NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he has been involved with the league for 36 years, and every year he has heard complaints about officiating. That doesn’t mean he thinks officials are doing a poor job.
Goodell spent part of his annual state of the league news conference before the Super Bowl on Wednesday defending the officials, yet pointing out that the rulebook could see changes.
“I think our officiating is outstanding,” Goodell said. “I believe with technology the way it is, we see things now we never saw, even 10 years ago. That makes their job that much harder. But I think they’re extraordinary professionals.”
Goodell added that like everything else in the league, officiating can improve. The biggest criticisms have come due to the catch rule, which has confused fans and teams alike. Goodell reiterated his thoughts from earlier this week, that he believes the catch rule needs to be fixed.
“The officials are officiating that correctly,” Goodell said. “What we have to do is find a rule we think will address what we think should be a catch in the league.”
That won’t be easy. Goodell said when he met with players and officials, there’s no consensus on what the rule should be. He pointed out that Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter believes a catch should be ruled a catch only if the receiver gets up and can hand the ball to the official. It won’t be easy to find a catch rule everyone agrees upon, but it sounds like the league will try.
“I think we have some very good ideas we’re going to submit to the competition committee,” Goodell said. “I think there will be a lot of focus on going to the ground, which I think has been part of the confusion for everyone in respect to that rule.
“I think we’ve got a great opportunity here to get this rule right so everyone understands it, appreciates it and that’s not the focus going forward.”
Goodell said he thinks the best way to change the rule is not to add or subtract to what they have on the books, but to erase it and build a new rule from scratch.
“When you add or subtract things it can lead to confusion,” Goodell said.
• Goodell dodged questions about what the league will do next season and beyond in regards to player protests during the national anthem. He said there will continue to be dialogue between players and owners, but did not directly answer a question about whether the NFL will consider making a rule in the offseason to keep teams in the locker room during the anthem.
“I don’t know what we’ll consider in the offseason,” Goodell said.
Goodell said he has not spoken to President Donald Trump, a critic of players kneeling during the anthem.
Goodell also said he doesn’t anticipate the league facilitating Colin Kaepernick being signed by a team. Kaepernick was unsigned all season after he became the face of player protests in 2016. Kaepernick filed a collusion grievance against the NFL.
“All the clubs individually have to make their decisions about who is on the roster and who is not on the roster,” Goodell said. “Colin has filed a grievance so I’m not going to speak specifically about that case.”
• Thursday night games are here to stay, after a new contract with Fox. Players have complained about safety with such a short week of preparation, but Goodell said that of the five years the NFL has tracked injury data, this was the first season in which there was an uptick in injuries during Thursday night games.
“Only this year showed a slight uptick, which wasn’t even statistically significant,” Goodell said.
Goodell said he also has heard from players who like the extra rest days following Thursday night games.
“Most players don’t like a short week, but they sure do like the 10 days that come after that,” Goodell said.
• Goodell said the intent of the league and its owners is to keep the Carolina Panthers in that market. Jerry Richardson is selling the team under fire due to allegations of workplace misconduct, and Goodell hopes the new owner keeps the team where it is.
“I think all of us, the owners, believe Carolina is a great market,” Goodell said. “It’s a market we would like to stay in. We hope the franchise owner that is eventually selected will have that view.”
Goodell said an investigation into Richardson, done by an independent investigator, is ongoing.
• Goodell had one bit of scheduling news. Next year’s Mexico City game will be between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams. The Rams will be designated the home team.
• Goodell said he hasn’t given any consideration to whether his latest contract extension will be his last one.
“I’m not thinking about a next (contract extension),” Goodell said. “I’m thinking about the challenge we as the league have, how to grow the league and make it better.”
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