We started the meeting officially this morning with an opening that we are going to share a recap with you by the end of today It was a very good opportunity to talk about where we are and where we are going as a league. Then we went into our general session. Coaches had separate sessions, also. We are really just a few hours into those meetings right now.
Two things, though, that we are announcing today at lunch: in 2010 we reached an agreement with MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and today through a partnership we are going to expand that relationship by endorsing MADD’s campaign to eliminate drunk driving and to join their initiative. We have had several meetings with MADD, in particular (MADD CEO) Debbie Weir, who is sitting right over here to my right, and (MADD National President) Jan Withers. They will be making presentations to the full membership, to the coaches and to our other team executives who are here. We are very proud about this relationship and are working to educate our executives, our players and everybody about the dangers of drunk driving and what we need to do to be responsible role models in this area. We look forward to that partnership.
Second, we had a report late this morning from our attorneys. As you see, we are flanked by a number of owners and a number of retired players. There is litigation, referred to as the Fred Dryer litigation, that had to do with the rights of former players, particularly through NFL Films. We are proud to say we have reached an agreement to resolve that litigation. We are contributing $42 million into what is going to be considered a Common Good Fund, which will be administered by a group of retired players, many of which are standing right behind me. The fund is going to be used to support retired players who are in need. They will talk a little bit more about it, but whether it is medical, housing or any other form of assistance in transitioning players in one stage of life to another, that is what this is about.
The second and probably most significant aspect about this is it is the first-time ever that we have been able to establish an independent licensing agency dedicated solely to retired players. It has never been done before. This licensing agency will work very closely, obviously, with our office, the NFLPA and sponsors and licensees. We see this as a very positive step that will help promote our retired players and our game and ultimately, be very beneficial to our players long term. We are very excited about it.
We have some great leaders here who will share some thoughts. I am going to step aside. I will answer your other questions but we thought we would focus on our retired players in the meantime. I am going to ask (Panthers Owner/Founder) Mr. (Jerry) Richardson as a spokesman for the owners to come up and say a few words, and then the great (Pro Football Hall of Fame running back) Jim Brown will offer his perspective for you.
Jerry Richardson: Thank you, commissioner. From my point of view – you may not know this – I am a former player. I played with the Baltimore Colts and have a fond memory of the day this man [Jim Brown] scored five touchdowns against us, and we thought the game was a slam dunk.
Some of my most frustrating moments in discussions have evolved around this issue of what in my judgment is fairness to the former players of the league who were not included in the benefit packages and appreciated the way they should. It is a new day. Fortunately, it is better late than never. I am honored that this day has arrived. I am very grateful it is here.
I am going to turn it over to the man I still have etched in the back of my mind with those five touchdowns I was sure we were going to win. We lost.
Jim Brown: That is a good note to start on [laughter].
I am very happy to have this opportunity to represent the players that you see here and all of the players of the National Football League, the retirees who have been overlooked for so many years. We have a Common Good Fund in our agreement that will allow us to reach out and help a lot of our players who really need help and not only that but to help their spouses who some are suffering. We have individuals who are homeless.
Through the great work of our lawyers and the lawyers of the National Football League, we have been able to finalize this agreement. For the first time in history, retired players will be represented at the table. At this time, we have a seven-man board that will be the board of power to make certain decisions.
I would like to also take this time to thank our lawyers who have done a tremendous job in putting this together.
To all of those who do not understand the value of it, you should have been with us last night when we had a chance to realize that for the first time I would be standing up here with a former player who is now an honor talking about five touchdowns.
In my conclusion, I would like to thank all of my fellow players for their great support to the lawyers and the many meetings they have attended, the attitude of understanding they have shown and all of us have an appreciation for our owners. Over the years, the owners have done a lot for us. They have helped us. There has never been a real separation. Today is like a coming back together because we can publically say that we are doing something together that is going to be a landmark happening for people who truly need it.
Thank you very much.
[Owners, retired players and lawyers participating in the press conference introduce themselves]
Ron Mix: I join Jim Brown in expressing our appreciation for the owners and their cooperation in resolving this, ending up in a partnership that I truly believe will be to our mutual benefit.
I only want to call your attention to two things that are very important about this agreement: 1) The licensing agency, the beauty about that is a portion of those proceeds will be going to continually supplement the Common Good Fund; if we are successful, we are going to have a Common Good Fund that goes on in perpetuity; 2) We as an organization charged with the duty of doing something for the common good, meaning every athlete who ever played professional football even one game, we are not hamstrung by past collective bargaining agreements that limit benefits to somebody who has played a minimum of three years or four years. We are opening this up to anybody who has ever played football.
On if current players have supported retired players enough:
Reggie McKenzie: I don’t know if they really have the total appreciation for the clout of not only the [retired] players but the league. We would hope that one day they will understand that at one day they will be up here like us.
On if all players in the class action are involved in this settlement or if other plaintiffs could oppose it:
Retired Player Counsel Dan Gustafson: I was appointed by (Chief Magistrate Judge, District of Minnesota) Judge (Arthur) Boylan to oversee the final settlement negotiations as the result of what you just described as the splinter. We do not expect some of the original plaintiffs to support this settlement. We expect they will oppose this settlement. That is why in a class action context, which this is, the ultimate decision about whether to approve the settlement is for the court. The preliminary approval hearing will be this coming Friday at 1:30 PM in Fort Myers, Florida, where (Federal District Court of Minnesota) Judge Paul Magnuson is trying a case. He is helping out the southern district of Florida. We will go down to Fort Myers. That will be the preliminary approval hearing. The final approval hearing will be sometime toward the end of the summer. We do expect that there will be some objection to this.
On the value of the licensing agency:
Brown: It is important because for the first time we will have our images count in all situations and be rewarded for that. We also will have the use of being a full partner with the NFL. We can create certain opportunities for ourselves, and we can also work in partnership with the NFL in creating opportunities that are beneficial for them, for us and for the owners. That agreement is fantastic because for the future if we are smart enough and we take advantage of the true value of the retirees that can create a tremendous amount of resources. As Ron Mix said, whatever we do, a portion will go into the fund for those who are in need in the Common Good (Fund) grouping. To all of us up here, that is a well-deserved way of looking at things because we are looking out for our brothers who are definitely in need.
On how many players are plaintiffs in concussion lawsuit:
Reggie Rucker: We are here today to talk about the great work that the NFL and the retired players have done because that is what means something to us right now so we can help our fellow players who are in need. We would like to keep it on the up and up.
On what players, including practice squad players are eligible for contributions to the Common Good Fund:
Gustafson: Anyone who is on an NFL roster is included in the class.
[End of retired player benefit portion]
On the ability to play a 2013 season opener in Baltimore:
Goodell: As you know, it is our tradition for the last 10 years to open with the Super Bowl champion back in their hometown on Thursday night. There is a conflict in the schedule because the (MLB Baltimore) Orioles are currently scheduled to play Thursday night sometime around 7:30 PM. I have talked to Major League Baseball, I have called (MLB Commissioner) Bud Selig twice and spoken to him about that. We are trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles’ game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home on Thursday night. We think that is the right thing. We have agreed to move the game a little bit later in the evening to try to accommodate the baseball game.
We think it will be a great day. As a kid who grew up as an Orioles fan, to have the Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration for the Kickoff Game will be a great day. We hope that is the way it will happen.
On the Washington Redskins comments on the salary cap penalty:
Goodell: I don’t have a reaction to it. I have told the Redskins directly that there will be no change to that or a modification to the cap.
On options for the Ravens’ 2013 season opener and the 2013 schedule release:
Goodell: Wednesday night is Rosh Hashanah so we wouldn’t play on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the only option is to take the Ravens on the road. We think that is wrong for the Ravens’ fans. We would not want that to happen. That is why we are trying to reach an accommodation here.
We are working on the schedule. We are working on parallel tracks for a couple more weeks. Clearly, we are getting to a point where we have to make that decision.
On New Orleans vying for another Super Bowl considering the black out that happened and what may have caused the black out during the Super Bowl:
Commissioner Goodell: From what I understand, I have not had any direct conversations, but our people have been in touch with the local authorities. They’ve been able to source back to where the problem came in some kind of switch quite a ways away from the dome. I don’t think it will have any impact at all on the Super Bowl and the New Orleans’ hopes for getting another one. They did a great job. I mentioned that this morning to our membership and I think they deserve another Super Bowl.
On the NFL returning to Los Angeles in light of AEG:
As you know, that’s news that just came out late last week. I think it is a positive that Phil Anschutz is reengaging. He seems that he would like to get a stadium built in Los Angeles that would be suitable for an NFL team. We look forward to working on that. As you know because of the sales process, that’s probably crippled any discussions for several months, but we look forward to reengaging with them and see if we can get something done.
On if the NFL legal staff is briefing the owners this week about the motion to dismiss in the concussion litigation:
We will probably have an update on our litigation probably tomorrow.
On if the NFL has a stance about teams asking players about their sexual orientation:
Yes, we do. We made a statement immediately when we got that report. We have been following up with the players and their representatives directly. We are also this afternoon working with all of our executives that lead in that position to make sure they understand what you can’t ask and what you can ask. We’re a professional organization. That’s unacceptable. We will do things the right way. We will give them that education and that training. I hope that that will solve the problem.
On if there have been any further talks about moving the offseason schedule back and if they have been discussed with the union:
Yes, we did. We presented an alternative calendar for the offseason. We think that it makes a lot of sense. I think the players saw the benefits of doing that and they wanted to talk to their membership, which they were doing last week at their meeting. I have not heard or gotten a report back from them about what their reaction is, but as soon as I speak to DeMaurice (Smith), I’ll have a better understanding.
On where things stand on the idea of expanding the postseason field:
The Competition Committee looked at some of the issues and identified those issues. There are things that we will now take and put them into our own consideration and have our own discussions with the union at some point in time to get their views on if this makes sense. I think the information when I met with the Competition Committee yesterday was helpful for us in our consideration. Now, we have a little bit of work to do before we can advance it. It clearly won’t be happening for this year if there was any doubt about that.
On any discussions this week about voting on the future Super Bowls in May:
Yes. We had a committee meeting yesterday and we will also be updating the membership over the next two days on that process. That process is moving forward for May, as you know.
On the purpose of the memo that was sent before the legal tampering period:
I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Which memo, for free agency?
On players not being able to reach preliminary contracts, talk numbers, etc.:
We had discussions with our membership on this. It’s not infrequent for us to send out a written document in advance of any period of time such as this to make sure that the teams know the rules of the road. That’s something that we had discussions about and we created this period of time. We always want to make sure that before that period starts, you know the rules.
On whether the NFL’s memo prior to the start of free agency was intended to take power away from the players’ negotiating stances:
Goodell: No, I don’t even recall the memo. We will always put out exactly how the rules are dictated.
On whether this year’s Pro Bowl was successful and whether there are plans for future Pro Bowls:
Goodell: Clearly there was an improved effort. I have spoken to several of the players and I appreciate that [effort]. I have also had conversations with the players and so have our staff. They have also met with the Competition Committee last month to talk about what we can do to make the game more attractive, more exciting and more competitive. There are some very good ideas. I’m going to report to the membership on that in the next two days and before we leave here I think we’ll be able to fill you in a little more.
On whether the Chavez Ravine/Dodger Stadium site is a viable option for a Los Angeles-based franchise to play home games:
Goodell: I’m not going to get into what discussions we’ve had with which parties but we do think it is a viable site. There are several viable sites in Los Angeles. All of them are on the table for us. We want to get back to Los Angeles but we are going to look at every alternative we have to do that successfully.
On whether he will review the contract situation between the Denver Broncos and Elvis Dumervil:
Goodell: All contracts are reviewed by our office. I specifically won’t be doing that I don’t think. If there is something significant they might bring it to my attention. Those [inspections] are done as a matter of course.
On whether he has any thoughts of the contract situation between the Denver Broncos and Elvis Dumervil:
On whether the decision by Phil Anschutz not to sell AEG puts pressure on the NFL to get a franchise to Los Angeles:
Goodell: I think that is very positive and he can count on us stepping up and exploring to see if a deal can happen. I think that is a very positive thing.
On how active the Washington Redskins were in trying to recoup money to spend against this year’s salary cap:
Goodell: They have to speak to that. I did meet with the Redskins, so did our staff on two occasions over the last 30 days, to make sure we fully understood their position and to make sure they fully understood our position. As I said earlier, there will be no change.
On whether there will be changes to the NFL’s Thursday Night Game schedule over the next few years:
Goodell: Not sure I am going to answer that one completely [in terms of the next few years]. We are always looking to see what we can do to improve it. I don’t see anything significant this year to improve it, but we’ve had some ideas we are knocking around. If something comes up that we think makes sense then we’ll do it.
On what type of feedback he has gotten about the rule change to penalize offensive players for using their helmets in the open field:
Goodell: We raised this with the players in Indianapolis at the Combine. We have had full discussions and I have spoken with players individually, including some of them who are in the media. It is something we are working through with our coaches. The committee spent a significant amount of time, not only considering that input, but also looking at tape. Their analysis, having met with them yesterday, is that they’ve done an awful lot of very good work. It is not just how the rule works but also how it is officiated, and what is the impact of the game. They were going through that yesterday and I believe they have some more meetings this afternoon. We’ll be talking about it first thing in the morning.
On whether playing the season opener on Rosh Hashanah has been completely ruled out:
Source: NFL Media