating the game that I love and we all love and I think it’s going to be a terrific night.”
Q: What are some of the innovations that you envision with respect to the NFL’s digital media and overall technology future? For instance, iPads, graphs being used during games to diagram plays and iPads used in-game by team personnel to receive X-ray results reviewing. For ownership, perhaps some password-protected apps for showing and sending confidential league business information and perhaps for fans, the ability to purchase special helmets allowing them to listen to quarterback huddle plays while the quarterback is talking. I realize all of this would require delicate legal work by your in-house attorneys and cooperation from business partners. I haven’t had a chance to talk to your Game Operations Chief Ray Anderson or Digital Media Chief Brian Rolapp yet, but I’m hoping to get your perspective on all of this.
A: “You talk about something that is critical to the National Football League, and that’s innovation. The National Football League has had great success, but to continue that success, we have to innovate everything we do. That means the game of football, that means the experience for our fans in the stadium, it means the experience for our fans at home. One of the great things about technology is it has made the game greater for our fans. They have new ways of experiencing the game of football. I think one of the greatest innovations in television history, frankly, is the RedZone. It’s an extraordinary product that is now going to be available at some point on iPads and on your telephone. That’s a great thing for fans. There has never been a better time to be a fan of the NFL because you can get football, more football, to so many other platforms. But it also creates challenges. The experience at home on a high-definition television with super slow-mo and that great technology, that makes that experience wonderful. We’re also trying to get people to come into our stadiums and enjoy the game in the stadiums. So we have to put money into stadiums to make sure that the digital opportunities that you’re talking about are available to fans in the stadium so that experience can compete against the experience at home. That’s a challenge for us going forward. I think it’s a challenge for all the sports. But we can meet that challenge because we have a great product. The game is wonderful. Whether you’re in the stadium or you’re at home, we want to make that experience wonderful for everybody. This is why I’m so optimistic about the future of the NFL. All these devices are going to just allow people to engage with the NFL more deeply. When that happens, there are more fans, the game continues to grow and the popularity of the game continues to grow. That’s a great thing for all of us.”
Q: When you say that there will not be free agency on March 4th without a new labor deal, aren’t you essentially saying there will be a lockout if there isn’t a deal by March 4th? If not how else would free agency be delayed?
A: "If I misspoke, I apologize, but I said if we are not successful by March 4th, a number of things will happen. When that happens, one of them would be that there wouldn’t be free agency. There are close to 500 players that would qualify for free agency who won’t be free agents. There are enough incentives for all of us to get to the table and get this deal done right.”
A: Do you think it is time for the Rooney Rule to be tweaked? It has done, obviously some good things but you had some assistants complaining about the interviews. Owners knowing who they want to hire and some assistants will play the role as the good soldier to just come in maybe for rewards and later on. Do you think it is time to re-look at it?
A: “Anything can be improved. I think that the Rooney Rule has been extraordinarily successful. It has made significant changes, not just in the NFL, and I said this to the Fritz Pollard Alliance last night. It has made the NFL better. We have had better people that have been exposed, given an opportunity, and succeeded in the game of football because they have considered a diverse slate of candidates. I think that is great for the game of football. The Rooney Rule has gone beyond the game of football. We get calls frequently from other industries, saying, ‘Can we adopt the Rooney Rule? Would you allow us to use the Rooney Rule in our industry because it has had a great impact?’ I think you can tweak anything. I think you can improve anything and we will continue to look at that and see what we can do. I think just two years ago we extended it beyond just coaching to the top football personnel. We use it in the league office for every one of our positions. We do not make a hire in the league office without considering a diverse slate of candidates. I think that is the right thing to do and the best thing to do. We will always look to improve.”