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Goodell bristles at suggestion NFL has gone “soft”

Roger Goodell

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, center, answers questions from fans at the Carolina Panthers’ NFL football training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)


During a Wednesday visit to Panthers training camp, Commissioner Roger Goodell answered a wide range of questions from fans.

On one topic, a fan apparently struck a nerve.

The fan asked whether Goodell’s imposition of fines for illegal hits has caused the game to go “too soft.” Per Steve Reed of, Goodell was blunt.

“I tell you what, put your pads on and come out and play with those guys,” Goodell said. “You think it’s too soft. Look at those guys [on the field warming up]. You still think it’s too soft? I don’t buy that for one second. Those players play a very tough game and they play it at an extremely high level.”

He’s right. The game isn’t soft, at all. The fact that players resist efforts to make the game safer proves how tough they are.

But Goodell is thinking long term here. With more and more being learned about the dangers of chronic head trauma, the sport will have a hard time surviving -- and thriving -- absent greater sensitivity to those issues, and greater efforts to eliminate them from the game.

Besides, it’s the right thing to do, despite the fans’ desire to see large men knock each other out.