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Goodell addresses state of the NFL


Tampa, Fla. - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave his annual state of the league address on Friday and addressed a wide range of topics, including the impact of the nation's economy on the league, player safety issues and the impending collective bargaining negotiations.

Goodell also touched on the NFL's commitment to play games outside of the United States and a possible change to overtime rules.

The commissioner began by stating that the nation's economic downturn had affected the league, which reduced its staff by 10 percent in December. Goodell said the good news was that the NFL was not seeing a decrease in fan support and was working with team owners to find ways to decrease expenses across the board.

"I've been very clear that we're not immune to what's going on out in the economy," Goodell said. "There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty; uncertainty clearly breeds fear. And I've said to you before, it's in three buckets for us: First, what's happening for our business partners? They're all going through difficult times.

"Clearly our fans, which is the most important thing. For people who've lost their jobs, can they continue to afford to come to an NFL game, or to any other event? The good news for us is that we have a tremendous product. People want to continue to be associated with that. People want to continue to be involved with the game and get emotionally involved with the game, and I think that's to the benefit of the NFL.

{QUOTE}As for progress on working with the NFLPA, Goodell said the union was aware of the league's revenues but did not have a good hold on the total operating costs. He also commented on the owners' decision to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement.

"They came to the conclusion that it was better to terminate that agreement and go into a negotiation where we could work to try to come up with something that would work for all clubs and our players rather than continue on with that system," Goodell said. "The economics were difficult prior to the economy turning south on us. What's happened now with the economy turning difficult for all of us, I think that it just accentuated the negatives in that collective bargaining agreement."

In addition, Goodell said player safety was one of his utmost concerns and that the league needed to continue to look at tackling techniques that injure players.

"We have to do whatever we can to remove any of the techniques and any of the tactics that can unnecessarily risk injury to those players," Goodell said. "We have very aggressively done that.

"The second half of the season, we saw a dramatically different game. I watched the tapes myself. We saw techniques that were being used in the first half of the season that were completely removed. It made the game safer for our players, and I think we'll continue to evaluate that.

"I spoke to the committee about low hits to quarterbacks. We are still looking at defenseless receivers. Should we eliminate the launch entirely? Should we be careful of any hits to the head, including shoulder hits? Should there be rules against that? These take a lot of study to consider and they take a lot of time and energy."

In regards to questions on the fairness of overtime rules, Goodell said the competition committee will review different procedures. The Texans lost the overtime coin flip at Jacksonville in Week 4, and the Jags scored on their first possession to secure a 30-27 win.

"The point of the game is to win it in regulation," Goodell remarked. "This game is about teamwork -- offense, defense and specials teams. We'll look at every alternative. We think what we have is a terrific rule, and it has served us well.

"We have talked about different concepts, and the committee will discuss this, and I've had some discussions with some of the committee members individually. Should we move the kickoff so that the drive would start further back? If they drive down and they kick a long field goal, they deserve to win."

Finally, Goodell spoke about the league's recent games in London and Toronto, and said he would like more games to be played in Mexico.

"We would love to be back in Mexico," Goodell said. "As you know, it was the first city outside of the United States, in Mexico City, to host a regular season game and it was a great, successful one. We would love to be back there. It won't happen this year, but we are in negotiations with our partners down in Mexico. I am confident that we will get there for the 2010 year."

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