Matchup: The AFC Champion Denver Broncos (15-3) vs the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks (15-3).
Site: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford NJ
Kickoff: 6:30PM Eastern
TV: FOX Troy Aikman, Joe Buck, Erin Andrews & Pam Oliver (Field reporters).
Radio: Westwood One: Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason, James Lofton & Mark Malone (Field reporters). WFAN 660AM and 101.9FM will cover in NYC area.
Weather: Temps in low 40's; Wind around 5mph with 20% chance of precipitation.
The Line: Broncos by 2 1/2; OU 48
Super Bowl XLVIII Vital Links
- Official Super Bowl Site (NFL.com)
- Super Bowl XLVIII Digital Game Program
- Super Bowl / Postseason Guide
- Seattle Seahawks Game Release
- Denver Broncos Game Release
- Game Capsule (NFL)
- Matchup (Covers.com)
- Prop Bets (BBV)
- Officiating Crew (Football Zebras)
Super Bowl XLVIII Injury Report
Seattle Seahawks: Probable: WR Doug Baldwin (hip), WR Percy Harvin (concussion), RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related), DT Brandon Mebane (ankle)
Denver Broncos: Doubtful: DT Sione Fua (calf); Probable: CB Tony Carter (shoulder), TE Joel Dreessen (knee), DT Terrance Knighton (knee), G Chris Kuper (ankle), QB Peyton Manning (ankle), RB Knowshon Moreno (ribs), K Matt Prater (illness), DT Mitch Unrein (knee), CB Kayvon Webster (thumb)
Fennelly's Pick: Feeling Hawkish
I've been picking the Super Bowl since 1970. I picked the Minnesota Vikings to beat the Chiefs in SB IV and got spanked, but since then, I've been about 80% picking with the spread. This game is a tough one. If the officials let the Seahawks' DBs play their game, I can't see the Broncos having much success. Seattle is a physical team and they are here with a huge chip on their shoulders. They'll be ready. Denver has the more compelling stories (John Fox, Peyton Manning) and the big game experience overall, but they have looked vulnerable at times and might not stand up to the Seahawks in a street fight. Keep in mind, the Seahawks have not lost a game by more than seven points in their last 44 games, so they are battlers and will be in this game at the end. When in doubt take the points. Seahawks 26, Broncos 23
[sny-accordion title="Seattle Seahawks Practice Pool Reports
Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014
Seattle Seahawks Practice Pool Report
By Ralph Vacchiano
Pro Football Writers of America
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On the final day before Super Bowl XLVIII, the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks got their first look inside MetLife Stadium where they’ll face the Denver Broncos on Sunday night and then held their final walk-through across the Meadowlands parking lot at the Giants’ practice facility. They looked loose and energetic as they went through their normal Saturday morning routine.
And when it was over, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had no doubt his team is ready to start the game.
“We’re ready to go,” Carroll said. “That’s kind of how we are. I don’t know if it’s loose, but we’re where we’re supposed to be. This is how we always prepare. This is the exact routine we always do. And the guys did it perfectly today.
“It’s been great. We have no hesitation saying it’s been exactly what we hoped to get done. We’re physically right and mentally right and we’re ready to go.”
The day for the NFC champs began inside the Super Bowl stadium at around 10:30 a.m. when the players and coaches got a quick look at what normally is the New York Giants’ locker room – though it now has a Seahawks logo above the door. From there they took to the field which was ringed by blue and yellow Super Bowl XLVIII banners. For about 15 minutes, players walked around on the turf and many took pictures and video of the empty stadium. Several position groups got together for group photos, too.
After huddling briefly at the 35 yard line, they exited the stadium and boarded their buses for the short ride across the parking lot to the Quest Diagnostics Center where they’ve been practicing all week. They held some more meetings, then went to the field house for their official team picture, which included Seahawks owner Paul Allen. Then, at 1:10 p.m. they were back out there again for a 35-minute walk-through.
For the rest of Saturday and Saturday night, Carroll said he will keep the Seahawks’ routine “exactly the same.” They even plan to remain at the same Jersey City hotel that they’ve been using all week long.
How loose were they during their final practice of the season? Early in the session, Carroll came over to the sidelines to greet former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and a friend. The coach made sure to talk to them while standing right behind his punter as they lined up for a kick. And when the ball was snapped, the punter, Carroll and Alexander all got out of the way so the ball landed right in the gut of the unsuspecting friend.
That prank got a good laugh out of everyone before the Seahawks went back to work.
Alexander was joined on the sidelines by former Seahawks linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski. Both were members of the 2005 Seahawks team that played in Super Bowl XL – the franchise’s only other Super Bowl team.
“It’s always great to see Shaun and those guys,” Carroll said. “It’s good to have them around. It just kind of reminds us what we represent.”
By Peter King
Pro Football Writers of America
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—The Seattle Seahawks, as healthy as they’ve been all season, finished their main preparations for Super Bowl XLVIII Friday afternoon inside the New York Giants’ practice facility in the shadow of MetLife Stadium, opening the five doors in the facility for the third straight day to simulate the mid-thirties temperatures they expect to feel Sunday night.
“And now,’’ said coach Pete Carroll, “we wait. We had a great day today. We finished like I hoped we’d finish, and I thought our execution today was very good.”
Carroll led his team through what he called a normal Friday afternoon practice, 77 minutes in length, in the Giants’ Quest Diagnostic Training Center, again serenaded by loud hip-hop and rap music from start to end. Second-year quarterback Russell Wilson appeared particularly crisp in his execution of the offense and his passes, and Carroll praised him afterward for his focus and preparation all week. A pool reporter asked Carroll what he thought of Wilson’s presence and performance in a week with so much riding on the outcome—with Seattle aiming for its first Super Bowl title in history, and with Wilson squaring off against one of the best quarterbacks of all time, Denver’s Peyton Manning.
“Russell is exactly where he’s always pictured he’d be in life,’’ Carroll said. “He prepares impeccably, and he has prepared like that this week. I think he is ready to play a very good game.’’
Seattle will hold its weekly walk-through practice Saturday here, but all practice prep is now done. The Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn installed the gameplan for the Super Bowl last week at home in Renton, Wash., and this week merely repeated the installation. Each day in New Jersey, Seattle practiced without pads, and Carroll also went without helmets on Friday. Most players wore green-and-blue knit Seahawks hats as they went through their paces in temperatures in the high thirties.
It is exceedingly rare for a team to be this healthy in the 19th game of the season (23rd if you count preseason games), and to have nobody an injury question. All 61 active and practice-squad players were on hand, and Carroll said all participated fully. Wideouts Percy Harvin (concussion) and Doug Baldwin (hip) ran freely for the third straight day, with Baldwin stretching consistently through practice to stay loose. Though first-year Seahawk Harvin has played only briefly in two of Seattle’s 18 games this year, he appears to be poised to play without limits—at least at the start of the game—in the biggest game of the year.
As a sign of camaraderie, four players switched jerseys. Right tackle Breno Giacomini squeezed into Marshawn Lynch’s number 24 jersey, while Giacomini’s number 66 looked like a mini-dress on Lynch. Giacomini and Lynch are good friends. Left tackle Russell Okung wore fullback Michael Robinson’s number 26, with Robinson wearing Okung’s 76. As tight as Lynch was around the media this week, that’s how loose he has been at practice, laughing with different position groups throughout practice and in general looking like he’s having the time of his life.
Friday’s work began with special teams practice, field goals by kicker Steven Hauschka and punts (some of them rugby-style, inside-the-20) by Jon Ryan. And, as usual for Friday, the team practiced red-zone plays on both sides of the ball as well. In scout team play, Richard Sherman intercepted practice-squad quarterback B.J. Daniels, his second pick of the week.
Afterward, Carroll praised the New York Giants organization and the staff at the training facility for cooperating so fully with the Seahawks. “The Giants have been fantastic in opening their doors to us. They’ve treated us great,’’ Carroll said. “Anything we’ve needed we’ve gotten. So we’re grateful to them for everything they’ve done.’’
The temperature is expected to be about 39 degrees for the 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff Sunday.[/sny-accordion]
[sny-accordion title="Denver Broncos Practice Pool Reports"]
Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014
Denver Broncos Practice Pool Report
By Ben Volin
Pro Football Writers of America
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Broncos’ walk-through practice Saturday afternoon at MetLife Stadium had a bit of a Senior Day feel to it.
The team practiced in sweats for about 30 minutes, going over a few offensive and defensive sets one last time before Sunday night’s Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks. But really the day was about enjoying the moment one last time and enjoying one of the final moments that this roster will be intact before the offseason hits.
Players trickled out onto the field with cameras and camcorders to capture the atmosphere – guard Louis Vasquez taking a panoramic photo of the stadium, backup offensive tackle Vinston Painter posing for photos and safety Mike Adams recording the scene with a video mounted on his head.
The walk-through was light and fun, although security workers kept having to shoo away stadium employees trying to catch a glimpse of practice. Coach John Fox didn’t keep his team on the field for long. The only player not expected to participate Sunday night is defensive tackle Sione Fua, doubtful with a calf injury.
“It was very similar to what we’ve done all season – typical Saturday practice,” he said. “Just a review, pretty much. Play the game, walk the field – maybe not everything we’re going to do, because you don’t know what security is like here. But it was beneficial.”
The weather was beautiful on Saturday – mid-40s and clear blue skies – but Fox said he didn’t feel like his team caught a break with the conditions.
“We’re pretty much weather-proof,” he said. “We live in Denver, so we practice in just about every element there is.”
Fox said he encouraged his players to soak up the moment. Peyton Manning took several photos inside the locker room with various teammates – the offensive linemen, wide receivers, etc. – and later posed with John Elway on the field. After practice, the players’ families were invited onto the field to take pictures and enjoy the day, as well.
“They worked really hard to have this opportunity,” Fox said of his players. “Might as well enjoy it.”
Despite the enormity of Sunday’s game, Fox is doing his best to keep the routine the same this weekend .The Broncos will be switching hotels tonight to sequester themselves from friends and family, but that’s typical for a Saturday night, Fox said.
He said he’s not too worried about nerves getting the best of him or his players, or having too much free time before kickoff at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve played a lot of prime time games, this is just another one,” he said. “It gets bigger on the outside, that’s true all through the playoffs, and this is probably the ultimate of that, but they’ve listened and managed it pretty good.”
By Jarrett Bell
Pro Football Writers of America
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After putting his team through its final full practice of the season on Friday afternoon, Denver Broncos coach John Fox declared his team ready to go for Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Broncos used the indoor field at the Atlantic Health Center Training Center for their one-hour, 25-minute practice after Fox determined that the outdoor synthetic field was too hard.
Yet the regimen came with another twist: Fox used the outdoor field for the 30-minute walkthrough before the practice, allowing for more exposure to the type of wintry elements that will be in play on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium.
“I just wanted to see what shape the field was in,” Fox said. “We came back in here, just for the same reason as yesterday. It was a little too hard, so we came back in.”
As was the case after the two previous full practices this week, the Broncos didn’t suffer any injury setbacks. Of the 53 players on the active roster, defensive tackle Sione Fua was the only non-participant. Fua is nursing a calf injury and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. All other players are probable, and none were limited in Friday’s work.
“I feel good about where we are,” Fox said. “Our guys have worked hard all week, and the preparation’s been good. Excited to play the game.”
The team will have a walk-through session on Saturday at the Super Bowl game site.
Friday’s session – part of which was observed by team owner Pat Bowlen, who stood along the sideline – could be described as spirited.
During team drills pitting the starting offense and defense, and in others with the starters facing scout teams, players cheered, jeered, whooped and hollered, pending the outcome of any given play.
As Fox talked after practice, a handful of players provided background noise as they engaged in post-practice banter in the end zone.
Fox turned and said, “They like each other.”
Such camaraderie might also explain the diversion that came during the walk-through, when a small aircraft flew over the field with a message banner that read: “MEET BRONCOS AARON BREWER TONITE AT TIME SQUARE” (sic)
Brewer is Denver’s low-profiled, second-year long-snapper.
The plane flew over the field twice, and was reminiscent of a similar stunt that highlighted special teams captain Keith Burns when the franchise last played in a Super Bowl, in 1998.
“It was a little gag,” Fox said. “They have no more appearances. That was just to gag him a little bit.”
Fox said that he has been pleased with his players’ professionalism and focus. He said the team has not had a single case of any players breaking curfew this week.
“I couldn’t ask for more, for the way they’ve done it,” Fox said. “We’ve been on par. Very focused.”
Still, after Friday’s practice, there were still more than two days before Super Bowl XLVIII kickoff.
With the practice work completed, Fox is hoping that players will strive for an even sharper focus.
“We talk about the mental preparation,” Fox said. “They’re going to continue to go through their playbooks, iPads, whatever information source they have, and continue to review. Now it’s mostly just reviewing and visualizing what their job is.”
To minimize distractions, the Broncos will leave the Jersey City hotel where they have quartered all week – and where family and guests of players are staying – and move to another hotel on Saturday and remain sequestered overnight.
Fox, who has participated in two Super Bowls as Carolina Panthers coach and as New York Giants defensive coordinator, won’t buck Super Bowl tradition or his team’s normal routine.
“It’s what we do all the time,” he said, “whether it’s on the road or at home.”
But first there will be the matter of visiting MetLife Stadium for the walk-through session on Saturday. The visit will be more about checking out the environment than fine-tuning strategy.
“Depending on the security and all, we’re not going to see a whole lot,” he said. “I’ve got a feeling, if it’s like past Super Bowls, they’ll be doing all kind of work around there. They’re probably not going to show a whole lot.”
Fox has been pleased by the level of practices during the playoff run, noticing fewer mental errors. He suspects that comes with the more repetitions that players get as the season progresses.
The sessions this week have only bolstered that belief.
“Guys appear ready,” Fox said. “We’ve worked hard. Now we’ve got to go perform.”[/sny-accordion]
[sny-accordion title="Head Coaches Joint Press Conference"]DENVER BRONCOS HEAD COACH JOHN FOX
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS HEAD COACH PETE CARROLL
Super Bowl XLVIII News Conference
New York/New Jersey l January 31, 2014
Denver Broncos Head Coach John Fox Opening Statement:
“On behalf of our owner Pat Bowlen and the Broncos’ organization, I’d like to thank everybody here in the City of New York, Jersey City and the state of New Jersey for all the hospitality, and the host committee, by Mr. (Woody) Johnson and Mr. (Jonathan) Tisch, as well as the Mara family. All of the NYPD, the New Jersey police department who’ve made us feel very safe. They have taken great care of us, to and from the practice facility. (They are) great escorts. The New York Jets for opening up their facility. It’s been a tremendous experience. We get to go there one more time today to practice before we head to MetLife tomorrow. Last, but not least, I’d like to congratulate Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks for a great season and what should turn into be a great game come Sunday night.”
Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll Opening Statement:
“Thanks John. Likewise. Just arriving here we’ve felt the spirit of the area – New York/New Jersey is on fire about this ball game. The message has come through so clear to all of us. Paul Allen and the ‘12s’ that represent and follow our program are alive and well in the area. They’re enjoying the heck out of it. We’re really proud to be here and representing our football team and all of the people who make this happen. John Schneider, our general manager, has done such a great job of putting this thing together and putting us in position to be here. We feel very fortunate. It’s a very exciting matchup with a tremendous football team and a great staff. With the obvious stars on their side, it’s going to make for a fantastic matchup. It’s great to be doing this here in the New York/New Jersey area just because of all of the history and the background of all the great sports events and teams and events that have happened here. We’re really thrilled about it and looking forward to it. Thanks for having us.”
(on how preparation went this week)
Pete Carroll: “It’s worked out very well. We were excited to get here and wondering what it was all going to be like. Everything has seemed very smooth for us. The media issues, that’s new for this week, and our players handled it well. It was organized well so that was not a factor here. Our practices have gone very well. We had a great setup at the New York Giants facility. The practice setup has been ideal for us, so it really worked out great. The energy is perfect, and the players are really ready to play a football game.”
(on how they have evolved as coaches since their last NFL head coaching jobs)
Carroll: “That’s a long story. There’s been a lot of challenges along the way since the days back here in New York. I don’t even know where to begin to answer that question, but the evolution has been ongoing and the process is challenging. I think I had a terrific experience in college football back at USC that really was kind of the groundbreaking for me about figuring out how I wanted to do this. I think all of the experiences were beneficial. That time there gave me the opportunity to be in charge and run a program in the same manner that we’re doing it here in Seattle. The tough times, are sometimes you can’t forget them fast enough, and then other stories you can’t forget. The time here in New York, in particular, was extraordinary even though it was so brief. I remember it well, but it has been a long journey, and I’m very excited that we have a chance to go ahead and show you what we’re about with the Seattle Seahawks.”
John Fox: “I think you’re always growing, you’re always learning. Life is kind of trial and error. I’ve always been of the belief that if you stop learning you stop living. Too many individual things to go through right now, but all of it’s an experience. It’s been a fun season and a great group of guys to be around. A great locker room much like Carolina’s (Panthers). A lot of similarities, but then again there’s some differences.”
(on the fact that the Super Bowl matches two head coaches with defensive backgrounds)
Fox: Well I take tremendous pride. I came up with a guy, Chuck Noll, who is a defensive guy, who I learned a lot from. I’ve been blessed to be around a lot of great people from ownerships on down to general managers, front office people, as well as coaches. You always take pride. This is a prideful thing to be in this position and play in a game like this with such great history. Don’t forget about those defensive guys moving forward.”
Carroll: “You’ve got a couple old DB coaches here, and it’s interesting that’s how it turned out. It is an offensive era that we’re in, and with all the passing game it’s gone crazy. Maybe it’s fitting that we’ve been fighting our whole life trying to slow this thing down, and we get a chance to do it here on the biggest stage. Really we have very similar paths and the fact that we’re defensive guys, maybe that gives the defensive guys hope that maybe we can hire one of those guys in the league soon.”
(on how Seahawks owner Paul Allen has been different in allowing him to coach in his style)
Carroll: “I don’t think he’s been different, but he’s been perfect. He’s given us the freedom and the support at every turn to do the things that we wanted to do to make this program come around. I know John (Schneider) and I are so thrilled, that kind of direction and leadership that has allowed us to really take a lot of chances and be supportive in doing so. Really could not ask for a better guy. He’s just been incredibly right for us.”
(on if it was a change in philosophy or a change in this generation’s athletes that led to success for him)
Carroll: “I personally don’t feel like I’ve changed that much. I’ve just grown and learned how to better send the message out clearly and because the philosophy in my mind is more clear than it’s ever been. It really took me getting fired a couple times and getting kicked in the butt and all that to really get it to the point where it is now. Unfortunately, and I hate learning the hard way and I’m sure John (Fox) does too, but sometimes you have to and it’s taken some shots to get here. It’s a tremendous time for us. As we’re getting older we’ve been through so much and had so many experiences, so you can’t help but get better if you keep competing and keep battling. That’s really what’s happening. The biggest turn in the philosophy I think to make it clear to the players that we are here to support them and make them the best they can possibly be. I think that’s come to the front, wanting to continue to live that way in our program and make it clear to them that we’re going to do whatever it takes to allow them to have whatever they deserve. That has come a long way to get to that point. That’s where we are now, so we see that guys like being around it, they feel good about it and they’re trying to do the best they can to stay with it because it’s a good place to be. We’ll see how it turns out in the years ahead.”
(on if players feel a direct responsibility to some of the veteran players who want their chance at a ring)
Fox: I’m sure you’re referring to Peyton Manning. We actually do have another guy, Champ Bailey, who’s been in the league a long time and has never been to one of these. I think both of those guys, and Pete has guys in his locker room, I’m sure. You can’t do it by yourself as a coach, as a head coach, as an assistant coach. It takes leadership in that locker room. I think those guys for our team raise all boats. People don’t want to disappoint not just the coach down, or the city, or the organization down, they don’t want to let their teammates down. Pete made reference to the culture you set in your building, and I think you need players like that leading the charge. You really can’t do it by yourself. I know I appreciate Peyton and Champ and guys like that in that locker room. They’re a big part of why we’re sitting here.”
Carroll: “In contrast, somewhat, we have a very young team, and we have a bunch of guys that are growing up together as a team. It comes together to try to do something special, rallying around the brotherhood of it all. It’s very exciting to see how it can be in such different formats and makeups. You can still get championship play coming out of your locker room. We owe so much to those guys that do all the playing. Like John said, we coach them up, but on game day, it’s their day. We live to watch them do what they can do, and it’s exciting to see them come together with these opportunities and try to max out this chance for them. It’s pretty exciting and it’s interesting to see how different we can be in the makeups of our team.”
(on the significance of the Vince Lombardi Trophy)
Fox: “I think it’s a pinnacle for probably everybody that does what we do. It’s something you work really hard (for). As Pete (Carroll) mentioned earlier, you take individuals and try to paint a picture of where you want to get to. I think this is the pinnacle of it. Unlike different levels of football, there’s only one happy camper at that end. That’s going to be the team hoisting that trophy. (The trophy has a) great history and great memories. I think most of us, even out there, grew up and have a Super Bowl memory or moment, whether it was your team or an incredible play. It’s been a big part of all of our lives, I think. ‘Sweet’ would be a good answer for me.”
Carroll: “The trophy really does symbolize the ultimate challenge and competitiveness in our sport and in our world of coaching or playing. To dream about being in this position as a kid and then working all through the years of coaching, battling and watching other guys do it and for the first time for us; it’s a tremendous honor. It’s a tremendous opportunity and it creates an extraordinary challenge to see if you can be the one. It symbolizes a tremendous amount to all of us. We all live with that, our players and our coaches. It’s great to be here, and (I’m) thrilled to be doing it, too. It makes for so much fun. The whole build-up, the whole following, knowing it’s a global event on game day just adds to the fun of this thing. The challenge continues to be out there for us to reach for, so it’s very exciting.”
(on the matchup of Denver’s offense vs. Seattle’s defense)
Fox: “I think a lot has been made of that and rightfully so. Both sides have been fairly historic in what they’ve accomplished; I’m talking about Seattle’s defense and I’m talking about our offense. We both have great pride. I’ll let Pete (Carroll) speak to his, but I know I’ve got great pride in our offense and what it has put forth this year. At the end of the day, it’s a team game. I remind everybody that there’s three phases of the game and my experience, in whether it’s been one of these games or any big spot, is who executes the best and who performs the best. Obviously, your star players have to be great in championship games. There have not been very many championships in any sport where your big players didn’t play big. There always seems to be the unknown guy that makes a critical play, whether it’s in the kicking game. Lord knows where it’s going to come from. My experience has been that there’s (always) been one of those events. I think you express that to your team and they understand that this is a performance-based business and you do your best to prepare them and get their minds’ right. I think it’s going to be a total team effort, at least in my view.”
Carroll: “I really couldn’t agree more. It’s obvious that there’s an attraction to the defense and the offense is a logical matchup to look for, but this game is going to be involving so many different aspects of it. It will be interesting to see if that is the story. Is it our defense versus their offense? I really don’t believe that’s what it’s going to be, like John (Fox) thinks. There’s so many aspects to this. There’s so many phases that will contribute. It will be wonderful to see what the storyline is afterwards. There is a little bit of an undercurrent. Our offensive guys are thinking about it, too. I’m sure his defensive guys are thinking about it, too. They want to be part of this whole factor. There’s going to be a lot of guys battling. It’s going to be exciting to see the story. For us, it is pretty obvious that we have this enormous challenge of this great season that (Denver’s offense) has had and (Denver quarterback) Peyton (Manning) and all that he was able to accomplish. Nobody has really slowed them down. We take that as a big challenge to us, but the game is going so many different ways. We don’t know which way it’s going to be bounce, but it’s probably going to be about someone taking care of the football better than the other and we’ll see how that turns out.”
(on the aspect of their opponent’s team they would like for their own team)
Fox: “You can’t slight your own team. Any time you look at an opponent, there’s things that you admire about what that they do. I’ll leave it just to admiration, not what I’d want to have. Being a defensive coach, I have a little pertinence to the defense. They have very good speed. They really have a stable of rushers that do an outstanding job; they cause havoc. On the back end, they probably have the most talented secondary in the league. I’m talking about across the board, not just one guy. They have great length, great speed. You can tell (Seattle’s general manager) John Schneider and the personnel people as well as Pete (Carroll) and his coaching staff that it’s something that they have a vision about what they’re building. They do an outstanding job of it. I’m not slighting anybody else. I know (Seattle quarterback) Russell Wilson back from N.C. (North Carolina) State and his college days. (He’s a) tremendous competitor. I think probably the length and athleticism of their defense is what I look at and it sticks out on tape.”
Carroll: “We’d like to have their points. How many points did you (directed at Fox) score, like 800? If we had those points, our defense could play pretty well. That would help us. They have an incredible football team. The fact that they’ve been so consistent and so on top of this, we really talk about how close they were to being undefeated this year. That’s because of their tremendous strengths and the well-rounded football team that they are. I wish I had the altitude when our kickers were kicking. We’d kick it a little farther, and it would go a little truer. We’d like that. We would be wrong not to recognize what a tremendous football season (Denver) has had and the team they’ve had. We just like the results of winning, and they’re truly a winning football team and a winning program. John (Fox) has always been able to do that. That’s something we all admire.”
(on how Chuck Noll has affected John Fox, how Bud Grant has affected Pete Carroll and their ability to connect with younger players)
Fox: “I don’t know so much that it’s been about that. You learn styles. You learn approaches. I think for Pete, myself, you have to be yourself. I think ultimately, most of us aren’t smart enough to be anybody else. I think personality-wise, I’m not that similar to Coach Noll. I think style and approach. Chuck was very even-keeled. I don’t like getting real high and real low after a loss or from a victory. His approach was very pragmatic. (Chuck was) a great technician and a great teacher. Chuck was the kind of guy that if you were a wine connoisseur and you met him somewhere, the next time you met him, he was going to know more about wine than you did. He just loved life and loved acquiring knowledge in all areas. Just being a student of the game from a technical standpoint and the ‘even-keeledness’ that he had in his approach, were things that I took from him. Personality-wise, as I tell young coaches and coaches that I’ve had go on to be head coaches, (I just tell them) to be yourself. You can’t pretend to be somebody else.”
Carroll: “I think all of the guys that I’ve worked with over the years or that have coached me up, so many guys have made an impression that help you formulate how you want to do this job. They’ve had a tremendous impact. Coach Grant was an incredible guy for me to be around. He was just so unique and so classic. Interestingly, his son, Michael, is here to receive an award or something. I just saw him in the back, so that family runs deep and is still coaching well. I think John (Fox) made a really clear point there that is so crucial, that it is finding yourself so that you can be yourself and so that you can be true to who you are. You get challenged and you get pulled and tugged in so many directions in this job that you have to be grounded to answer the questions, answer the issues and solve the problems. If you’re scattered around trying to be like somebody else that you were with, you’re going to falter. It’s a tremendous for us to figure that out. That’s all part of the process as we go along to try to figure out who we are so that we can truly be ourselves. Send that message so clearly, so that people that have to listen and follow, can get a clearer signal. I’m so grateful to all the guys that have helped me along the way, have given me direction, kicked me in the butt when I needed it and showed me the kind of examples that we need to learn by. It isn’t always a guy you coached with. There’s some tremendous coaches that we’ve all learned under that we never even worked with, but we studied and followed their lead, too. It’s really exciting to be able to represent those guys and the background that we had to get to this point.”
(on speaking at the first team meeting about handling the high expectations for this season)
Carroll: “Our language, since the first meeting we had when we arrived, was to get to this point. It was to talk about the preparation it would take, to be mindfully ready to be available for this opportunity, and to make the most of it when it comes. When this season began, the expectations had really elevated based on the year before. It just set us to the next level of expectation – of how to deal with the hype, the fan following and the concerns that follow this kind of attention. With a young team, it was really important for our guys to be quiet, listen, watch and learn so that we could feel normal in the moments that would come our way. So that we could be ourselves and perform like we’re capable. This is the ultimate challenge to do that once again. I don’t think you could ever get a team ready if you just all of a sudden start talking about it the week or two weeks before. They would never have the background. We’ve been preparing for this moment for years. The fact that we made it here and our guys are handling it well is a statement that they’ve been listening, but we still have the game to play, and we’ll find out what that means. Even without the result of the game, we’ve come a long way. They do understand that this is a rare opportunity, and we have to handle this very well and find the humility so that we can deal with it properly and perform like we’re capable. It’s been a fun journey to see this happen with a bunch of young guys, and I’m really anxious to see how they handle game day when it comes around.”
(on whether he had any doubts about coming back to coaching after open-heart surgery)
Fox: “(I) really never had any doubts. It’s been a long time since I’ve missed a game. I think way back to my playing days. As a coach you don’t get used to missing time. It’s just not part of your relevance. I really had to search back to my playing days. It was obvious that I was going to need some medical attention. I had a great medical team. They gave me a great projection of what the rehab was going to be like, how fast I could get back to normalcy – that is coaching for me. Really, it was like a sprained ankle. It was going to be four weeks. There were some things I had to do. Obviously, there was a little healing process. That took about 10 days. I was back to work on a Monday, four weeks post-op from open-heart surgery. I felt 150 percent better. I had a valve that was probably the opening the size of a pinhead. Now, it’s a 50-cent piece. Just from a feeling good standpoint, I feel way, way, way better than I did two months ago. I never really gave it a second thought about coming back not being an option, or returning to coaching being an option. It’s worked out pretty well.”
Carroll: “What a stud. He’s comparing an open-heart surgery and being on his back to an ankle sprain. Congratulations on that. That’s really amazing. Come on John. That’s awesome.”
(on how his approach has been with Peyton Manning since he has Super Bowl experience)
Fox: “I get asked about him a lot. He’s a great player, but he is a player. Players need to be coached. Players need to be consoled. It’s like having kids. He’s been tremendous. Leadership moments – there are too many to name; during games, on the sideline and in the meeting room. Anytime you have veteran players that have experiences, you like them to share. We were able to do that with not only people in the building, but even outside the building. He’s been a tremendous leader for the two years he’s been a Bronco and I’m sure for the 14 years he was in Indy as well. I can’t speak to that. He does it every day. The guy has unbelievable time management. He has unbelievable work ethic. I think that’s contagious. There would be too many individual leadership moments to name, but he’s been tremendous. He’s very even-keeled, very loose and very focused on the task at hand; much like we expect all our players to be.”
(on the impact John Elway’s talk to the team had after their loss to Seattle in the preseason)
Fox: “What’s curious about this game to me is that both teams had high expectations, both outside and inside of their buildings. Sure that’s easy if it happens all the time, but to be here, to be sitting here, it’s a lot of hard work to meet those expectations. We had high ones going in. I think it was a preseason game. We did not play very well. Not taking anything away from them. It actually was a butt-kicking. When you get into camp you might have little lulls or whatnot. John asked to speak to the team. He ended up doing pretty good. Hopefully, he pissed them off a little bit. I think it shook them up. Woke them up. I thought it had a good effect on us. We came back a little grittier and a little more determined. Camp can get kind of camp-ish. It got us going. I think it was good, but we still had two weeks of training camp to go.”[/sny-accordion]
[sny-accordion title="Roger Goodell News Conference"]NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL
Super Bowl XLVIII News Conference
New York/New Jersey l January 31, 2014
“Good morning. I hope everyone’s had a great week. We’re ready for Sunday’s game, and it should be a great one. It was brought to my attention recently that Pete Rozelle said many years ago that the Super Bowl should be played in ideal conditions. It got me thinking. Pete Rozelle is a hero of mine. The best commissioner in the history of sports. Pete was an innovator. He did something unprecedented when he took the NFL Championship Game and put it in a neutral site. That was a radical idea at the time and the beginning of the Super Bowl.
“I believe Pete would be very proud of where we are this week. We are doing something innovative and unprecedented. Something consistent with the essence of football and the Super Bowl. There has been a tremendous amount of energy and excitement about this Super Bowl. This is the No. 1 market and a great stage for this Super Bowl matchup, and the world will be watching.
“One unique aspect about the focus for this year’s Super Bowl has been on the weather. Of course, we cannot control the weather. I told you we were going to embrace the weather; here we go. We appreciate the magnificent job done by New York and New Jersey. The forecast, despite what you see behind me, is terrific. It’s football-ready and just to confirm, we will kick off at 6:30.
“Congratulations to the Seahawks and the Broncos. The No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. Clearly the best of the best and the makings of a classic.
“The credit for putting this Super Bowl together goes first to the vision of Woody Johnson, John Mara, Steve and Jon Tisch. Also to Al Kelly, Governors (Chris) Christie and (Andrew) Cuomo, Mayor (Bill) de Blasio and former Mayor (Michael) Bloomberg and the thousands of people that have worked so hard. Thanks to each of you.
“It has been a terrific season by any standards, and I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to give credit to the players, the coaches and the teams. They make it happen. Also to the world’s greatest fans for your football passion. You make it special. Thank you so much.
“Now we will go to your questions.”
The concussion settlement with the former players is on hold right now after Judge Brody questioned whether the amount of money they’ll be given is enough to pay everyone who this settlement applies to. Do you fear that the settlement is in danger of being rejected, and, if it is, what will be the league’s next steps?
“What the judge did was she is taking her time. She’s making sure that the settlement that was agreed to between the plaintiffs and our attorneys under the guidance of Judge (Layn) Phillips - who’s the mediator that was selected by Judge (Anita) Brody - that the agreement we reach is going to work the way we intend it to work. The number one thing for us right now is to get the money in place so that we can help the players and their families if they need it, and that is our priority. So, we are working with Judge Brody. We’re working with all of her experts to convince her -- between the plaintiffs, Judge Phillips and ourselves -- that the settlement we reach can provide the kind of benefits that we intended, and we’re confident that we’ll get there.”
What can the Hispanic market in the U.S. and Latin America expect from the NFL in the coming years?
“One of our fastest growing audience segments is our Hispanic fans, both here in the states and throughout the world, and we’re proud of that, and that’s intentional. We’re working harder to reach those fans, introduce them to the game. Or, if they already are great fans, we want to give them more of the game. You’re seeing that through all of our media offerings. So, what we will continue to try to do is make those offerings even more engaging, find ways to get those fans the opportunity to be able to enjoy football. When I was in Mexico not too long ago, it was like being in the United States as far as coverage. We have great coverage down there, and what we’re trying to do is figure out new ways of engaging those fans.”
What’s your assessment of how things have gone here this week, and if you do have good weather Sunday and the game goes without a hitch, what’s your anticipation in terms of the interest of other cold weather cities hosting future Super Bowls - cold weather cities with outdoor stadiums - and how will you deal with that?
“There’s been a lot of planning for a lot of months and even years in making this Super Bowl successful, and that’s in large part because of the broad metropolitan area that we’re in. It’s more complex being in a larger area where you’re crossing over states and different jurisdictions, but everyone has been fantastic. I can’t say enough great things about the people that have been working on this, planning this, the officials who have supported every effort. Super Bowl Boulevard is an incredible opportunity for us to share this with our community here in the New York/New Jersey region. I think people are feeling the excitement and the energy, and that’s a great thing for us. That’s what football’s all about. That’s what the Super Bowl’s all about. So this opportunity has been, I think, extraordinary, and something that we’re all going to look back as a very important time in our history. As far as other communities, we know there’s interest in other communities hosting the Super Bowl. I think the ownership - we’ll all sit back and review that when we’re done, but we have a very aggressive process in how to select cities. The ability to host a Super Bowl is more and more complicated, more and more complex, because of the size of the event and the number of events. So, the infrastructure’s incredibly important. We’re well over 30,000 hotel rooms needed even to host the Super Bowl. So, there’s some communities that may not even be able to do it from an infrastructure standpoint, but we know the passion’s there.”
You’ve spoken to us before about the battle between the improving at-home experience versus the in-stadium experience. This year you had three playoff games come down to the wire and beyond before you were able to sell them out, including one in Green Bay with a passionate fan base. How alarming was that to you and what’s the feedback so far on some of these in-stadium improvements that have been made and are suggested as far as whether they’re going to take hold and improve the in stadium experience?
“To your first point, I don’t take the challenges that we had on Wild Card Weekend as any reflection of our fans’ passion. Those were mistakes that were made by us, the NFL, and our clubs. What we have to do is recognize that technology has changed and that we have to use technology more efficiently and more intelligently to make sure we don’t put our fans in that kind of position. Green Bay, as an example, sold close to 50,000 tickets over a five-day period, including New Year’s Day. We shouldn’t be in that position, and that’s on us, and we have to fix it, and we will. But that is not an indication in any way of the fans’ passion. To the second part of your question: it’s an ongoing challenge. With the experiences at home through our broadcast partners and all the other media alternatives that we have, it’s an incredible experience and it will continue to get better as technology advances. What we have to do is say, ‘That’s a great experience, but let’s make the most important experience and the best experience, which is our stadium experience, better.’ Technology into the stadiums is a big part of it. Making people feel safe when they’re in our facilities is a critical component. But there is nothing like being in the stadium for an NFL game. I was up in Seattle for the NFC Championship Game, and, if you want to feel energy, you go up to Seattle. That’s around our league in various stadiums, and we will continue to make this a major focus and make sure that experience is a great one.”
Across the league, women have continued having an increasing impact in terms of fan interest, merchandise sales and all across the board. Talk about the impact women have been making with member clubs as well as in the league office in executive positions to help build on the impact across the board.
“Well, you are so right on your premise. Women are making a huge impact in our office and also at the club level. Katie Blackburn and Charlotte Jones Anderson are leading committees, important committees, including the Super Bowl committee which Katie Blackburn is chair of. They are making an important contribution and one that is making a difference in the way we operate, the way we do things. I think you’re seeing it in the results. Not only are we making decisions because we have a broader perspective and more diverse viewpoint, but you’re also seeing a tremendously growing audience level. Women are really embracing the game. We’re not doing anything special other than inviting them into the game. If they feel comfortable being fans, they will. They’re great fans. I have one over here: my wife. She knows the game. So do my daughters who are only 12 years old, and they love the game. So we want to make it accessible. At the league office we have a number of executives: Michelle McKenna, who’s leading our IT, Renie Anderson, who’s leading our sales force, Anastasia Danias, who’s doing a great job in our legal department. We have some great young executives that happen to be women that are going to make a huge difference in the NFL going forward.”
With the reported desire of these other cities to get a Super Bowl, if there was a city that had, say, good weather, built a new stadium, what could be their reasonable expectation to get multiple Super Bowls?
“There’s such a demand for Super Bowls right now. The number of cities that are going to get multiple Super Bowls at one time I think are incredibly limited. We see the opportunity for us to continue to expand our game, come into new markets, and we find that valuable to the league. I think the membership does, and that’s reflected in how they voted. Each market has its own challenges. It is clear to see over the last two weeks, there have probably been more weather complications in a lot of other markets where we’ve played multiple Super Bowls and we’re scheduled to play more Super Bowls. Weather is a factor when you play in the United States in February, and that’s what we’re going to have as a continuing challenge. We’re prepared for that. The communities in which we play are prepared for that, and that’s why we have contingencies. I believe we need to get to as many communities as possible, and give them the opportunity to share not only in the emotional benefits, but the economic benefits. It helps the NFL, it helps our fans, and it helps grow our game. That’s what’s so exciting about being here in New York and New Jersey.”
The Kroenke organization confirmed today that it indeed purchased 60 acres of land adjacent to Hollywood Park, and I wonder, to what extent did Stan Kroenke inform the league, if at all, about buying this land, and what he plans to do with it?
“As you know, our policy is that they do have to keep us informed of any developments or anything that’s going on in the Los Angeles market, by policy. Stan is a very large developer on a global basis. He has land throughout the country and throughout the world. He has kept us informed of it. We’re aware of it. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of a stadium development. Anything that would require any kind of stadium development requires multiple votes of the membership.”
My follow-up would just be, what would you say to the millions of St. Louis Rams fans out there who see this as a fairly aggressive step towards Los Angeles and the Los Angeles market?
“Exactly what I just said to you. Stan is a very successful developer. He has billions of dollars of projects that are going on around the country in real estate development. So I think instead of overreacting, we should make sure we do what’s necessary to continue to support the team locally, which the fans have done in St. Louis, and make sure we can do whatever we can to make sure that team is successful in the St. Louis market.”
The health and safety is of paramount importance to the league. That’s very apparent. There appears to be significant medicinal benefits from marijuana. There are two states, Washington and Colorado, which both legalize the use of marijuana that any citizen of that state could use, but yet in the NFL, they still randomly drug test, specifically for marijuana. Isn’t it time to not advocate for marijuana, but simply stop testing for marijuana in the NFL and to just abide by what legal state rules there are? And would you be willing to randomly test for marijuana?
“To first answer your question, I am randomly tested and I’m happy to say I am clean. The second issue is that this has been something that has been asked several times and I’ll try to be as clear as I possibly can. It is still an illegal substance on a national basis. It’s something that is part of our collective bargaining agreement with our players. It is questionable with respect to the positive impact, but there is certainly some very strong evidence to the negative impacts, including addiction and other issues. So, we’ll continue to follow the medicine. Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way. We are not actively considering that at this point in time. But down the road sometime that is something we would never take off the table if it could benefit our players at the end of the day.”
Are you concerned that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of stadium negotiations going on in St. Louis?
“I think there’s been quite a lot of activity. You know better than I do, but there’s been a lot of discussions about the lease about the future of the dome and how that would play into the future of the team. So I think there’s been quite a bit of discussions. Active negotiations, I don’t know if you’d put it in that category, but there’s been a lot of discussions.”
Just as a follow-up – the league has let it be known that it controls the LA market. Could you elaborate on just what that means?
“Well, at the end of the day, any team that potentially could relocate into Los Angeles, or any other market, is subject to three-quarters vote. So 24 owners have to approve any relocation in any stadium development.”
I’m sorry to go back to the international scenario, but the state governor of the Amazon of Brazil said during a recent interview that the new stadium they’re building for the upcoming World Cup was considering two major events: an Elton John concert and an NFL game. Is the league really considering expanding to Brazil or are any other countries other than London in the upcoming years?
“Well, as a big fan of Elton John, I’m happy to be in that category. That’s terrific. We have not heard directly from any officials in that area. We’re always interested in expanding our game. Our focus, as you know, has been in the United Kingdom. We are playing three games this year there and I’m happy to report that all three games are sold out. We’re seeing that kind of passion and that kind of excitement about NFL football on a global basis. Our games, when we play them, just as in the United Kingdom, are done with a strategy. They’re done with media coverage, with licensing partners and trying to build the fan base from the ground up. It has been a very successful model in the United Kingdom and we’re thrilled about what’s happening there and we’ll continue to follow that. If we have opportunities in other areas of the world, we’re doing that and technology is our friend here. We’re able to communicate more directly with our fans on a global basis and that’s why we’re excited about new technology and new developments, like NFL Now that we announced yesterday.”
As you know, Josh Brent was convicted last week. Have you had any contact with him or any of his representatives about a return to football since he was convicted? The second part of that, I know you’ve partnered with MADD. Can you talk about where you are in those efforts and what you’ve done to try and get drinking and driving out of the game?
“The first part of your question; no I have not. The second part of your question is; we have expanded on our relationship with Mothers Against Drunk Driving. We’re very proud of that relationship. We use it not only in our parking lots to help our fans get in and out of our facilities safely and be more aware of what’s happening around them. In addition, we want to do more on the education of our teams. That includes front offices, that includes the players, the coaches, and that includes our office. We recently had a MADD event in our office. We have to recognize in the NFL we are on a big stage and when something happens that reflects poorly on us, that’s a negative for all of us. MADD has been a great partner in educating us and the number one point that they make to me is that these are 100 percent preventable. All we have to do is be a little bit more mindful of it and take the proper steps to avoid these types of tragedies from happening and that’s our responsibility.”
In light of the league’s whole-hearted endorsement of Fantasy Football, which is a multi-billion dollar industry, how does the NFL justify its continued opposition to legalize sports gambling, and do you see that changing in the future?
“I don’t, and, as you know, we’ve fought legalized gambling, sports gambling, for a long time – most recently here, in New Jersey. And I would see our position in the same vein going forward. We don’t put Fantasy Football into that category at all. I like to say my favorite story about Fantasy Football is a father who had sort of disconnected with his young teenage daughter, and Fantasy Football brought them back together again, and now he’s playing in a father-daughter league with other fathers and daughters. Fantasy has a way of getting people to engage with more with football, and they do it in a fun, friendly, and in this case, a family manner, and I think that’s great for families, I think it’s great for friends, and I think it’s great for football.”
On-field instant replay review – there’s been some discussion. FOX’s Mike Pereira mentioned going to the league office in New York for all instant replay reviews. Is that a legitimate possibility, or will it remain in the stadium, on the field, moving forward?
“The most important thing for us – we think there’s plenty of room for us to improve the game of football and officiating, in particular. What we all want is consistency, fairness in our officiating, and we believe that we might be able to achieve more consistency when we bring instant replay with us – more of a centralized version and decision-making process – and that’s something the Competition Committee is going to consider over the next two months and come back to a recommendation for the membership. I do believe there’s a possibility that some version of that will occur where our office can at least be involved with the decision. May not make the decision, but can at least provide some input that would be helpful to the officials on the field to make sure they’re seeing every angle, to make sure they have the proper opportunity to make the best decision.”
With the recent situation at Northwestern University, with the athletes being led by Kain Colter, their quarterback, in an attempt to perhaps effectively form a union that they would then bargain with the NCAA, or whatever unions might do. I wonder if you have any thoughts about that, seeing as how players from American universities comprise virtually all of the players in the NFL. Do you have any thoughts about the benefit of that or do you think it’s misguided, or how it might actually effect the NFL?
“Well, you know this is recent news. I haven’t really had a chance to think about it as it relates to how this could have an impact on us long term. So, I don’t have an answer directly for you at this point. But, I also have learned enough in this job that until you have the facts to understand a little bit more about what is happening, particularly in something that is not directly related to you, it is better to withhold any judgment until you have had a chance to understand that. That’s how I feel about this. It seems like there is a long road, a lot of decisions, a lot of discussion that has to take place. We will follow that closely and when a decision is made we will see where we go from there.”
What should fans of the Atlanta Falcons expect if they decide to make the trip over to London next season?
“I think they’re going to be amazed at the passion for football over there. When I go over for the games in London, I am continually amazed at the depth of knowledge for the game of football and the experience that they help provide in that stadium. I think all 32 teams are represented at every one of those games. There are different jerseys and fans coming from all over, not just the UK and not just the London area. I think they’re going to be amazed. It will be a wonderful experience. It is a great way to highlight the wonderful attributes of the Atlanta area by bringing the Falcons over there and talking about the connection of the Falcons in Atlanta and now London. I see it as a great benefit for the fans and for the communities.”
Can you tell us the thoughts of ownership on a potential London franchise across the ownership group, and also are we a step closer to a London franchise than we were this time last year, given that we’ve now sold out three games?
“I’ll tell you that I believe that the response to the third game in the UK and the way that the fans have embraced that – sold that out in such a short period of time – is just another indication that the more we give fans in the UK of NFL football, the more they want. That’s a great tribute to the fans there and their passion. And I believe you are further down the road because you are now three games into it. What our next step is, I don’t know. That’s something we’re going to have to evaluate. We believe that we will continue to grow there and that’s going to take work. We’re going to have to continue to invest in that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more deeply. I’m optimistic that they’ll respond favorably, as they already have.”
My name is Khordae, and I’m an NFL Rush kid reporter. As a commissioner, you have to make many tough choices. What have some of your hardest been, and do you regret any of them?
“(Laughs) Khordae, we don’t have enough time to talk about all of my regrets, I can promise you that. But it’s a very good question. You know, as commissioner of the NFL, your first responsibility is to do what’s best for the game for the long term – and the fans. That’s your responsibility. As a league, you have to reach out. You have to talk to the players, the coaches, the owners, our partners, and make sure you understand all perspectives before you make decisions. Sometimes those decisions aren’t so popular, but they are always done in the best interest of the league. Many of the decisions that I have, I have to go convince 24 owners to approve. We have great ownership, they always think long-term. They do what’s in the best interest of the game – not just necessarily their franchise (but) what’s in the best interest of the game long-term. That’s where we are. That’s why I’m so proud of what we’ve done as a league. You have a very good question and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, by the way.”
With all of the logistics and all of the planning and so much focus on the weather, with the current forecast mid-40s and cloudy, is some part of you a little bit disappointed that it won’t be a true, snowy, cold weather Super Bowl?
“We came here expecting that we were going to be playing obviously in February, in New York, and that the weather could vary. We still may have colder weather than we anticipate right now. It looks like it’s going to be a lot warmer than we anticipated, but no, this is going to be a great experience. As I said earlier, we’re on the world’s greatest stage with the biggest game. This is an opportunity for people to really shine in the way they have an opportunity to talk about their community, demonstrate the greatness of the game of football and we have two great teams. People are overlooking the great teams that we have here. They have earned their way here. They are both number one seeds. We have the great veteran quarterback against a great young quarterback. I think the storylines, I think the game itself, is going to carry the day, and it should, by the way.”
Where does the league stand at this point on the possibility of expanding the regular season or the postseason?
“We always look at our season structure, from preseason to regular season to postseason. There has been a great deal of focus over the last year on if we would make any modifications to our postseason. We currently have 12 teams qualify for the playoffs, as you know. We are looking at the idea of expanding that by two teams to 14. There’s a lot of benefits to doing that. We think we can make the league more competitive. We think we can make the matchups more competitive towards the end of the season. There will be more excitement, more memorable moments for our fans. That’s something that attracts us. We think we can do it properly from a competitive standpoint. This will continue to get very serious consideration by the Competition Committee and then the ownership will have to vote on it.”
We play one of America’s most dangerous and most lucrative games, but still we have to fight for health benefits. We have to jump through loops for it. Why doesn’t the NFL offer free healthcare for life, especially for those suffering from brain injury?
“First off, we had lots of discussions about that in the collective bargaining process. We went back and improved a lot of our health benefits, both for former players and for current players, to the point where I think that the health benefits that are provided to current NFL players are the best in the world, and so I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do with the union in improving those benefits. We all still have a lot of work to do for former players. The cost of trying to provide healthcare for every player that has ever played in the league was discussed with the union. It was determined that these changes were the best changes, and that’s what we negotiated, but we’re all proud of the efforts that we made. We will continue to make more efforts and do a better job, particularly with our former players, in providing them opportunities and to give them the proper healthcare. And our programs - as an example, the 88 Plan, for anyone who has dementia or any other kind of neurological disorder - that’s there for the players and their families for a lifetime. So we have programs that are addressing those issues, that we have created, the owners have created on their own, and we also have several of them that were created with the union.”
The controversy over the (Washington) Redskins name has ramped up over this past year. We know your stance and the team’s stance and what we don’t know at this point is would you feel comfortable calling an American Indian a ‘Redskin’ to his or her face?
“I’ve been spending the last year talking to many of the leaders in the Native American communities. We are listening. We are trying to make sure we understand the issues. Let me remind you, this is the name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for 80 years, and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans. We recognize that there are some who don’t agree with the name and we have listened and respected them. But if you look at the numbers, including in Native American communities, in a Native American community poll, nine out of ten supported the name. Eight out of ten Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So, we are listening. We are being respectful of people who disagree, but let’s not forget this is the name of a football team.”
Have you ever thought about moving the game to Saturday night, and if so, do you think that would improve ratings?
“We actually thought about moving the game to Saturday night this year (laughs). Not because we wanted to necessarily, but because we wanted to be prepared for the weather. You know, there’s discussion about that from time to time. Our network partners and the NFL believe that we’ve created a wonderful Super Sunday, and that the timeframe that we’re playing this game, at 6:30 on Sunday night, is really the best way of sharing it with the broadest audience on a global basis. So, I don’t see that changing in the very near future. It hasn’t been something that our network partners have asked us to do. Again, we were prepared to do that this year, but I don’t see that changing in the very near future.”
In light of the (Richie) Incognito-(Jonathan) Martin situation in Miami, is the league considering coming up with any sort of player code of ethics or conduct that would be uniform across the league and posted in every locker room?
“The answer to your question is yes. Our No. 1 priority is to make sure that we have a workplace environment that’s professional, recognizing that we have some unique circumstances. But we have to make sure that our players and other employees have that kind of professional workplace environment. I’ve already begun discussions with outside parties. I’ve discussed it with the union. I’ve also discussed it with several groups of players, individually and collectively, to talk about the circumstances. What needs to be done? What do we all want? And the No. 1 thing I hear, and the No. 1 thing that I believe is we all need to get back to respect. It’s respect for each other, respect for the game, respect for your organization, respect for your opponents and the game officials. So, we’re going to focus on this in the offseason. Some of it will be education; some of it, possibly, could be policy change. But we’re beginning that dialogue and we’re far into that dialogue. And I do expect changes as we go forward. Maybe not as much in policy as it is in making sure we provide that professional kind of workplace.”
You mentioned some of the considerations that go into a Super Bowl selection. Do you feel with how smoothly things have gone here in New York – does that boost the chance that Denver may one day host the Super Bowl?
“Things have gone well here in New York because of the commitment. The people who have put the bid together did a fantastic job, led by the two teams, the Jets and the Giants. They have fulfilled every one of those commitments. The local officials have found solutions to problems, and have been creative, and have done a great job and that’s why we have a successful event here. But it takes that no matter what market you’re in, whether you’re in Denver, or whether you’re in New York, or whether you’re in Houston or in Arizona next year. These events are very complex. They take a tremendous amount of planning. That’s why we select our Super Bowl sites three or four years in advance, and we get to work on it right away. And so it’s a team concept. We have to work very closely with our people and with the local officials in making sure that we do this in the right way.”
What are the odds for another cold weather Super Bowl? And second, the Wall Street Journal commissioned a 1,200-pound ice sculpture of you. Are you aware of it, and what are the odds of you coming over to visit?
“Somebody mentioned that ice sculpture to me the other day and I said, ‘Well, it’s better than a float.’ So that’s not so bad compared to what I had last year. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the ice sculpture. It sounds like it might melt a little bit, but I understand that there’s a lot of focus on the weather here. I’d like to think that we’re going to get focused on the game for the next three days. That’s really what this is all about. We have two great teams that have earned their way here, and I think it’s going to be a great Super Bowl, so ice sculptures aren’t really my focus right now; that game is.”
To follow up on the question about centralized video review, the National Hockey League has such an operation at the headquarters in Toronto where five or six individuals only make the rulings on all disputed plays in 1,200 games. You sent Jay Reid there before on November 30 to observe their operation. Is that the model you’re looking at perhaps implementing with the NFL?
“We created the replay system back in the early ‘90s for all of professional sports. We always make changes to our replay systems and we’re not afraid to try to learn from others who may be doing it differently. Our system is unique. It will be different than the NHL’s system in any case. We have replay that probably deals with a lot more plays than the NHL does. We have to modify this for the NFL. It has to work for us. Again, we’re going to go out and we’re going to learn from anybody and try to understand the technology better, but at the end of the day this is going to be a system that is unique to the NFL.”
Yesterday, your health and safety committee released figures showing that concussions were down 13 percent this year. With all the extra diagnostic tools you have and eyes on the game and sideline doctors, you would think that concussions might go up just because they’re better able to find them. Can you describe why they might have gone down?
“I think it’s because we made changes in the game. We made changes to the rules, we made changes to our equipment and there’s been changes in the way we deal with concussions when they do occur. We try to do everything we can to prevent them, but when they do occur we manage them effectively. All of the changes that you outlined there are having an impact. More broadly, I think it’s a reflection of the culture. There’s greater awareness. There is a more conservative approach over a long period of time. We have added other elements that will identify this injury. I think there was a period of time where the concussion rate went up because there was that awareness. There was that acknowledgement because those injuries are current players coming forward. We have worked harder to get them to come forward, but also have systems in place to identify them even if they don’t come forward. I give a great deal of credit to our medical teams and to our clubs and to our players. The culture is changing and changing for the better. The game is safer, it’s more exciting and it is more popular than ever.”
Tell us about your acting experience in ‘Draft Day’, and will the 2014 Draft feel like déjà vu because of the movie?
“Yes, for those of you that don’t know, there’s a movie coming out called ‘Draft Day,’ focused on the Cleveland Browns. I am not an actor, you will see that clearly. The fortunate part of it is, I just have to do what I’m doing normally at the Draft. I did get a chance to see the movie, and I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s something fans will enjoy and will bring the Draft even greater visibility. That’s good for football fans. I look forward to seeing it in the theatre. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of criticism about my part, but it wasn’t extensive as you’ll find out.”[/sny-accordion]