Commissioner Roger Goodell: Good afternoon. Glad to be back with you for our third chat of the season, particularly on the eve of an exciting playoff. Many of you have asked who is going to be the eventual Super Bowl winner. One of the things that our regular season indicated is that the NFL is unpredictable and full of surprises. That's what ensures we're going to have a great postseason. No one knows who will be the Super Bowl champion. I look forward to hearing your questions.
Ike, Lansing, MI: The Patriots finished 11-5 this year w/o Tom Brady and missed the playoffs. But the Chargers finished 8-8 and are in the playoffs, do you think the NFL needs to change the playoff format?
This gets a great deal of consideration each year by our competition committee. The clubs feel the first priority should be to win your division and that ensures you a home playoff game. As you know, teams play different schedules by division, so it is somewhat difficult to compare their record. There's a saying in the league that it's how you play in December and January that dictates your success in the playoffs.
Sean, Louisville, KY: Is it true that the NFL is not going to have a salary cap in 2010? If this is true wouldnt the NFL become like MLB and big market team will buy championships, but in a much larger scale. A possible wealthy team consisting of Tom Brady with Peyton Manning backing him up would destroy the NFL and small market teams.
Sean, currently we have a salary cap in place for the 2009 season. If the NFLPA and the owners are unable to reach an agreement on a long-term extension, we would have an uncapped year for 2010. I don't think it will have the impact you're suggesting in part because there are a number of other rules in our collective bargaining agreement that would limit player movement.
John Herschberger, St. Paul, MN: How are the playoff ticket sales going for the wild card games in light of the economy? Will any games be blacked out locally on television?
We recognized that our fans are facing a difficult economy so we backed off on ticket prices for the wild card games. The playoffs are the most valuable NFL games, and our fans recognize that. Miami and San Diego each sold over 20,000 tickets since their games on Sunday.
The other clubs have tickets and they are selling. For Arizona and Minnesota, its all about keeping home field advantage. For Atlanta and Philadelphia, it is a great opportunity for their fans to watch their team in the postseason.
In light of the shortened holiday week, we will look at our Blackout deadlines. It may make sense to give the clubs a little more time before we enforce the policy.
Gary Sullivan, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada: Why is a "snow angel" illegal? It does not offend. Can there not be a better way to judge "unsportsmanlike conduct" for a celebration?
Gary, there's no specific rule regarding snow angels. I love watching my daughters make snow angels and I don't fine them. However, NFL rules prohibit any player after a touchdown from going on the ground to celebrate. The competition committee and the membership came to this conclusion after a number of incidents that did not reflect well on the NFL and were not part of the game of football.
Terrea Evans, Baghdad, Iraq: I just wanted to thank the Commissioner, Drew and Osi for visiting us troops in Baghdad, Iraq (4ID). Your visit meant a lot to us and I just wanted to say thanks. GO EAGLES!!!!!!!!!!
Terrea, we are the ones who should be thanking you for the sacrifices you and your family are making for us. Our trip to Iraq and Afghanistan was a highlight of my year. You all make us proud and I know Osi and Drew share my perspective. Get home safe.
Dave, Winnipeg, Canada: What are the chances that the rookie salary structure will be adjusted downward in the near future? I think it's detrimental to the game and unfair to the vets.
Dave, we are committed to making changes to our rookie salary cap that will ensure the compensation goes to proven veterans and pays rookies fairly until they have proven successful at the NFL level. The fact that I have heard many veteran players, clubs and fans indicate this needs to be changed. I do not see any changes to the rookie pool until 2011 at the earliest, in large part due to the reluctance of the NFLPA to embrace this concept. In any event, I hope college players will stay and fulfill their eligibility in college football.
Art, Baltimore, MD: It was good to see you at the Ravens game on Sunday and participate in Saturday's get together of the 1958 Baltimore Colts and New York Giant players. What is the NFL doing to help players who are experiencing health problems due to playing football back in the 50s, 60s and 70s? Though that 1958 game is recognized as the "Greatest Game Ever Played", the players of that game and of years gone by need to scream out for help. Though some steps have been made to help players, can't the NFL do more for these players? It seems that some owners and players do not fully understand the importance of the players who came before them. What steps is the NFL taking to help out retired players who are suffering from football injuries?
It was a great honor for me to be in Baltimore and be a part of the celebration for the 1958 Championship Game. I told the players and families that this game had a tremendous impact on the success of the NFL over the last 50 years and they should take great pride in being part of that historic game.
I also made it clear that we must continue to be responsive to the men who helped us build the game and their families. We have established many programs over the last two years to address specific medical issues and be responsive. We have more work to be done but we are intent on making a positive impact.
Krishnam Raju, Minneapolis, MN: I came from India and I love NFL better than Cricket now. Lot of my friends from India love NFL. We even play fantasy football every year. Do you have any plans in promoting football in countries like India?
Krishnam, we're glad to hear you love the game of football. We know we have many fans in India watching games on Taj TV. With new technologies there are more and more ways for fans to interact with the NFL, both here in the States and in India. We want to bring our game to all global markets and India is certainly a focus. I assume you've become a Vikings fan and will be at the playoff game this weekend.
Brett, Closter, NJ: Why was the decision made to change the location and time of the 2010 pro bowl? I believe that some star players will decide not to play in the game because they will either be tired out from playing in a conference championship game the week before or will be playing in the super bowl the week after.
Brett, we continually look to improve all NFL events. We have been discussing with my NFL Player Advisory Council many ways in which to improve the game. We believe that playing the Pro Bowl on a rotating basis between the main land and Hawaii and as a lead-up event to the Super Bowl will bring more attention and excitement to this event.
Brian Barnes, Palm Bay, FL: How do you plan to resolve the NFL network impasse? I have called my cable company and written my Congressman but still no NFL network.
The NFL Network is available on both satellite companies, both phone carriers and nearly 300 cable operators. I'm sorry that you are still unable to receive it, because we continue to get great reaction from our fans about the quality of NFL Network programming. We will continue to negotiate with a limited number of cable operators that are not carrying the network because our interest is to have it broadly distributed and available to fans across the country.
Based on the ratings, it appears fans agree, but I would love to hear our fans' feedback on the NFL Network. What do you think?
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York: If you were to make the regular season longer, would you make the season begin earlier, end later, or both?
Ryan, this is a question that is frequently asked. The concept we are evaluating is to eliminate preseason games and converting those into regular season games. We have heard from the fans that they don't feel the quality of the preseason is up to NFL standards and many in the NFL believe you do not need four preseason games to prepare players and teams for the regular season. We have not yet made a determination to do this, but our current inclination is to start the regular season on the current date, the week after Labor Day. Bottom line is we would convert a preseason game into a regular season game. What do you think?
R. Warfield, Greenfield, Ohio: While in Oakland this year, Did you have an extended talk with Mr. Davis, what were your impressions of him? Do you believe the Oakland Raiders franchise will turn things around in the near future?
I did have an opportunity to visit the Raiders and Al Davis. My impression is Al Davis is as committed to winning as he ever was. He is passionate about the Raiders and wanting to get them back to their winning ways.
Andrea, Westerville, Ohio: How do you decide the amount of money to fine players for illegal hits and unsportsmanlike conduct?
Andrea, the decisions on weekly discipline is made by our head of football operations, Ray Anderson. He makes those decisions based on rules and policies established by the competition committee and the clubs. The fine schedule is established before the season and all clubs and players are notified accordingly. The fines have increased as salaries have increased. Most of the fines this year have been to improve player safety for all of our players and have had a positive impact on our game. There are roughly 2,300 plays per regular season weekend and only 12 or so result in fines or discipline.
Steve Gean, Detroit, MI: What are your overall thought regarding the state of the Detroit Lions franchise. What can be done to help this team and their devoted fan base.
I speak to owners and teams on a regular basis, including Mr. Ford and the Lions. They are looking at every aspect of their organization to produce a winning team that the Detroit Lions fans would be proud of. They are as disappointed as anyone in this past season.
This season proved that a 1-15 team can go and win their division the following year, as the Miami Dolphins did. The Falcons and the Ravens are two other examples of teams that turned it around in one year and made the playoffs. Seven out of the 12 playoff teams were not in the playoffs last year.
Gage Moak, Sebastian FL: Does the economic struggle have an effect on the NFL and the teams and players?
Gage, we are not immune to the economic climate. The NFL, our clubs, our partners and our fans are all being impacted. Costs continue to rise, including the projected salary cap increase of $225 million in 2009. We are all looking to see what we can do to make it easier for you to continue your support of the NFL during this difficult period. We are all going to have to adjust going forward in this economy.
Dan, London: Are there any plans to replace NFL Europa, or has it been replaced by the excellent international series?
Dan, glad you seem to be enjoying the international series of regular season games. You should have an exciting match with the Patriots and the Buccaneers next October in Wembley. We believe the international regular season games is a better way to promote the NFL than our NFL Europa strategy. That being said, we are contemplating as part of a new labor agreement, the concept of a developmental league which would likely be based in the United States.
Travis, North Carolina: Is anything going to be done regarding the officiating this season? I know this question has been plaguing you all year, but I am curious as this season has seen more "questionable" calls than I can remember. Are there any plans moving forward to remedy this?
Travis, I think NFL officiating is outstanding. It is impossible to get every call correct, but our officials are as close to perfect as can be expected. This is confirmed as we evaluate every official in every game in the days following the games. They must meet very high standards to continue to be an NFL official.
Ryan, Chicago heights, IL: What do you see as the NFLs most pressing issues that need to be fixed? Transversely what do see as the NFLs greatest attributes? thank you in advance for your time.
Ryan, the greatest attribute is the game of football. NFL football continues to grow in popularity and attract an even broader audience. Furthermore, the passion of our fans continues to deepen and strengthen. To continue our success, we must keep the game strong, listen to our fans and make sure we are delivering high quality entertainment.
With respect to our challenges, we must have a collective bargaining agreement between management and players that is fair to all parties. This is becoming increasingly important in this economic climate where costs are rising and revenues are challenged. I am optimistic about the future of the NFL.
Kyle Moore, Windham, NY: As an NFL commissioner, what is your most memorable moment of this NFL season so far?
Kyle, there were many memorable moments. Among some of the highlights was the incredible drama during Week 17. Never before have there been so many teams that had remarkable turnarounds to qualify for the playoffs. One other personal highlight was on Week 16, I was able to attend the Bears-Packers game in Chicago on Monday night with my wife. We sat in the stands during the coldest game in Bears' history and we enjoyed every minute of it. It was great to be with the fans.
I have been told that Sterling Sharpe is waiting impatiently to chat with you all. I enjoyed your questions and sorry I couldn't get to all of them. Feel free to send your comments. I will be interested in your perspectives. Enjoy the Playoffs.