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Goodell: I don’t want to take away the toughness of the game

Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft

NFL football Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and others, arrives at the NFL Players Association in Washington, Monday, July 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has heard all the criticism from NFL players who think he’s going way too far in fining them for on-field hits, but Goodell says he doesn’t want to change the nature of the game.

Instead, Goodell said today on ESPN Radio, he’s simply trying to make moderate changes to the game to make it safer -- and he said that for every linebacker or defensive back who doesn’t like his emphasis on protecting defenseless players, there’s a quarterback or receiver who does like it.

“It depends on the player and what position they play,” Goodell said. “We want to make the game safer, but we don’t want to take anything away from the toughness of the game and why we love the game. But there are clearly changes that have happened through the decades where techniques have been taken out of the game and they’ve made the game safer, and they’ve made players safer, and hopefully extend their careers. That’s good for them.”

Goodell said players have long resisted the league’s efforts to make the game safer, going back decades before he became commissioner.

“I recognize the reaction -- we had it back in the 70s when we put more protection in for the quarterbacks,” Goodell said. “You saw, ‘We should just let the quarterbacks wear skirts.’ It’s just part of the evolution of the game, but we’re going to continue to do that, to make the game safer, to extend careers, and continue to produce high-quality football.”

According to Goodell, the record ratings the NFL has had in recent years prove that the changes he’s making to the NFL are changes the fans support.

“When you look at the ratings, when you look at the attendance, when you look at the passion for the game, they’re all on the rise,” Goodell said. “So it’s obviously working in a positive way.”

But Goodell’s logic there isn’t necessarily sound: Fans love football and are tuning in to NFL broadcasts in record numbers, but that doesn’t mean they love everything about the way the NFL is being run right now. Emphasizing the safety of players is admirable, but Goodell shouldn’t assume the fans are in his corner on this issue -- and he shouldn’t assume they’ll agree with his contention that he hasn’t taken away from the toughness of the game.