By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
HOUSTON (CBS) — At a fan forum event on Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked by a Texans fan in attendance if the league was still considering a potential change from having a 16-game season to having an 18-game season.
Almost in unison, the trio of Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Greg Olsen — sharing the stage with Goodell — offered their opinions in the form of unmistakable dissent.
The players had spoken.
And Roger understood.
“Listen, you know we looked at this. We did discuss it in [the past],” Goodell said. “The reality is it came up more for us in the quality of the preseason. The preseason just doesn’t hit the NFL standard that we really want, frankly. And do we really need four preseason games anymore? And that’s really the question we’ve been asking the competition committee, and a lot of our players have had input.
“That to me is biggest issue for us, making sure that the quality of everything we do is as high as possible,” Goodell added. “I think 18 games is, that’s tough for these guys. To see what they go through, it’s a long season. We committed in our last negotiations that wouldn’t do it without the players, and we stand by it.”
Fitzgerald, a No. 3 overall pick in 2004 and a 10-time Pro Bowler, argued that a large majority of NFL players use those preseason games to prove their value and make a roster.
“We [on stage] were all first-round picks, but the NFL is comprised of over 50 percent free-agent guys. Those preseason games, the focus is for those guys to be able to put themselves on tape, feature themselves for not only the team they’re playing against but for 31 other teams,” Fitzgerald said. “When we limit the games to two games, we’re going to have to play a lot more and those guys are not going to have any time to perform and hone their skills.”
Goodell was also asked if the NFL, in the wake of many states legalizing marijuana, would lessen its punishment on players who test positive for marijuana. The commissioner, in short, does not anticipate any changes.
“What we do is rely on our medical experts, and we have joint medical experts with the players’ association and the league,” Goodell said. “Those medical advisers have recommended that we not change our policy for marijuana use.”
The commissioner did not that such a standing is not necessarily permanent.
“We’ll follow that [research] closely and if for some reason we believe that there’s a change and there’s a [potential benefit to our players] and it’s supported by research and facts, then we’ll support it,” Goodell said.
Fitzgerald said that drug use shouldn’t be condoned by the league.
“You have to look at the bigger picture. We’re up here on a stage playing at an elite level. There’s so many kids that are sitting here watching us,” he said. “For guys to get in trouble with drugs — they only test you two times a year for illegal drugs. … So, the guys that are getting caught, they’re just not using common sense.”
Goodell was speaking at a fan forum event at the House of Blues in downtown Houston. He was joined on the stage by Fitzgerald, Greg Olsen and Eli Manning, who are the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.