Thoughts From Our Visit to the NFL Office Before the Draft

By Ty Duffy

Safety: The NFL is concerned about safety. Really concerned. Concerned we know they’re concerned. NFL VP Ray Anderson and Merton Hanks (who did not chicken dance) spoke of being “aggressive” about safety and enacting “a culture change.” We watched a safety video distinguishing illegal and legal hits. We learned how the NFL watches film and determines which fouls are egregious enough for fines and suspensions.

A few things I found interesting: League officials “don’t judge on intent” since they’ve no way to decipher it. They try not to use slow motion for analysis because it makes every collision look worse. They believe players have adjusted their tackling technique to stay within the rules, thus bad hits are not an intrinsic part of the sport. Roger Goodell is aware of suspensions/fines for on field matters but plays no role in determining them. Officials are also graded on every play throughout the season and ranked.

Aesthetics: FOX Sports primed me for cavernous spaces, cold metal and Cletus gargoyles. It was smaller and more compartmentalized than I anticipated. The hallways were narrow. The theme appeared to be a hodgepodge of corporate America (drab carpet and muted chairs), tech company (themed rooms and considered lighting) and really expensive (giant custom-made reception desk that was an upscaled bisection of the Lombardi trophy).

Some things Goodell addressed…

On Saints Bounty Scandal Player Discipline: “We expect to be finished shortly”

On the Pro Bowl: “For the last couple of years there’s been a lot of discussion about how to make the pro bowl attractive to the players and more importantly to the fans.” The league has and will consider all ideas to improve the game. He brought up substituting the winners and losers shares for payouts based on performance, sort of a skins game for offensive and defensive units.

On the London Game: “85 to 90 percent” of fans were Europeans, not ex-pats.

On Not Tipping the Draft Picks: “What we’re trying to avoid is the player in the last couple of minutes on the phone. The clock is ticking down and they’re high-fiving and it’s pretty obvious he’s been selected by the team that’s on the clock,” Goodell said. “One of the things that makes the event great is suspense.”

On The Draft Being His Favorite NFL Day: “It’s a unique day because every team gets better today. Everybody has got some renewed hope.” Also, “You see these young men who worked so hard to achieve success and here they are to become an NFL player tonight and I have the privilege and the honor to be a part of it.”

Onto the pictures…

This is “the Command Center,” where the NFL reviews video. No natural light. Dual monitors with expensive ergonomic desk chairs. A gynormous flat screen. It would be a gamer’s paradise if you threw in a mini-fridge full of Mountain Dew. The Xbox controllers, sadly, are used for work purposes. They make it quicker and more intuitive to cycle through video.

The high point for me was the creepy wall of NFL themed garden gnomes.