Roger Goodell speaks at Super Bowl 57: On Damar Hamlin, Commanders, concussions and more
PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, speaking at his annual Wednesday news conference before the Super Bowl, said the game of football "has never been better."
"We’re so excited about the competition," Goodell said.
Goodell noted 50 percent of division winners and playoff teams were new teams, while the quarterback position is an "incredible strength to our future."
"You can never turn a game off, which is great for me, and great for our fans," Goodell said. "That’s the biggest thing for me."
Here are some more highlights from Goodell’s state of the NFL news conference:
Goodell did not provide a definite answer, regarding the Washington Commanders, their pending sale, or their workplace environment under investigation.
The NFL’s investigation into the Commanders work environment, fostered by owner Daniel Snyder, remains under investigation by independent league investigator Mary Jo White.
"There is no timeline given to Mary Jo White," Goodell said. "She is authorized to work independently. There is no timeline for her to come to any conclusions."
Regarding the potential sale of the Commanders, which Goodell acknowledged, he said:
"The Commanders are under a process. That’s their process. Ultimately if they reach a conclusion and have someone who will be joining the ownership group or buying the team entirely, that’s something that (league) ownership will look at."
Goodell disagreed with the notion from coaches (such as Titans' Mike Vrabel) and players (such as Aaron Rodgers) that the league has an issue with its pipeline of officiating talent.
"When you look at officiating, I don't think it's ever been better in the league," said the commissioner.
"Our officials do an extraordinary job. … Are there mistakes? Yes."
Goodell noted a constant evaluation process but didn't feel too many experienced referees left for better-paying television jobs.
"We think our officials are doing a great job. We'll always look (at performance)," said Goodell, "How do we improve our officiating?"
He also suggested it will always be impossible for officials to be 100% accurate.
"The reality is, our officials are held to an incredibly high standard," Goodell said. "And they meet it."
Damar Hamlin situation
Goodell remains proud of the way the league was prepared to handle the Week 17 injury to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, whose cardiac arrest on the field during a Monday night game became a national story and led to the cancellation of the Bills' game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"We have the best of the best on the field," Goodell said of the medical personnel the league employs. "(They contributed) to saving a young man's life. Our medical professionals do an extraordinary job."
Donne Kelce, podcast appearance?
Donna Kelce, mother of Chiefs All-Pro TE Travis Kelce and Eagles C Jason Kelce – they will become the first brothers to oppose one another in a Super Bowl – asked Goodell what it would take for him to appear on her sons' "New Heights" podcast.
"I have a good answer, 'Ask me.'" responded the commissioner.
NFL diversity remains one of the top topics of concern as the number of diverse owners and head coaches remains low, while there has been an increase in team presidents and general managers.
"We believe diversity makes us stronger. It’s about giving us the best chance to be successful," Goodell said.
Goodell said the NFL’s accelerated program, which began last year and has introduced talented candidates to teams, is already working.
"I think it’s ultimately attributed to the candidates and to our clubs really looking at their processes and changing their processes to identifying the best talent," Goodell said.
"The accelerated program is opportunity for clubs and the candidates to learn, and I feel like there’s more of that that’s needed. There’s such great talent among coaches and executives.
Goodell added: "It's never enough. I still feel like there’s better work and more work ahead of us.”
While acknowledging the rate of concussions league-wide increased in 2022, Goodell was proud of the league's ability to quickly modify rules to govern them, the Tua Tagovailoa situation being an example. He also had other suggestions for improvement.
"I think there's more work to be done with helmets," said Goodell. "How do we improve those helmets?
"I think the other part of it is rules – taking the head out of the game."
"Total injures were down 6% this year," said Goodell, juxtaposing overall injuries to the rising numbers of concussions. He also pushed back on the notion that players are more at risk of being hurt on Thursday night games and touted the fact that the league welcomes assistance from players and officials flagging potential head injuries.
"We're not afraid of concussions being diagnosed," said Goodell.
How Black QBs have helped change the game
Sunday marks the first time in Super Bowl history that both teams will start a Black quarterback with the Chiefs starting Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts getting the nod for the Eagles.
Goodell said the growing diversity at the position, which had 11 black opening day starters, is great for the league.
Goodell said their "talent and ability to run" and being "great leaders" has helped the game.
"They really add such an element of the game, and our game has changed because of their talents," Goodell said. "I just think it’s another example of where diversity makes you better."
Asked about the league's international footprint, Goodell remains bullish on international interest in the NFL.
"We want to make NFL football a global sport," he said. "How do we bottle that? I think we're gonna put a lot of focus on that."
Goodell said "you'll see more football in Germany."
The league won't play a game in Mexico in 2023 as Estadio Azteca is renovated ahead of the 2026 World Cup. But Goodell said the league has every intention of resuming regular-season action south of the border.
"When we can come back, we're coming back," he said.
NFL on Amazon, growing younger audiences
Goodell was asked about low ratings during NFL games broadcast on Amazon, which hosted Thursday Night Football games during the season.
But Goodell said the intention was to reach another platform, targeting younger audiences who rely on streaming instead of traditional broadcast television.
"We reduced our average age of our audience almost 10 years, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for," Goodell said.
The NFL also has agreements with YouTube, Peacock and recently announced a new deal with DAZN for international games. ESPN+ also broadcasted a game this season.
Goodell said NFL games will now be flexed on Monday Night Football next season.
Games were traditionally set in stone for Monday nights, but flexing the games could lead to more entertaining matchups later in the season.
Goodell said there could be further flex scheduling even on Thursday nights. "Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon," Goodell said.
Pro Bowl Games
Goodell said he loved how this year’s Pro Bowl Games turned out, and the flag football game featured on Sunday of Pro Bowl weekend is here to stay.
"I don’t see us going back in any way," Goodell said.
Goodell said he fielded a call from Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, who suggested the idea of playing a flag football game.
Goodell said reevaluating the Pro Bowl "was a pivotal moment for us. The Pro Bowl last year was something that did not represent the NFL well."
Goodell said as a result, fans "got to see the players’ personality and their faces, got to see them compete."
Goodell said about 52,000 "paying customers" attended the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas and that it is a "great location" for players, their families and the league.
Health benefits for retired players
During the Damar Hamlin situation, the NFL said Hamlin would receive health care despite not being a vested veteran.
Still, some retired NFL players are not entitled to further health benefits.
Goodell said the NFL’s benefits are a "defined benefit plan also, that operates under government law" with "a system for who qualifies and who doesn’t." Doctors make the final call on who receives treatment, and who doesn’t.
"You’re always going to have people who qualify for it, but doctors disagree," Goodell said.
Goodell did not expand further on the topic, but added: "Our player compensation this year was $10 billion – in salary, bonuses and benefits. About $2 billion was benefits."
Future Super Bowl sites
While praising Phoenix and its outlying communities as Super Bowl 57 hosts, Goodell said one and maybe two future Super Bowl sites will be announced later this year. Super Bowl 60 will be the next to be awarded.
Super Bowl 58 will be played next year in Las Vegas, and Super Bowl 59 will be staged in New Orleans.
NFL draft locations
Goodell says the NFL’s model of awarding the NFL draft to NFL cities around the country is a practice that will continue.
"Moving the draft around was one of our more significant moves," Goodell said.
"It brought the game closer to our fans. It’s another way for fans to interact with one of our events."
The 2023 NFL draft will be in Kansas City, Missouri, while the 2024 draft will be in Detroit. Further announcements are to be determined.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Bowl 2023 news: Roger Goodell on Commanders, Damar Hamlin, more