Goodell: NFL ‘can and must’ make football safer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league will continue to do “everything we can” to make football safer.

Player safety in the NFL has been a frequent topic of conversation recently and Goodell discussed it again Wednesday during a lecture and question-and-answer session at the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

“We know that in order to secure the future, we can and must do more to make the game safer, and in the process, we will make other sports safer as well,” Goodell said.

Goodell called for “a culture of safety for every sport” and welcomes the national conversation about player safety and the growing issue of concussions.

The NFL is facing concussion-related lawsuits from thousands of former players. In a series of interviews about head injuries with The Associated Press in December 2011, 31 of 44 players said they wanted the league to have independent neurologists at games.

Goodell said the league “will continue to make rule changes, invest in equipment and provide our medical staffs with the tools and authorities” to prevent injuries.

“Medical decisions override everything else,” he said. “We know that our actions set an example.”

Goodell said concussions are down 40 percent in the two seasons in which kickoffs were moved 5 yards to the 35-yard line, a change designed to create more touchbacks and fewer returns.

“Players and coaches have adjusted (to rule changes). They always do, but there is more work ahead,” Goodell said. “We will find other ways to take the head out of the game. The helmet is for protection. It should not be used as a weapon.”

Goodell pointed to the NFL’s recently announced partnership with General Electric to develop ways to improve head protection.

“Science can be a game-changer in making sports safer,” he said.

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