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Archive for January 30th, 2020

NFL returning to Mexico for Games in 2020 and 2021

Azteca Stadium , 2017 photo By Carlos Valenzuela - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

Building on the tremendous success of NFL games in Mexico, the league will return to Mexico for one game in each of the 2020 and 2021 seasons at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL announced today at his press conference in Miami in advance of Super Bowl LIV.

The date and time of the 2020 Mexico City game, along with the details of the NFL’s 2020 London games, will be determined in conjunction with the release of the NFL schedule this spring.  The continued success and growth of the NFL’s Mexico initiative is further testament to the league’s commitment to growing the game beyond the borders of the United States.

A look at the previous regular-season games played in Mexico:​

Date Opponents & Score Attendance
November 18, 2019 Kansas City 24, Los Angeles Chargers 17 76,252
November 19, 2017 New England 33, Oakland 8 77,357
November 21, 2016 Houston 20, Oakland 27 76,473*
October 2, 2005 San Francisco 14, Arizona 31 103,467**

* first Monday Night Football game to be played outside the U.S.

** first regular season game to be played outside the U.S.

 

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY NFL COMMUNICATIONS; COURTESY NFLmedia.com

 

Chargers legend Donnie Edwards named NFL, USAA 2019 recipient of Salute to Service Award

Donnie Edwards at the Expeditionary Medical Force hospital in Kuwait, 2007 photo, By Kelly, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org

Edwards’ commitment to supporting U.S. military members, veterans and their families to be recognized at NFL Honors in Miami

The NFL and USAA, an Official NFL Salute to Service Partner, named Los Angeles Chargers Legend DONNIE EDWARDS as the recipient of the 2019 Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. The award was created to acknowledge the exceptional efforts by members of the NFL community to honor and support members of the military community.

Edwards will be recognized at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 1, the eve of Super Bowl LIV, at 8 PM (ET and PT) on FOX. NFL Honors will be taped earlier that evening at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Edwards’ honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to the Edwards’ military charity of choice.

“Inspired by his grandfather’s service in WWII, Donnie has exhibited true appreciation for the sacrifices of WWII veterans and those currently serving overseas,” said Vice Admiral (Ret.) JOHN BIRD, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs. “In honor of his very admirable work with those in the greatest generation, USAA is proud to honor Donnie Edwards as the recipient of this year’s ‘Salute to Service Award presented by USAA.’”

In five seasons with the Chargers, Edwards was twice voted All-Pro at linebacker and, at the time of his retirement, was one of only eight players in NFL history to record at least 20 career interceptions and 20 career sacks. As passionate off the field as he was on the gridiron, community involvement quickly became a staple of Edwards’ career. In 2002, he founded the Best Defense Foundation to help support two of his passions: youth outreach and military programs.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of the Salute of Service Award for my work with the military,” Edwards said. “It means so much to me to continue the legacy of my grandfather, Maximino, by honoring the ones who defended – and continue to defend – freedom.”

On the youth front, Edwards’ foundation supported and funded numerous programs through organizations such as Boy Scouts of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Read Across America that educated youth on nutrition and fitness. In addition, Best Defense Foundation also made a $40,000 donation to construct a new weight room at his alma mater, Chula Vista High School.

Edwards’ commitment to providing a positive influence in a child’s life is only matched by his admiration for, and advocacy on behalf of, active military members and veterans. Deeply personal, his passionate support for the military was born out of family ties – Edwards’ grandfather served in World War II and survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  Growing up being a part of a military family fueled his interest in military history, taught him first-hand what sacrifices veterans, servicemembers and their families endure, and motivated him to educate others on paying respect to servicemembers as well as how to honor those who gave up their lives to fight for our freedom.

“My grandfather was the inspiration to start the Best Defense Foundation,” Edwards said. “His service and sacrifice to our country has always pushed me to pay tribute and give gratitude to those who protect our way of life. He always used to tell me that I have a tremendous amount of opportunity and freedom by being born in this great nation. I now want to use my platform to serve and give back to our active military personnel and veterans.”

Edwards’ gratitude for servicemen and women spurred him to participate in nine USO tours and one Armed Forces Entertainment Tour to help boost morale for troops overseas. He joined the 101st Airborne 506 E-Company Paratroopers – a group of military historians who participate in combat reenactments both in the United Stated and abroad – and has traveled extensively to Europe and Asia to tour numerous WWII sites. Ultimately, his experience in the reenactments and travel abroad pushed him to concentrate on the military component to his Foundation. Nearly 20 years later, the Best Defense Foundation now solely focuses on raising funds to take World War II and Vietnam Veterans back to their battlefields and memorials in an effort to help them make peace and pay respect to fallen soldiers who never received the opportunity to live a full life.

“It’s been really rewarding for me. I’ve been taking back veterans for about 14 years and I’ve done over 33 programs around the world – from Berchtesgaden, Germany to the beaches of Iwo Jima, and everything in between,” said Edwards.

In February 2019, Edwards went to Japan on an NFL-USO Tour to watch the Super Bowl with the troops in Okinawa. Like Normandy, he took seven Iwo Jima survivors back to the islands earlier this year. Later that year, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Edwards took 16 veterans and a nurse who served in World War II on a 10-day trip to the shores of Normandy in Northern France.

Back home, Edwards has worked with the Chargers organization – whose late owner Alex G. Spanos was a WWII veteran himself and made military support a cornerstone of the team’s philanthropic efforts – to honor WWII veterans during special ceremonies at LA’s annual Salute to Service game each November.

At the end of the day, Edwards credits the game of football for giving him the platform to do so much for those who served.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than taking veterans back to where they left their blood, sweat and tears to preserve the freedoms we enjoy,” Edwards said. “I do this to honor my grandfather and his legacy. Growing up, he took care of me, and now I’m taking care of the men like him who sacrificed so much for our country. There’s a reason our motto is, ‘Taking care of the ones who took care of us.’”

The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA’s year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military community. In October 2019, 32 NFL clubs nominated coaches, active and retired players, and team executives and personnel, who best demonstrated support for the military community. These nominees were publicly announced in November and the submissions were evaluated by a panel of judges, including last year’s award recipient, former Atlanta Falcons and current San Francisco 49ers guard BEN GARLAND. Nominees’ credentials are evaluated based on the positive effect of the individual’s efforts on the military community, the type of service conducted, the thoroughness of the program and level of commitment.

The panel of judges, consisting of representatives from the U.S. military, the NFL and USAA, includes:

  • VICE ADMIRAL JOHN BIRD (Ret.), U.S. Navy veteran, USAA Senior Vice President of Military Affairs
  • CHAD HENNINGS, Air Force Academy graduate, three-time Super Bowl champion
  • BEN GARLAND, San Francisco 49ers guard and 2018 Salute to Service Award recipient
  • JIM MORA, SR., Marine Corps veteran, former NFL head coach
  • VINCENT JACKSON, Former NFL player & 2015 Salute to Service Award recipient
  • LENNY BANDY, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and NFL Vice President of Security

Below is the list of previous Salute to Service Award recipients:

YEAR RECIPIENT TEAM
2018 Ben Garland Atlanta Falcons
2017 Andre Roberts Atlanta Falcons
2016 Dan Quinn (Head Coach) Atlanta Falcons
2015 Vincent Jackson Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2014 Jared Allen Chicago Bears
2013 John Harbaugh (Head Coach) Baltimore Ravens
2012 Charles Tillman Chicago Bears
2011 K.S. “Bud” Adams Jr. (Late Owner) Tennessee Titans

 

The Salute to Service Award presented by USAA is part of the NFL and USAA’s year-round commitment to recognize and honor the military community. To read about all 32 nominees, visit www.nfl.com/salute.

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About USAA

The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments, retirement products and advice to more than 13 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving our nation in the U.S. military or have received a discharge type of Honorable – and their eligible family members. Founded in 1922, USAA is headquartered in San Antonio. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.

 

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY Jordyn White, NFL; Michael Pernal, 160over90 (for USAA); COURTESY NFLmedia.com

 

2019 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year is Matt Land of Dalton, Georgia High School

Matt Land ((courtesy Dalton Public Schools)

The NFL announced head football coach MATT LAND of Dalton High School in Dalton, GA, as the 2019 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year.

The award, named for the winningest coach in NFL history, was created to honor exemplary high school football coaches for their character and integrity, leadership and dedication to the community, commitment to player health and safety and on-field success.

“We are incredibly proud of Coach Land for how he has represented his family, school, and the great state of Georgia – he truly is deserving of being named the Don Shula Coach of the Year,” said Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman ARTHUR M. BLANK. “Coach Land’s commitment to his players and community over the last 10 years is a genuine reflection of his character and further demonstrates the life skills taught in and through football by coaches like him make an impact far beyond gameday.”

Nominees for the Don Shula Award from all 32 clubs were invited and recognized in special ways during the NFL’s week-long celebration of football at the Pro Bowl in Orlando. Throughout the week, coaches received VIP access at various events such as Pro Bowl practices, the Play Football High School Skills Showdown and Pro Bowl, where they were able to engage with fellow nominees and members of the football community.

“Just to be mentioned in the phrase Don Shula is an honor in itself,” said 2019 Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year MATT LAND. “I think just the recognition of what the award stands for–it stands for integrity, achievement and making a difference in your community. That’s why I coach. I love wins. I love championships, but at the end of the day, I want to see kids’ lives changed. I thank God that this is the way that he lets me do it.”

Coach Land became a member of the Dalton High School family more than 25 years ago. A graduate of the 1988 class, he was a part of three football sub region championships, a 34-4-1 record, and was voted captain his senior year. Coach Land walked on at Auburn University as a defensive back, spending four years as a player, and one year as a student assistant coach to the defense. Not only a letter winner, he won the Eddie Welch Attitude and Effort Award in 1991. Upon college graduation, he returned to Dalton to work in a family business and become a community coach, being one of the first five in the state. He has coached at Dalton High School since then and has had more than 20 players who have gone on to play at the collegiate level.

Coach Land will receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go to his high school’s football program. He will additionally attend Super Bowl LIV in Miami and walk the red carpet at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 1 on FOX, the night before Super Bowl LIV.

This year’s runner-up was Minnesota Vikings nominee LAMBERT BROWN of Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minnesota. Brown will also receive $15,000 from the NFL Foundation, $10,000 of which will go to his high school’s football program. He will additionally attend Super Bowl LIV in Miami a special guest of the NFL.

The Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year winner was selected by a panel of distinguished individuals:

 

  • ​Pro Football Hall of Fame President DAVID BAKER
  • Former Dallas Cowboys Personnel Director and NFL.com contributor GIL BRANDT
  • Super Bowl XLIV winner and NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee Member MARK BRUNELL
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and current NBC analyst TONY DUNGY
  • Executive Director of USA Football SCOTT HALLENBECK
  • 3-time Super Bowl Champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX) and NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee Member WILLIE MCGINEST
  • 2x AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year, current head coach at the Sayre School (Lexington, Kentucky) and NFL Legends Youth Advisory Committee Member CHAD PENNINGTON
  • Pro Football Hall of Famer, Coach DON SHULA – the winningest coach in NFL history
  • Aplington-Parkersburg High School Principal AARON THOMAS, son of the school’s late football coach, Ed Thomas​

PAST WINNERS OF THE NFL DON SHULA HIGH SCHOOL COACH OF THE YEAR (From Wikipedia Commons)

Winners

Year Winner School Nominated by Ref
2010 Ray Seals Madison (TX) Houston Texans [5]
2011 John McKissick Summerville (SC) Carolina Panthers [6]
2012 Steve Specht St. Xavier (OH) Seattle Seahawks [7]
2013 Mike Grant Eden Prairie (MN) Minnesota Vikings [8]
2014 Bruce Larson Somerset (WI) Green Bay Packers [9]
2015 Michael Burnett Tuscarora (VA) Washington Redskins [10]
2016 Randy Allen Highland Park (TX) Dallas Cowboys [11]
2017 Robert Garrett Crenshaw (CA) Los Angeles Chargers [12]
2018 Gabe Infante St. Joseph’s (PA) Philadelphia Eagles [13]

Distinguished alumni from Dalton, Georgia High School includes:

Notable alumni (from Wikipedia commons)

 

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About The NFL Foundation: The National Football League Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those touched by the game of football – from players at all levels to communities across the country. The NFL Foundation represents the 32 NFL clubs and supports the health, safety and wellness of athletes, youth football, and the communities that support our game. For more information on The NFL Foundation, visit: www.NFLFoundation.org.

About Play Football: Play Football is a year-round initiative celebrating youth and high school football. Play Football works to shape the football experience, promote football values and connect football communities. For more information, featured football stories, best practices and resources aimed to create a positive playing experience, please visit PlayFootball.com. Join the conversation on social media using #PlayFootball.

 

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY Taylor Kielpinski-Rogers, NFL; COURTESY NFLmedia.com

 

Super Bowl LIV Preview and Capsule: 49ers and Chiefs


The National Football League is commemorating the end of its 100th season in Miami with Super Bowl LIV, featuring the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers, the designated road team, and the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs, the designated home team. FOX will televise the contest from Hard Rock Stadium, with kickoff slated for 6:30 PM ET.

Including the postseason, 49ers quarterback JIMMY GAROPPOLO (23-5, .821) and Chiefs quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES (27-8, .771) have a combined career winning percentage of .794, the highest combined winning percentage among opposing starting Super Bowl quarterbacks (minimum 25 starts).

For the Super Bowl LIV capsule, click here.

Here’s what’s at stake in Super Bowl LIV:

With a San Francisco victory…

  • The 49ers would record their sixth Super Bowl victory, tied with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl titles by one franchise. San Francisco also captured Super Bowls XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX.
  • The team would become just the second club in NFL history to win a Super Bowl after finishing the previous season with four-or-fewer wins, joining the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
  • San Francisco would win the Super Bowl for the first time in 25 years. At the same stadium, on January 29, 1995, the 49ers concluded the NFL’s 75th season with a 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Miami.
  • Head coach KYLE SHANAHAN and his father, MIKE SHANAHAN, would become the first father and son head coaches to win Super Bowls. Mike won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
  • San Francisco would improve to 6-1 in Super Bowls, and 3-0 in Miami Super Bowls (also XXIII after the ’88 season and XXIX after the ’94 season).

With a Kansas City win…

  • Nearly 50 years to the date of their last Super Bowl appearance (January 11, 1970, Super Bowl IV), the Chiefs would have their first world championship in five decades.
  • In the 60th season of the Chiefs franchise, the Lombardi Trophy would return to Kansas City for the first time since the AFL merged with the NFL prior to the 1970 campaign. LAMAR HUNT, who founded the franchise in 1960 and passed away in 2006, helped to create the AFL. He also asked then-NFL Commissioner PETE ROZELLE to call the game the Super Bowl.
  • Head coach ANDY REID would win his first Super Bowl. Reid would have 222 career wins, including postseason. Only five coaches in the history of the league have more victories, including the postseason.
  • Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES would become the second-youngest quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl (BEN ROETHLISBERGER, Super Bowl XL).

The 49ers, who were 4-12 in 2018, became the third team to advance to a Super Bowl after winning four-or-fewer games the prior season, joining the 1999 St. Louis Rams (4-12 in 1998) and the 1988 Cincinnati Bengals (4-11 in 1987).

San Francisco earned a trip to Miami with a 37-20 win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship. Running back RAHEEM MOSTERT rushed for 220 yards, the second-most ever in an NFL postseason game, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON’s 248 rushing yards for the Los Angeles Rams on January 4, 1986. Mostert also became the third player in postseason history to rush for at least four touchdowns in a single game, joining RICKY WATTERS (five) and LEGARRETTE BLOUNT (four).

Quarterback JIMMY GAROPPOLO has a 23-5 (.821) career record as a starter, including the postseason, and makes his first-career Super Bowl start.

Tight end GEORGE KITTLE has 2,945 career receiving yards and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA (2,774) for the most receiving yards by a tight end in his first three seasons in league annals. Wide receiver EMMANUEL SANDERS joined Pro Football Hall of Famers WALTER PAYTON and LADAINIAN TOMLINSON, along with ODELL BECKHAM JR., as the only non-quarterbacks to record both a passing and receiving touchdown in multiple games since 1970. Wide receiver DEEBO SAMUEL had three games with at least 100 receiving yards in 2019, the most by a rookie in franchise history.

Rookie defensive lineman NICK BOSA has recorded three sacks in the 49ers first two postseason games and can become the third rookie since 1982 when the individual sack became an official statistic, to record at least four sacks in a single postseason, joining GREG TOWNSEND (4.5 sacks in 1983) and GARIN VERIS (four in 1985). Defensive lineman ARIK ARMSTEAD has recorded a sack in each of San Francisco’s two postseason games this year while cornerback RICHARD SHERMAN has registered an interception in both the Divisional and Championship rounds. Defensive lineman DEE FORD spent five seasons (2014-18) with Kansas City and recorded a career-high 13 sacks and seven forced fumbles with the Chiefs in 2018.

Kansas City won the AFC Championship with a 35-24 win over the Tennessee Titans. Quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES led the Chiefs back from a 10-0 deficit, giving Kansas City its first lead on a highlight-reel, 27-yard run just prior to halftime. He also threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver SAMMY WATKINS caught seven passes for 114 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown. Earlier, the Chiefs captured the AFC West division title (12-4) for a fourth consecutive year, the longest streak in franchise history.

The Chiefs have scored at least 30 points in each of Mahomes’ first four career postseason starts, tied for the second-longest postseason streak in the Super Bowl era. At 24 years and 138 days old on Sunday, he is the fifth-youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl. With a victory, Mahomes would become the youngest player to win both an NFL MVP award and a Super Bowl championship, surpassing Hall of Famer EMMITT SMITH (24 years, 233 days old on the last day of his MVP 1993 season). Mahomes recorded 75 touchdown passes and 9,238 passing yards in his first 30 career games, both the most by any player through his first 30 career games in NFL history.

Running back DAMIEN WILLIAMS has four touchdowns this postseason, including three in the Chiefs Divisional Round victory. Williams has nine total touchdowns in his first five postseason games, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer TERRELL DAVIS (nine) and LARRY FITZGERALD (nine) for the most by a player in his first five postseason games in NFL history. Wide receiver TYREEK HILL has 21 career touchdowns of at least 40 yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (21) for the third-most such touchdowns in a player’s first four seasons in NFL history. Tight end TRAVIS KELCE became the first tight end in NFL history with four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Since 2017, Hill and Kelce have combined for 7,795 receiving yards, the most by a wide receiver-tight end teammate duo over a three-season span since 1970.​

 

GAME PREVIEW WRITTEN BY NFL COMMUNICATIONS; COURTESY NFLmedia.com

 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Annual Super Bowl Press Conference: Miami 2020 LIV

 

Roger Goodell speaking at US Military Academy By SSG Teddy Wade - U.S. Defense website, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org

Opening Statement:

 

“Good afternoon, and welcome to Super Bowl LIV.  We are thrilled to be here in Miami for the grand finale of our 100th season, and one of the best in NFL history.  This season, and this week, we are saluting players past, present and future, and celebrating our great game that continues to captivate, to inspire, to surprise and to unify.  The 100th season had it all and represents why the best days of the NFL are ahead of us.  Two points underscore this optimism: the game and the competitiveness of our league.  Nearly 70 percent of all games this season were within one score in the fourth quarter.  Incredible young players.  Eighty percent of the games in 2019 featured at least one starting quarterback under the age of 27, the most in our history.  This great play on the field has translated into record levels of support from the best fans in the world.  In fact, a record 187.3 million fans who can’t get enough football.  We continue to grow our fanbase and become even more popular with a new generation of fans as well as our diverse set of fans.  These fans watch games and NFL content on TV, on mobile devices and other platforms with a total social media reach of over 800 million viewers.

 

The Super Bowl LIV matchup is a fitting celebration and culmination of our 100th season.  Two storied franchises, exciting players on both sides of the ball, who captured our imaginations and who will inspire current and future fans for years to come.  But the teams, they took different journeys to get here.  The 49ers epitomized the hopes of all NFL fans.  The 49ers’ appearance in the Super Bowl comes just one year after they went 4-12, a great turnaround.  In fact, of the eight teams that advanced to the Divisional round this year, seven of those eight were new teams from last year, including the 49ers.  The one team to repeat, the Chiefs, were only one game away last year from going to the Super Bowl and went on to win an impressive fourth-straight divisional title this season.

 

We say football is about family, and we have two of the best in sports in this Super Bowl.  They happen to be led by women, the first matchup of its kind.  The Chiefs are guided by the Hunt family – Norma and Clark – who carry on the legacy of team founder, Lamar, who famously coined the term, ‘Super Bowl.’  Norma has attended every one of the 54 Super Bowls when she gets here this week, and she hopes to leave Miami with her first Super Bowl trophy – the Lombardi Trophy – in 50 years, when the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl.

 

And we have the 49ers back in the Super Bowl under the leadership of Denise, John and Jed York.  The 49ers won the Super Bowl after the NFL’s 75th season here in Miami and are hoping to win on Sunday to cap off our 100th season.  It should be a very fun and exciting day for all of us.  I know you have some questions, so I’ll be happy to take them now.”

 

With as much effort as the NFL has put into limiting injuries, an AP study yesterday shows concussions are up and the players injured most overall are at the speed positions – wide receiver, cornerback, safety. With player safety in mind, does it make sense to add a 17th regular season game to the schedule as has been discussed in labor talks?

“Safety has been at the forefront and our number one priority, and that of our players, and over the last 10 to 15 years in particular, I think we’ve had over 50 rule changes to make our game safer.  We’ve made changes in equipment, particularly with the helmet.  We have six new models coming out this year, all of which will raise the quality of the helmets that our players are wearing.  In addition, obviously we are working on research.  We have data that proves which techniques should be taken out of the game, so it effects how we change our rules.  And of course, for us, the data is the key component to what we want to do. It’s changing the season.  We don’t look at it just as do we have a 17th game.  We look at the entire season, the offseason, obviously training camp, how we prepare our players to get ready for the season, how we practice during the season.  So those changes and taking techniques out of the game have made our game safer. As you point out, the number one injury are the lower extremity injuries.  We have continued to apply the same model as we have done with concussions to reduce them by 30 percent.  You mentioned that concussions are up, but they’re up only slightly and statistically insignificant from a low last year of close to 30 percent.  So, we have what we think is a new baseline, and with all of our changes will continue to work to try to reduce that further.  We believe we have made the game safer, we’ve made it better, and we believe that we can restructure the season in a way that will be smart for the future of the game, but those discussions, as you point out, are in the context of our labor negotiations.  They’re in the context of working with our medical people and we’ve shared all that.  We’ve continued to have that kind of dialogue with players and we’ll continue to have that.”

 

As you know it’s been a decade since the game was played in South Florida. How would you say Miami and the Miami Dolphins are doing as hosts? And what is the potential for the game and future games to be returning here?

“It only took the second question for that to come out.  Listen, Miami, there’s a reason why it’s hosting its 11th Super Bowl, the most in NFL history. They are a great community. They know how to put on big events.  With a new stadium in Hard Rock Stadium, and I call it a new stadium because I think the work that’s been done here by Stephen Ross and his team have made it into a high quality stadium that I think everybody here is anxious to showcase, as well as this great community.  So, they know how to do this.  They have an experienced team that is hosting, the Super Bowl Host Committee, and we believe that we’ll be back here many times into the future.  It’s just a great spot for the Super Bowl, and we thank the people here for all the work they’ve done.”

 

It’s been five years since the Ray Rice incident and your pledge to get it right regarding cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. In that time, what have you learned about the challenges of investigating these cases and adjudicating them, and related to that, what is the status update of the investigation into Antonio Brown?

“The first one, I think we’ve learned a great deal.  It’s a complex set of issues that are involved with domestic violence.  There are things that we have learned as a league.  I think there are things that we have learned along with our experts in the field to try to understand how we can educate our players, our coaches, our executives. All of us in the NFL go through training every year to understand better how we can handle ourselves better, how we can look for signs if these types of things are happening around us.  I believe as a league, we have been incredibly responsive.  I think we’ve made changes in our league that have been very, what I would call, productive in trying to make sure that these incidents don’t occur. But, we live in a world where unfortunately they do, and what we have to do is continually stay ahead of our policy and try to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to prevent these terrible situations from occurring, and I think we’re leading the way.  And I hear that from experts in the field, that the NFL has stood up and done the right thing knowing that it’s a very complex issue.

 

I think that with Antonio’s situation, the first thing for all of us is to think about the well-being of Antonio, to understand what Antonio’s going through.  We don’t talk about the wellness of our players publicly, but I would tell you that you can be assured that the NFL and the NFLPA have a tremendous amount of resources that are available to all players. They are going to be made available to Antonio, and we want to help get him on the right track and get him in a position where he is in a zone where he thinks he can be successful in life.  We are confident that can happen, and we want to work to do that.  From our standpoint, that’s the first step, and the first step is making sure that we’re doing everything to help Antonio.”

 

It’s been a frustrating hiring cycle for minority coaches. What do you see? I know there’s the Rooney Rule, there’s different initiatives that the league has taken, but what’s it going to take for minority coaches to actually have more legitimate opportunities to climb those ranks and grow as head coaches, coordinators and front office officials?

“Yes, it’s clear we are not where we want to be on this level.  We have a lot of work that’s gone into not only the Rooney Rule, but our policies overall.  It’s clear we need to change and do something different.  There’s no reason to expect that we’re going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes, and we’ve already begun engaging in those changes, not just with our diversity committee, not just with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but others and trying to figure out what steps we can take next that would lead to better outcomes.  It’s clear we’re all committed to doing that and we have to make those changes.  We will have a series of meetings which we’ve already scheduled, clearly, over the next month to get that kind of dialogue going, to continue the dialogue and try to determine what are the solutions so we can have those better outcomes.”

 

There are new stadiums opening this fall in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. My question pertains particularly to Los Angeles. The league departed from tradition this season by opening with Packers vs. Bears in honor of the 100th season. Has there been consideration to kicking off the season in Los Angeles? If so, how might the NFL mitigate the traffic nightmare of a 5 p.m. kickoff midweek considering a half-filled stadium would not be a great look.

 

“From our standpoint, we look at not only celebrating the Super Bowl champion, but as you point out, we are relaunching two teams in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas in addition to celebrating our 100th birthday on September 17.  When we are looking at the schedule for next year, our hope would be to create the biggest and best platform for all those events.  They’re significant to the future of the league.  We are thrilled to be back in Los Angeles with two teams and thrilled to have a new stadium that will set a benchmark in stadiums, same with Las Vegas. We are launching the Raiders in Las Vegas.  I was out there a week ago, and the stadium is extraordinary, and I think it will be a great new home for the Raiders.  We have to put together the biggest stage for all those teams at that moment.  The way we do that is through scheduling.  We do have the flexibility to move the Super Bowl champ to either Thursday or Sunday.  But we are required by policy that it be one or the other.  We could very well start in Los Angeles on a Sunday to avoid that problem.  We’re going to be playing primetime games in Los Angeles at some point in time. The likelihood around the first event, as you know there is an acclimation for everybody getting in and out of the stadium.  I think it is going to be such a huge event, I’m not worried about a lack of fans there.”

 

Could you tell us about the experience of the NFL going back to Mexico? Estadio Azteca gave good luck to the Chiefs. Number two, does the NFL have plans for Mexico to host more games in the future?

 

“Yes.  We had a great experience this past November down in Mexico.  It was just a great event.  We love being there and look forward to being back.  We are proud to say that we’re going to be there for two more games over the next two years.  Our fan base there continues to grow and be more passionate.  Our partners have been extraordinary, and we want to continue that and build on that.  We look forward to being there the next two years and I assume we will be announcing our schedule in the next 60 days.”

 

Broncos president Joe Ellis recently said that Bowlen family unity is not required by the league, but is necessary in his view for Brittany Bowlen, presumably, to become the next controlling owner. What’s your stance on unity being a requirement for the trustees? As a follow up, at what point is it best for the team just to be put up for sale?

“It starts with what Pat Bowlen’s wishes were.  He established the trust to make sure there was orderly transition of the franchise if something should happen to him.  Unfortunately, it did.  Pat wanted to make sure the franchise was in good hands, good management.  He understood the importance of the league policies, and he supported that.  He was one of the best league men I knew.  I talked to him probably every day, both as commissioner in my earlier years and also as chief operating officer.  He wants his franchise, the Denver Broncos, to continue to have that success.  That’s why he set up the trust the way he did.  So, for us, we want to make sure that his wishes are followed.  I don’t think he’d be happy about the public disputes that are going on.  Unity is something that I think as an organization in the NFL, you have one person who makes a decision on the behalf of the ownership group and that’s a vital and principle point in our ownership policy.  That is what Pat understood, he wanted that, and we need to have that in the case of all franchises, so that at some point in time we’ll have to develop in the context of the Broncos.”

 

As you know, Los Angeles is mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, there are tributes all over the world. I have the statement from the NFL on Kobe Bryant’s passing. I wonder if you would expand on that a little bit. Have you met Kobe personally? Then secondly, is the league planning on doing a tribute during the Super Bowl?

“Well first, I don’t think just Los Angeles is mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant.  Kobe was a special person.  I did have the opportunity to meet him.  He obviously brought a lot to our world, and I think all of us, not only feel for the tragic events to his family, but as well as everybody else who was a passenger in the helicopter.  It’s hard to understand, and it’s hard to process.  I’m proud of, as the story unfolded unfortunately on Sunday, the way our players, the way our league responded including a moment of silence during the Pro Bowl game with Kobe’s picture up and the way the fans responded to that.  We did that again when we started here on Monday night.  So, we as a league have been very responsive and I think respectful of somebody that contributed so much to sports.  We also lost one of our own legends last night, Chris Doleman, who I personally was very fond of and meant a great deal to me and the league in general.  I think both of those individuals will be seen on Sunday in some fashion in a respectful way.”

 

With the NFLPA having a meeting tomorrow with the player reps, what is your level of optimism that a deal will be completed in the coming weeks, and along with that, from the view of the league and ownership, does 17 games have to be part of the deal for it to be done?

 

“As I mentioned before, we are not going to negotiate here in a press conference, so that is not something that I am going to take a position on.  We have been having incredibly productive dialogue.  I think we have made a lot of progress.  It is now seven or eight months since we have begun discussions more formally.  In each of those discussions, it has been open dialogue and has been thoughtful.  I think we have addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward.  I think the players, management, everyone in the negotiation have to work to try to find creative solutions to make the NFL better, and that is what you want. The process will close when the process closes, when all of us feel comfortable that we reach an agreement that we want to go forward with. I do not know when that will be, but I think it is more important to get it right.”

 

You have been at this since 2006 as commissioner. Have you given any thought into how much longer you want to continue and along those lines? Do you feel like once the CBA is done and the new set of television contracts are signed that your work is done?

 

“Well, one thing I learned from this job is that your work is never done.  I believe there are always challenges that this league will have to address.  And I want to put our league in the best possible position.  I do believe that leadership is important and that consistent leadership in some fashion is critical for the league.  And so, succession will be an important part of it. But I have not thought about retiring.  It is not on my agenda.  We have too much to do, and I think too many great things are happening in this league right now.  But at some point, I am going to retire. That day is probably closer than it was yesterday.  But I am not focused on that.  I am 100 percent committed to this job.”

 

About a year ago, the ownership of the Buffalo Bills commissioned a study about what to do with its stadium situation, either new construction or another upgrade of the circa-1973 New Era Field. What’s your understanding, the league’s understanding, of where that stands from the study, if you could shed light on that, and also, what is your and the league’s position on what should the next steps be for a facility in Buffalo?

“Well, as you know, I’ve been involved with negotiations in Buffalo going back into the ’90s.  Consistently through that time period, we have focused on the stadium and the importance of the stadium in the context of that, and the need to continue to renovate and/or look to see whether a new stadium is a better answer for the long term.  This has been contemplated in the leases right up until, I think, the most recent one, which I believe was 2016, but that is coming to a close.  At that point in time, I am hoping that it will continue, and I expect that it will continue to be a collaborative process between the public sector and obviously the Bills.  We all want the Buffalo Bills to continue to be in Buffalo, to be successful.  A stadium that is going to be competitive with other stadiums around the league is going to be important in that context, and I think everyone is committed to that, whether it is new, significant renovation or whether it is a completely new facility in a new location.  I think those are things that the group has to settle collectively and to address over the next several months, if not sooner.”

 

You mentioned that in celebration of the 100th anniversary that you have focused on players past and present. I’m wondering why there was not more done to recognize the 12 years that African American players were effectively banned from the league, and does more need to be done to address that part of the league’s history?

“Well, it’s part of our history.  We do not walk away from that. It is not necessarily something that we look back at with pride.  We look at what we have done since that time period and what we have tried to do to make sure that our league is diverse.  Over 70 percent of our players are African American.  As we have talked about earlier, we are trying to make our front offices diverse, we are trying to make our coaching staffs diverse.  There is always going to be more work to be done, and it is necessary work and it is important.  We believe that diversity makes us better as a league, and that is something we are focusing on going into the next 100 years.  How do we continue to be not only a more diverse organization, but how do we celebrate and make sure that people do have the opportunities that we believe are important as an organization.”

 

I know the Patriots aren’t here, but we can’t go a year without a Patriots question. I am curious about the videotaping incident that they had with the Bengals. What is the status of the investigation, when do you expect it to be complete, and why is it taking so long? You have the video, the Patriots admitted wrongdoing. Shouldn’t it be relatively open-and-shut?

“Well, the answer to that question is no, it shouldn’t.  Our responsibility is to make sure we are being extremely thorough.  We have the responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have responsibility to partners, we have responsibility to fans to understand all of what happened, and make sure that something that we don’t know happened, didn’t happen.  And so, from our standpoint, we want to make sure that we are being thorough.  Our team has been on it. We have been focused on this.  I think it has not been that lengthy a period of time.  We have obviously put focus on it, but we are going to get it right, and when we come to a conclusion, we will certainly make sure people are aware of it.”

 

Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back, wrote an op-ed piece in our newspaper recently calling for increased pensions for players who retired before 1993. Do you support increasing their pensions so that they are equivalent to the pensions of players who retired after 1993?

“That is a collective bargaining issue.  I think the players, current players and NFL management and owners believe firmly that we should address pensions of our retired players.  Again, as you know, we have addressed retired player benefits in each of our last, I believe it’s five Collective Bargaining Agreements, but we are committed to doing that again.  There has been a lot of discussion about that, a lot of focus on that, and I am confident that when we reach an agreement that there’ll be improved benefits for retired players once again.”

 

With 14 months still on the current union contract, what is your personal sense of urgency to get a deal done sooner rather than later, and why in particular might it be beneficial to you and the League to get this done sooner rather than later?

 

“I think it starts with the fact that if you reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the benefits that will be negotiated in that context will immediately go to, not only the current players, but as just raised, the former players.  There are changes to the system that I think can be beneficial.  There are changes to the system that potentially could be beneficial to our clubs, we could begin on that process immediately, and the impact could be felt by our players and clubs immediately.  That’s the process of a collective bargaining.  It’s a negotiation.  It’s trying to make sure you’re reaching agreement on issues that are very complex, but also are good for the future of the game.  If that future can be moved forward and everyone can benefit by that, that’s a positive.  That’s the number one reason and the second and third reason, by the way.  We obviously have a lot of things that we would have to put in place, both the union and the NFL once we do reach an agreement, and I think we’re all sort of anxious to get to that place, but we’re also going to be careful and make sure we get to the right place.”

 

Just wondered if there was an update on where we’re at with a London franchise, and whether any timeline had been set?

“No, a timeline has not been set in London for a franchise.  We have grown incredibly quickly in London, as you know.  The support there has been extraordinary, both the public sector, the private sector, our fans, our clubs.  I think we now have 31 of the 32 teams that have been to London.  All of them come back raving about the experience. We look at our job as to make sure that London can continue to grow, and we can continue to build on the fans that we have now, and that’s something that is our number one priority.  Our second priority would be, could we have a franchise-ready market?  As you know, we played in a new stadium in Tottenham this year.  It was a great experience for the four clubs that played there.  I was in attendance at one of those. It was terrific. We also have Wembley Stadium, so the flexibility of scheduling with two stadiums has been a huge plus for us, but I think we still have to get back to the point of, can we do it in a competitive way?   Can we do it so that all teams, all 32 teams, not just a team, if there was a team in London, are playing there in a competitive fashion?  That’s number one for us.”

 

Just wondering if you could shed some light on a possible timeline for the Super Bowl coming to Las Vegas. And then also your thoughts on the progress that the Raiders have made in their new endeavor and also the level of embracement that Las Vegas has shown both from fans and the business community to the NFL’s presence there.

“Well, as you know, I was just out there within the last two weeks.  You can feel the excitement.  You can see the excitement by the stadium.  It’s a great facility.  I’ve had a chance to go through it on multiple occasions in the last several months.  I think it’s going to be great for the community.  I think we’re going to be great for the community, and I think the community’s going to be great for us.  Las Vegas is growing and I think becoming a much more diverse city than it has in the past, and we are anxious to be part of that.  The reception has really been tremendous.  You can see it with the fans and their reaction not only in ticket sales, but you see it from the business community and how they’re wrapping their arms around this team.  We think it’s going to be a great success.  We’re anxious to be there.  As you know, we’ll be having the Draft there which will be a good start.  As I said when I was out there, I think we should get through the Draft before we focus on the Super Bowl, but that is coming quickly, and our attempt to move to the next Super Bowl probably will be done before the calendar year here in 2020.”

 

What are the advantages for the league in having a superstar like a Patrick Mahomes in a market like Kansas City as opposed to a New York or Los Angeles?

“Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me.  I have to tell you that not only is he an incredible player, but he is an incredible young man.  Wherever he plays in the NFL, he’s going to have an impact and I’m proud to have him as a Kansas City Chief.  I would guess there’s 31 other teams that wouldn’t mind having him either, but the reality is he’s just made us better and he’s made the Chiefs better as evidenced by the fact that they’re here in the Super Bowl. And as I mentioned up front, when we think about the future of the NFL with people like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson and some of these great young players – we like to tease around the office that Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t fit into that 27 stat because he’s 28 – but this is the future of our league. Not just with quarterbacks, with great young players at every position, and we’re happy to have him as a Kansas City Chief and happy to have him here in the Super Bowl.”

 

When it comes to potentially relocating an NFL franchise to a different country, London, England, often is discussed. But you, and maybe others, have maybe forgotten that there’s a city in North America, Toronto, Canada, that has six million people that live in a one to two-hour flight of half the NFL teams. You wouldn’t have any of the logistical concerns or blockades from sending a team as you would anywhere overseas to Europe. So, my question is where is Toronto on the NFL’s radar, if anywhere, and why wouldn’t Toronto make the most sense of any city to move a team to?

“Well, it seems you already came to that conclusion.  You said it’s off my radar screen, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  I have great admiration – I’m from Western New York, I spent a lot of time in Canada as a young kid, and I have nothing but admiration for Toronto.  I think it’s a great city that continues to evolve, continues to grow.  It certainly could be a great city for an NFL team.  The one thing, and I’ve said this openly over the years, you may not be aware of it, but a stadium that is up to NFL standards is going to be a certain requirement.  That is going to be an important element.  It’s going to have to be focused on.  It’s not enough to just have a great city, which you have.  You have to have the facility also.”

 

Today was NFL PLAY 60 kids’ day, and there are a number of other community events throughout this week. Why is it important for the league and its players to give back to communities across the country?

 

“Well, I think it’s who we are.  The National Football League is community, and I mentioned that earlier.  We believe that nothing brings a community together better than an NFL team or an NFL event, like we’re seeing here today.   We can make a difference in communities, and we can do that in particular by sharing what’s authentic to the NFL, and one of those is well-being.  It’s exercise, it’s proper nutrition.  That’s how our athletes get to become world-class athletes.  Not every kid is going to become a world-class athlete in the NFL or in professional sports, but there are healthy lifestyles that you can learn from our players in the NFL, and I think that’s why we chose PLAY 60 as our initiative because we knew it’s authentic to who we are.  We believe that – whether you play professional sports or not – you will live a more productive life, your school will be better, your work will be better, if you embrace a healthy lifestyle, and that includes exercising and that includes nutrition.  Those are all very important to us, so it’s a good question, and I hope you had a good time today.”

 

Closing Statement:

 

“Before you go, I’d like to just thank this community once again.  I’ll start with our host, Stephen Ross, and the whole Miami Dolphins organization.  The owners put their trust in their fellow partner when they select a Super Bowl city, and Stephen has demonstrated, not only was that well placed, but what he’s done with Hard Rock Stadium.  I know we’re all anxious to put it on the stage that it deserves. We salute the community, the leadership here, the local leaders, the public officials from across this region and the Super Bowl task force – as I mentioned, the 11th time that they’ve hosted this game, their experience is unmatched.  And the way they get things done in this community is extraordinary.  So, we’re grateful to everybody here, the thousands of volunteers that have made this such a great event that is bigger and better every year, as you all look around and see, and Miami has done its part, and we thank you for that.”

 

PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT WRITTEN BY NFL COMMUNICATIONS; COURTESY NFLmedia.com

 

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