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Monday, August 27, 2007

Commissioner Goodell -- Press Conference at Cleveland Browns Training Camp

Commissioner Goodell -- Press Conference at Cleveland Browns Training Camp
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference
Cleveland Browns Training Camp – Berea, OH
August 16, 2007

Let me just make a couple quick comments. I was in Detroit earlier this morning so this is just part of our training camp tour, getting a chance to talk to the players and coaches. I had a chance to meet with [Browns Senior Vice President, Business Operations] Mike [Keenan], [Browns General Manager/Senior Vice President] Phil [Savage] and [Browns Head Coach] Romeo [Crennel] this afternoon privately and then I met with the players just a few minutes ago. It’s been a very productive trip.

(On the message he is trying to communicate to the players)- “The primary message is that they are responsible, as NFL players, to this community as Cleveland Browns and to the organization, to their teammates and to themselves and their families. We have resources available to them, the things that we are doing to try and help them make better decisions and the things we are doing in respect to player safety. We had a particular discussion on concussions and some of the things we have done in the offseason to address that. We have been reaching out for players input and we’ll continue to do that and we encourage them to do that.”

(On whether he feels like he has the players attention going in as his ‘actions speak louder than his words’)- “Well, I think actions always speak louder than words and I think that is true for the players. Their words don’t mean as much as their actions and that is how people are going to judge them. I think they understand that and I think they are taking the appropriate precautions and taking advantage of the resources to help them make better decisions.”

(On how much time he spends monitoring the ‘health’ of each individual franchise and how ‘healthy’ of a franchise Cleveland is)- “Getting around and seeing the other franchises is helpful but having spent a great deal of time here in the mid-90’s, I know the passionate fan base they have here. I’ve never seen more passionate fans than Browns fans. I think this franchise has a great facility now, a great fan base and the team is doing all the right things to build a terrific franchise here. I think it is a very positive story for us.”

(On whether the NFL changed any of its policies in lieu of the NBA betting scandal)- “We always monitor that very closely and we have, what we think are policies and procedures that are second to none. Like anything, we look to improve them on a constant basis. If there are things that can be done better, we are certainly going to do that. The evaluation that our officials go through, the monitoring that they go through, we think that our officials are held to a very, very high standard and we are obviously very confident that is not occurring at the NFL level. You want to continue to do that because the integrity of the sport is critical and you want to be able to make sure that our officials understand that they are going to be held to that standard.”

(On how many questions the Browns players asked him during their meeting)- “Six or seven.”

(On whether that is a typical amount)- “It’s actually quite good in the sense that I think they felt comfortable enough to ask questions and they were direct questions, questions that are of great interest to them. I think that is terrific.”

(On what he told the players about concussions)- “That we did a lot of work in the offseason. That we had all of our medical teams and people outside of the NFL - some that have been critical, or some that may not have just agreed with some of the procedures that we have had – come together and try and share our learning’s on this. We made a number of changes on this in the offseason, including all players are going to be tested – neuropsychological testing to determine a baseline for each of the players. No players are going to go back into a game, or a practice, until their asymptomatic. We’re also looking at return to play, and if a player is deemed unconscious by the medical team, they won’t return into that game, which is a new twist also. We’re taking a very cautious, conservative approach. We’re continuing to study, we’re continuing to learn and we’re continuing to the lead the way in some of the things that are being determined about concussions.”

(On how hard it is to detect HGH and how widespread a problem he thinks steroid use is)- “Well, there is no test for HGH, but there is also a question of whether HGH has a performance benefit. We are working, and have worked with other leagues and other authorities to try and determine a test so that we can detect that. On steroids, I don’t think that it’s a big issue in our league. Our testing program is so comprehensive – we do over 12,000 tests – which is an extraordinary amount of tests, far more than any other league. We feel that testing program is so comprehensive, along with the education and there’s the fact that the players don’t want it in the game.”

(On whether it is surprising that guys still test positive)- “No, I think potentially that if you didn’t have any positive tests maybe your testing program wasn’t very good. You could take that side of it also. I think the fact that we have a testing program – you’re always going to have people who are going to look for an edge. And some will do it unconsciously. They think they’re taking something appropriate and then they realize there was something in there that they shouldn’t have in their bodies. That can happen and it does happen. But you’re responsible for what is in your body.”

(On whether he thinks his message has been heard by the Bengals as it relates to some of their off-field situations)- “I don’t think it is specific to any one team. I think it is all 32 clubs. All the players, coaches, owners and executives recognize that we needed to raise the standards and I think that has been accepted. I think it is being supported by all those parties, and most importantly our fans.”

(On whether he feels like he has the players support during his training camp trip tour) – “I do, because again, we have a limited number of players that get into those kinds of issues. We have 2,000 players. I’m proud of our players. I’m proud of what they do in the communities and on the field. I think more has to be discussed on that. We have always talked about the game – having the focus stay on football. We’re here now and its football time. We’re here at training camp and we can get the focus back on football.”

(On whether the players have noticed the difference in the treatment of concussions) – “I don’t know. You’d have to ask the players about that. I know our medical teams are very well educated on this. I think they are taking a very conservative approach to this and our statistics show they have been. That’s what we want to ensure – our players safety.”

(On his decision to ‘drag QB Brady Quinn out of the spotlight’ on draft day) – “It actually began the day before when a couple of players asked if I had any advice. I told them that in reality, one of the five was going to be the last one selected and it’s going to be difficult and will seem difficult for a long period of time. But when you look back at it several years later, it won’t be that big of an issue. I think the focus on that wasn’t right. It’s not why we ask players to come to the draft. I thought it was appropriate to bring him in and let him sit, and to see what happens with his family.”

(On whether he is interested to see what kind of NFL quarterback Quinn is) – “I sure am.”

(On whether the NFL pays attention to the marketing value of a player) – “We don’t look at marketing value. We recognize the players. That’s why people follow the game – the great players and great coaches and the game of football itself. When you have players that come into the franchise and lead the hope of the franchise, being the future quarterback for the next generation – it’s a great thing. I think seeing the reaction to the draft the Browns had was something that gave everyone more hope in the Browns passionate fan base.”

(On whether he is concerned by the perception the players had of him when he became commissioner) – “No, but I do think that people can get a misperception when people don’t get a chance to hear or talk to me. I reached out to a very broad spectrum of players – rookies to 15-year-veterans – to find out what was going on. We really spent a great deal of time receiving input into the personal conduct policy from players so that we were making the appropriate changes. And I think they respect that.”

(On his opinion of rookie holdouts) – “I think it does hurt the team and the player. I think it hurts the fans and that’s the unfortunate part. It’s difficult to make up time when you miss it in training camp. That’s one of the issues we’ve talked about with the union in negotiations and I think it will be clearly one of the things we talk about when we sit down to discuss changes to the system – what can be done to eliminate players, particularly rookies, from holding out of training camp.”

(On the experience of helping bring back the Browns franchise to Cleveland) – “It was a very difficult period for the fans of Cleveland and was a difficult period for the NFL. Obviously, the first several months were particularly difficult for all of us, but then we realized that we could make this happen. All of the momentum started to build and I think ultimately, we came up with a good solution. You realize how important the franchise is to that community when something like that happens and it’s devastating. We’re glad now that it’s part of history and the Browns are here now.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s comments regarding the Michael Vick situation:

(On the league’s position on the ongoing investigation surrounding Falcons QB Michael Vick)- “First, as it relates to dog fighting, the league finds it despicable, incomprehensible that it even happens, much less an NFL player being charged with potentially being involved in some way. We are doing our own review. There are a lot of discussion going on between Michael and his legal team. We will probably be meeting with them sometime in the next week to 10 days and be able to make some decisions from our standpoint. Part of this is to respect the legal process that he is going through and make sure that we don’t interfere with the federal authorities on this.”

(On a story that said Vick’s legal team is consulting with the league before he agreed to any plea bargain)- “That is not correct.”

(On whether they have discussed a potential suspension in advance of a plea bargain)- “No. We are going to make our decision once we have all the facts.”

(On whether Vick accepting a plea bargain is an admittance that he initially lied to the league on the matter)- “Again, that is a hypothetical to some extent because it depends what he pleads to. That is why we would like to wait and allow the plea to either happen, or not happen and then make our determination from that standpoint.”

(On how big of an issue the gambling side of the Vick situation is)- “It’s certainly an issue and that is one of the things – law enforcement may be concerned about some certain things and we may be concerned about other aspects of this. I think that is why we want to evaluate what the government has. We don’t know all of the facts on that. Michael’s team may not know all the facts at this point in time.”

(On whether he expects any sort of backlash from fans if the Vick situation turns into the ‘worst case scenario’)- “Well, that’s a hypothetical which I’m not sure what the outcomes are.”

(On how difficult it is to be commissioner with this problem on the table)- “I think it is obviously something that is resonating with the general public and with us. I think the statistics we heard from our partners at the ASPCA is that 65 percent of households have a pet. I’m a pet lover myself so it is incomprehensible that a player is being charged with that. On the other hand, they are charges at this point in time and Michael Vick is not performing in the NFL right now and we are dealing with this aggressively. I think the public understands that and I think our fans understand that in no way do we accept anyone who is involved with dog fighting. We are going to deal with this aggressively.”

(On players in other sports being allowed to continue to play while they faced serious charges and why he felt this situation was different)- “I don’t run the other leagues. I run the National Football League and that’s my job. I felt that under the current circumstances that it was best for Michael Vick to focus on his legal defense and for the Falcons to focus on getting ready for the season.”

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Michael Vick Pleads Guilty Today - Sad Day - ESPN

Vick to be sentenced Dec. 10 after guilty plea

ESPN.com news services
Updated: August 27, 2007, 12:32 PM ET

RICHMOND, Va. -- Michael Vick pleaded guilty Monday to a federal dogfighting charge and awaits a Dec. 10 sentencing date that could send the NFL star to prison.

In a statement before the media, Vick said he took full responsibility for his actions. He concluded by saying: "I will redeem myself. I have to."

"First, I want to apologize for all the things that I have done and I have allowed to happen. I want to personally apologize to Commissioner Goodell, Arthur Blank, coach Bobby Petrino, and my Atlanta Falcons teammates, for I was not honest and forthright in our discussions," Vick said.

"I was ashamed and totally disappointed in myself, to say the least. I want to apologize to all the young kids out there for my immature acts. What I did was very immature, so that means I need to grow up."

Vick said he now has renounced dogfighting and has found religion as a result of the federal charges. "Dogfighting is a terrible thing. I reject it," he said.

"I totally ask for forgiveness and understanding as I move forward to better Michael Vick the person, not the football player," Vick said.

"I take full responsibility for my actions … I am totally responsible."

The plea by the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback was accepted by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who asked: "Are you entering the plea of guilty to a conspiracy charge because you are in fact guilty?"

Vick replied, "Yes, sir."

Hudson emphasized he is not bound by sentencing guidelines and can impose the maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.

"You're taking your chances here. You'll have to live with whatever decision I make," Hudson said.

In his written plea filed in federal court Friday, Vick admitted helping kill six to eight pit bulls and supplying money for gambling on the fights. He said he did not personally place any bets or share in any winnings.

The NFL suspended him indefinitely and without pay Friday after his plea agreement was filed. Merely associating with gamblers can trigger a lifetime ban under the league's personal conduct policy.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that Vick stands to lose approximately $100 million because of his conviction.

Federal prosecutors recommended 12-18 months in prison.

"A first-time offender might well receive no jail time for this offense," U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said in a statement. "We thought, however, that the conduct in this conspiracy was heinous, cruel and inhumane" so three of the four defendants, including Vick, should receive harsher sentences.

The first defendant to plead guilty left the conspiracy in 2004 and is not as culpable, he said.

The case began in late April when authorities conducting a drug investigation of Vick's cousin raided the former Virginia Tech star's rural Surry County property and seized dozens of dogs, some injured, and equipment commonly used in dogfighting.

Vick's plea came hours before the Falcons are scheduled to play an exhibition game at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. This will be the first chance for the team to see what effect Vick's case has on attendance at the Georgia Dome. Vick wears the biggest-selling jersey in team history and is given much credit for the team's 51 consecutive sellouts.

After initially denying his involvement, Vick has said little publicly about the case. Privately, he met with Goodell and Falcons owner Arthur Blank when the investigation was just beginning, and almost certainly lied to both.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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