NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with Ravens PSL holders during an intimate fan forum before Sunday night's open practice at M&T Bank Stadium.
Goodell opened with glowing comments about Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti and General Manager Ozzie Newsome (transcribed below), and then took questions from fans during an hour-long event.
Here are some of the most interesting questions/answers:
Goodell was talking about how it's difficult to get owners to agree on an issue ( 24 "yes" votes are required to approve any new measure), when he talked about what Bisciotti brings to the table.
"When he speaks up, people listen. He can help us make the right decision, and he has on multiple occasions. Los Angeles is the most specific one that I remember. I've got to tell you, he's a guy that cares about the NFL, he cares about Baltimore and this community and he cares about the fans of his team. You're really fortunate to have a guy like Steve Bisciotti here too."
"This league is built on men that not only played the game but also contributed back to the game. There are probably not a lot of people in the NFL that have contributed as much as Ozzie has, as a player, as a general manager, and also very important to me is he served on the competition committee for decades now. When we make our rule changes, it starts with the competition committee. They are the ones who focused in on it, analyze it, make recommendations to the [ownership] and then we have a debate about the changes. There is no one that knows the game better than this guy right here, and you're fortunate to have him as your general manager. But I've got to tell you, I'm fortunate to have him on the competition committee."
On Baltimore's chances of hosting a Super Bowl:
"I grew up in Washington [D.C.] and actually was a Colts fan growing up. Lenny Moore was one of my guys, sitting right here [points to front row]. I know how great this community is and how passionate they are about football. The Super Bowl … as the event gets bigger and bigger, it gets harder and harder to host because it's competitive, the infrastructure keeps growing – the number of hotel rooms now, I think we're well over 35,000 hotel rooms that are required – facilities around that for all the different events connected to the Super Bowl have become more complicated. The bar gets raised every year.
"Somebody just raised this with me before I came over here and mentioned the idea of a joint bid with the Baltimore-Washington area, which is an interesting idea, because clearly there is an infrastructure between the two communities.
"A big debate is, do we want the game to be played in perfect conditions? Do we want the elements to impact it? I personally love football in the elements. I think that's what makes it so special. I love that part of it.
"We have probably 150,000 to 200,000 people attending. It's really tough to do and it puts a lot of stress on smaller communities. If you guys want to make a bid, I'm sure the ownership would take a good, hard look at it."
In speaking with reporters about this later Sunday, Goodell did express more confidence in Baltimore's ability to host the NFL draft, which has been in Chicago and Philadelphia the past two years.
On former Ravens Owner Art Modell's Hall of Fame chances:
"The media makes the decision and I have zero input into it. One of my predecessors was Pete Rozelle, who is my hero as commissioner. And I know how much he relied on Art Modell. He made that absolutely clear. A lot of [Modell's] focus was on the broadcast agreements, but he was also a very close advisor to the commissioner. I know what he contributed. I know what he contributed to the game, which is what I think the standard should be. What did you contribute to the game of football? Did you make the game different than it was? Would you have seen the same changes without that individual's participation? And I think Art Modell has contributed a great deal to the game of football. I hope he's going to get fair consideration by the committee. They have a tough job though."
On the game getting too "soft" after player safety rule changes:
"The primary focus for us is to help the safety of our players. We believe, and we think we've demonstrated, that you can make the game safer and healthier for our players as well as continue to make the game competitive, exciting and all the things why you love football. We think we've done that.
"We want to engage in that [brain study] information. We appreciate that information. That creates a debate, which will help us take better care of our players. But also the medical community advances to understand where we're going, and there's still a lot of questions, and there are probably a heck of a lot more questions than answers. So we want to contribute to the research and make sure that we make the changes to our game that we think make it safer for our players and keep that competitive and passionate football that everyone loves."
On extending the regular season:
"I think the standard of the preseason game is not up to the standards of what the NFL wants. I think we've gotten to a point now where, even from a competitive standpoint, we really don't need four preseason games anymore. The question is, should we reduce that? Are there ways to achieve the same things you want in the preseason – evaluate players, develop players, get your team ready for the season – in other ways? Maybe they're joint practices, which are becoming more commonplace. There are ways to do that. My hope is that we can offer a better product to our fans by adjusting the regular-season games and maybe one or two or three preseason games. This is something we are evaluating and have discussed with the union. We would not do this without the union."
On expanding the league to other countries outside of England and Mexico:
"The one market that I would point to that we haven't been able to do in the right way and are considering is China. We think there is a huge fan base there that we could capture by holding a big event there. But again, we want to do it right."