Roger Goodell: NFL fans care more about the game than player safety concerns

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes football fans are more interested in the game itself than in the league's efforts to make the game safer, he told SI's Greg Bishop and Michael McKnight for their special report “Football in America.”

When asked how often he is questioned about concussions in the NFL, Goodell responded that in his experience, fans are usually uninterested in the topic.

“The fans are more interested in football,” Goodell said. “We are the ones who make safety a priority. They support that because they want to see their players play. …[But] I’d be fooling you if I don’t say: I hear guys that say, Just let them play.”

SI conducted a survey in which 94% of respondents said they believe concussions are a serious problem for the NFL. The survey was conducted as part of an extensive report on the status of football in the U.S., which will be published in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.

In response to the survey results, Goodell said he didn't think fans were aware of the 42 safety-related rule changes the league has made since 2002.

“The 94% is [reflective] of our effort to make the game safer,” Goodell said. “The NFL has been a leader in this area. What we’ve found is that people don’t truly understand all the things we’ve done to make it safer.”

The full story, which seeks to capture how America really feels about football, is the longest and most comprehensive football piece ever published by Sports Illustrated. SI also conducted a Q&A with Goodell

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