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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s Open Letter to the Fans

NFL.com posted a letter this morning from Roger Goodell to the NFL fans regarding the future of the league and the looming CBA agreement. It was also sent via email to the NFL’s email subscribers. Here are some of the highlights, key points, and my thoughts.

I know we can and will reach an agreement.

That’s encouraging… Call me when it’s signed, sealed, and delivered.

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.

I’ve give him the RedZone (which is nothing short of phenomenal), and I like the Draft in prime time. I’m not sure what he means when he says “upgrading the in-stadium experience.” He may be referring to NFL Fan conduct policy, NFL Fanvision, both, or more. I still won’t watch the Pro Bowl, so that move is really irrelevant in my mind. Sidenote: If they eliminated the Po Bowl game and just had an NBA style skills competition, I’d be much more interested.

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.

While I like the concept of “more real football,” I think this solution really avoids the true crux of the fan complaints. I’m not a season ticket holder, but I believe the major complaint is being forced to buy preseason tickets at regular season prices. The logical solution is to simply lower prices of the preseason games, right? This solution just changes the amount of overpriced tickets you need to buy from 2 to 1.

I also hold some concern that the lack of preseason games will make player evaluation more difficult. Although, the NFL at one time had 6 pre-season games, so it’s likely that teams will be able to adjust.

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.

I somewhat begrudgingly agree. I like the physical nature of football and I hate the ticky-tack fouls, but I understand the desire for a change. It’s a forward thinking concept that will frustrate fans in the short term.

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.

Amen, brother. Pay the veterans who have produced and don’t force clubs to waste money on the next Ryan Leaf. I don’t think anyone (except maybe Andrew Luck’s future agent) would disagree with this one.

Read the full letter here at NFL.com. Follow NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Twitter at @nflcommish.

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