NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn't been the most popular figure with fans this season, as officiating issues and the handling of the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal have angered many who love professional football. Perhaps in an attempt to rebuild some of his credibility, Goodell answered fans' questions in a Reddit AMA on Monday.
One of the most popular subjects for Reddit users was player safety. While many fans of the game understand the need to make severe injuries, especially to the head, less likely to occur, there has been frustration in recent years as some rule changes have led fans to believe the game has gone soft.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, a popular Reddit user himself, got a chance to ask Goodell a question about player safety. Goodell was not aware of who was asking the question. Readers got a laugh out of that, and pointed out who was asking the question. Kluwe asked about the specific balance between player safety and hard-nosed football, and Goodell looked back at the history of the sport:
The game of football has always been tough and always will be. Even before the NFL was founded, President Teddy Roosevelt called the college presidents in to make sure that the safety issues of the game were addressed since there had been 17 deaths in 1905 alone. From there came the first and ten, forward pass and the inception of the NCAA. Since then, the game has flourished while sticking to the fundamentals of fair and competitive football. Our football coaches and executives wanted to bring the game back to the fundamentals of tackling and blocking. We have seen some of the best NFL football in our history during this season's playoffs. Hope we finish with another great one on Sunday.
That was the last question Goodell answered.
Obviously, safety issues weren't just on fans' minds. When Goodell was asked about general potential rule changes in the future, his response again alluded to keeping players healthy:
We're reevaluating all low blocks on defenders. I would anticipate that there will be changes in this area. These rules are studied very carefully by the Competition Committee, which is made up of GMs, owners and coaches, including with input from the players, and then voted on by the full membership. The reason they get such careful analysis is to make sure we understand the unintended consequences of any rule changes, and that they can be officiated with consistency.
Many users, especially fans of the Saints, had questions for Goodell related to New Orleans's bounty scandal. With it being such a sensitive subject, it's not a surprise that the commissioner mostly avoided answering, especially the several questions about how safe he will feel when in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. However, when asked if he regretted the way he handled the scandal and if he would change anything, Goodell did offer a response:
We removed bounties from the game. Bounties won't be part of football. That's good for everyone involved.
In the future, I hope that everyone--commissioners, coaches, players and the union--will work better collectively to ensure the safety of the game and enforcement of our rules. The safety of our game is a shared responsibility.
That answer wasn't too popular, as several users believed Goodell was dodging the question.
While safety and bounty-related questions were the most common, a few other topics elicited interesting responses. When asked about potential NFL expansion into other countries, Goodell didn't squash the idea:
We expanded our regular season series in London to two games this year. So far, we've seen the same passionate support for the NFL in London, based on ticket sales to date. If our game continues to grow in London, it would not surprise me if we had an NFL team in London someday.
And even though fans of losing teams in smaller markets often complain about the NFL's blackout rules, Goodell pointed out that blackouts in the league are on a steep decline:
The blackout rule has served us well for several decades. In the 70s, we averaged 50% of our games blacked out. In the 80s, 40% of our games were blacked out. In the 90s, 30% of our games were blacked out. The past two seasons, it has been around 6%. We continue to be the only league with our games on free television, so that everyone can see them. This is the balance between having full stadiums with a first class in-stadium experience and having our games on free television.
All in all, Goodell offered responses to questions related to the most predominant topics of this NFL season. While skeptics of the commissioner may not have deemed his answers to be sufficient, in this case, they can't fault him for failing to consider the fans' feelings on the sport.