With less than two weeks remaining until Super Bowl 51 on FOX, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell joined Wednesday's episode of "The Herd" and spoke about a wide variety of topics - from the NFL's approach to punishing marijuana users to whether he'd feel weird handing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady.
Goodell reveals whether he's bothered by the perception of him among Patriots fans
Colin Cowherd: There’s a feeling in Boston, fair or not - and I think it’s largely unfair - that the NFL is anti-Patriots. We know it’s parochial, we understand how fans react, but how comfortable are you with that?
Roger Goodell: Well, listen, the fans are going to feel what they want. We have, obviously, 32 sets of fans that want to make sure we’re doing things that are upholding the integrity of the game at all times. We think that this is a great opportunity to see the two best teams in football playing on Sunday in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots have earned it, the Falcons have earned it, and we’re thrilled. We think this is one of the great matches, and should be one of the great games.
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell on why he didn't attend the AFC Championship game
Colin Cowherd: But Boston fans are thinking: ‘Why doesn’t the commissioner show up to our playoff games?’ Again, this is how Boston reacts. It’s a feisty media, so I have to ask you, why not go to Foxborough? Were there safety concerns, perhaps?
Roger Goodell: No, Colin. You know, listen, we had two great games. I was in Boston two years ago for the divisional and the championship games. I try to get to as many stadiums as I can, but you know, we’ve got two great games and you’ve got to choose. And, frankly, the focus should be on the players, the coaches, and the great game. And that’s the way it was this [past] weekend, and that’s the way it should be.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell explains his working relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft
Colin Cowherd: We know, commissioner, that obviously NFL owners are people you work for. This is how all commissioners work. There are commissioners at various times ... David Stern struggled with Mark Cuban. [Patriots owner] Robert Kraft, the belief is that he’s not happy with you at the very moment. Do you believe that to be true?
Roger Goodell: [Laughs]… Colin, listen, I wouldn’t be doing my job if somebody wasn’t unhappy with a decision that you make or the way you’re doing it. Robert and I can disagree about things. We have a healthy respect for one another, but that’s true with any owner. And that doesn’t affect my impact, my relationship, or the fact that we work together to try to make the NFL better, ultimately.
That’s the most important thing, Colin, for us. I can’t agree with everybody, at every moment, and I shouldn’t. A lot of these issues can be issues between teams. We obviously in many cases have to discipline our clubs. That’s part of the process, and we do that with a large number of our clubs when there are violations of policy. But it’s not personal, it’s professional, and it’s to make sure we’re doing everything to protect the great game we have and promote it.
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell on if he's happy with the Chargers' move to Los Angeles
Colin Cowherd: San Diego, commissioner, doesn’t feel right to me. In my gut, I don’t know if it’s too expedient, too fast, but San Diego doesn’t feel to me as good as Oakland potentially moving or St. Louis moving to a globally iconic city in Los Angeles. Are you happy, currently, with the San Diego to LA move?
Roger Goodell: Well, Colin, listen, we’re all disappointed. We all worked very, very hard with local officials, with the Chargers and the Spanos family, with all of our clubs, and we did some unprecedented things to try to keep the Chargers in San Diego, which was our first priority.
And that’s why, all of our relocations, these are painful processes. They’re painful for our fans, they’re painful for the communities in general, they’re painful for the NFL. And so we always work to avoid that, and we did that in San Diego. We worked very hard to try to avoid it, to make sure not just that we went the extra mile but the extra three or four miles.
Including, the Chargers had the opportunity to move, frankly, a year ago. They stayed. Dean wanted to try to give it another shot. He went for a referendum, unfortunately, that did not pass. And then we are faced with a consequence where everyone in that community recognizes that a new stadium has to be built. They have for several years. They recognized that there have been many failed attempts at getting that done that all of us bear responsibility for. So, for us, it is disappointing. We would have loved to have the Chargers in San Diego, I think Dean Spanos would be the first to tell you that, but we have to look forward. We have to look long-term. We have to, ultimately, make sure that we’re doing what’s best for each of our franchises, but with a very, very strong consideration to making sure we’ve done everything possible for our fans.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell explains why the NFL didn't simply pay for a new stadium in San Diego
Colin Cowherd: Excuse me for my cynicism, but it feels like if the Eagles or the Bears or the Cowboys… or i would say these entrenched franchises, were out there hanging. That would the billion a year annually your league makes in television revenue, you would jump in. Why can’t a league say "here’s a billion dollars. An interest-free loan. We want to get this thing done, we don’t want to have two teams jammed into Los Angeles." Am I being cynical to believe that if it would have been a Bears, a Steelers, an Eagles, the league would have done more?
Roger Goodell: No, Colin, I don’t think you’re being cynical. I think if you go back and look at the facts over a period of time, we’ve been very successful in getting stadiums built in those communities. Each of the franchises you mentioned have had stadium challenges, but they were able to work through them. They were able to get them done with the local community leadership, and the team, and we are the only league in sports -- and, to my knowledge, in the world -- that contributes league money into each of the stadium projects.
And in the case of San Diego, NFL owners put not just the 200 [million] that we put into each community, but we put 300 into it as [an] effort of the league to try to see if we could bridge the gap. Again I just go back, Colin, you’re not being cynical, but I think the NFL owners, I think the Spanos family, and I think the community, gave it all a really great effort. But are we disappointed? Of course.
Richard MacksonRichard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell on whether he thinks the NFL should loosen its stance on marijuana
Colin Cowherd: I never thought I’d ask a commissioner about marijuana, but here goes: The NFLPA has composed a proposal for [a] less punitive approach to marijuana use. … It’s a sport that has regulated components of violence and physical contact. I do worry about chronic pain for your employees. I like a less punitive approach to marijuana use, like the NFLPA. Do you?
Roger Goodell: Well, first off, I spoke with [NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith] this morning. We’ve had several conversations about this issue, and in fact two years ago we did take a less punitive approach to marijuana.
This is a collective drug program that we have with the Players’ Association and the NFL, and we’ll always seek to try to find a better way to do things and see if the policy needs to be modified, as we did two years ago. That will be one of the subjects, obviously, we’ll have in the collective bargaining process, which we would like to get into sooner rather than later. We think it’s in all parties’ interest to extend the agreement we have now that’s working very well for, obviously, the players, but also the clubs, and I believe the game and the fans in general.
Jason GetzJason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell on whether the NFL believes Thursday night games are dangerous to players
Colin Cowherd: Thursday night games -- we did a study on our show. And we found that there are fewer penalties on Thursday, and the completion percentages are higher on Thursday. So I don’t buy the media narrative that it’s "bad football." I do not. We have looked up efficiency stats, and they’re better than the league average. However, the optics are from veteran players that safety matters, and a lot of veteran players have said "on Thursday, some old guys still wake up sore."… That has to be something you at least are talking about, right?
Roger Goodell: Of course, Colin, but we’re into more than just optics here, we’re into facts. And so, go to the same statistics -- because you’re right about the quality of the games on Thursday night, there are actually less penalties, less turnovers. Almost by every barometer, the quality of the game is better on Thursday night. Now, obviously, some games you’re going to have that aren’t as competitive … but you get that.
On safety, and we’ve been tracking this every year, there has not been any, any indication or facts or anything else that would indicate the level of injuries are up on Thursday night. Of course, playing a game like football you’re going to be sore the next morning. Of course, we always take that into consideration, and that’s one of the things why we walked very slowly into this as we built Thursday Night Football. We started off with eight games and we built it up, and it’s something that we’ll continue to look at.
How do we do the scheduling, is an example. Should we have people flying on Sunday night, returning and then playing away on Thursday? We try to do whatever we can to make sure we give those players the opportunity to recover from any injuries or even the normal contact that they’re gonna have in a game. But also we hear a lot, and this came up in our negotiations in 2011, that a lot of the players really like it because you have 10 days afterward before the next game. So it acts as a sort-of mini-bye, is the term that was used. There are a lot of things you have to balance in there.
Kirby LeeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell explains the NFL's position on social media content
Colin Cowherd: The NFL’s always done a good job of controlling their content, it’s often referred to as “The Shield.” … With the emerging social media world, it’s hard to get your arms around it,it’s hard to control. As a gentleman, you and I both did not grow up with an iPhone in our hand at 18 years old. Is it realistic to say: "Listen, NFL, this is the one part of your content you’re not going to be able to control. Lighten up on Twitter NFL, and let the kids talk?"
Roger Goodell: Well, we do … we have, obviously, a social media policy that’s been changing, in fact we made a lot of changes earlier this year. And yes, we have technology, we have an opportunity for our players to go directly to our fans, those are all new opportunities. I think we’re exploring each of those aggressively. But I think we also need to protect and make sure we’re doing the right thing for our current partners and our current negotiations. We’re pushing and adopting into that technology quite quickly. Maybe not as quickly as everybody wants, but with the idea that it’s great for the fans. And that’s why you see all of our fan engagement numbers are going up dramatically on that level because more people are engaging with these technologies, and we’re delivering on that.
Do we have more to do, Colin? Yes, absolutely.
USA TODAY SportsRobert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Goodell on if he'd feel 'uncomfortable' handing a trophy to Tom Brady
Colin Cowherd: I’ve gotta ask you, you’ve just gotta be as honest as you can. If you handed the trophy to [Tom] Brady, wouldn’t there be a little discomfort, maybe, because of all the talk and the narrative and the media? Would you be slightly uncomfortable for even a moment?
Roger Goodell: Not for a second. This is one of the great opportunities, we have two dominant teams playing in the Super Bowl. The Patriots and Falcons have both earned the opportunity to be there. They deserve it, and whoever wins that championship is going to have to earn it -- because these are great teams. And so I’m going to be thrilled. Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats. He has been for several years. He’s on the precipice of at least potentially winning his fifth Super Bowl ring. He’s an extraordinary player, a great performer and a surefire Hall of Famer, so it would be an honor.