A LETTER FROM ROGER GOODELL

A message from the Commisioner Roger Goodell

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With one of the most exciting regular seasons now completed
and the playoffs about to begin, let me first thank you and all NFL
fans for your incredible support. Many fans have been asking me
where we stand on signing a new collective bargaining agreement
with the player's union. Let me update you and be clear at the
outset:

I know we can and will reach an agreement.
My goal as Commissioner now is to help our teams and players
find a solution that is fair to everyone and ensures that football
becomes more popular, accessible, and fun. We want the next
decade to be the best yet for our fans, and I'm ready to work day
and night to make that happen.

We've come a long way. Compare where we are today with 10
years ago. From player accountability to player safety, more and
better television coverage, upgrading the in-stadium experience,
innovations like the RedZone channel, the Draft in prime time
and playing the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl, we are focused
on doing what's best for the players, teams, and fans. My priority
is and always will be the game and the fans who love our game.
The NFL is great because fans care deeply about it. Economic
conditions, however, have changed dramatically inside and
outside the NFL since 2006 when we negotiated the last CBA. A
10 percent unemployment rate hurts us all. Fans have limited
budgets and rightly want the most for their money. I get it.
Yes, NFL players deserve to be paid well. Unfortunately,
economic realities are forcing everyone to make tough choices
and the NFL is no different.

These are not easy negotiations, but the outcome can be
positive. If both sides give a little, everyone, including fans, will
get a lot and the game will improve through innovation.
Even in difficult economic times, a new CBA presents us with the
opportunity to secure the future of our game. You may ask how
will the NFL look under this vision?
A significant change would be to resolve fan complaints about
preseason by modifying our 20-game format. Fans tell us they
don't like the quality of the preseason games, and we're
listening. An enhanced season of 18 regular season and two
preseason games would not add a single game for the players
collectively, but would give fans more meaningful, high-quality
football.

Our emphasis on player health and safety is absolutely essential
to the future of our game. We are strictly enforcing rules that
protect players from unnecessarily dangerous play, especially
involving hits to the head. We are changing the "play through it"
culture to a "player-first" culture to ensure that if a player has a
head injury, he doesn't play again until his health is certain. We
are also addressing the potential wear-and-tear on players in the
way they train in-season and off-season
It's not just the health of players that concerns us. We must
ensure the health of the league. That includes a new system that
properly compensates proven veterans and retired players by
shifting some of the outrageous sums paid to many unproven
rookies. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated published a list of the
50 highest-paid American athletes that included five 2009 NFL
rookies. Every other athlete on the list was a proven veteran. In
2009, NFL clubs contracted $1.2 billion to 256 drafted rookies
with $585 million guaranteed before they had stepped on an NFL
field.

Don't get me wrong: top draft choices will continue to be highly
paid. All we're asking for is a return to common sense in paying
our rookies. Other leagues have done this and we can too.
These improvements and more will lead to better football, plain
and simple. A forward looking CBA that is fair to players and
clubs will lead to a great future for the NFL and our fans.
My job is to represent the game — the fans, teams, players,
coaches and business partners. Protecting the integrity of the
game and ensuring it thrives is a responsibility I take very
seriously.

This is about more than a labor agreement. It's about the future
of the NFL. We have to improve and will be relentless in our
quest. The commitment to our fans is to make the NFL
experience even better in the years ahead. With a responsible
CBA, we will fulfill that vision.

Happy New Year and enjoy the playoffs.
– Roger Goodell

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