National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell came to New Orleans today. As part of his visit, he met with the club's players and coaches and congratulated them on winning the Super Bowl XLIV Championship, met with the club's front office staff and met with the local media prior to a speaking engagement at a conference hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi. Below is a transcript of his meeting with the local media:
"I started in Jacksonville this morning meeting with community and business leaders talking about their ticket drive. I met with the team also while I was there as well as a couple of coaches. I got here and had a chance to meet with the players and coaches again. I just met with the front office here, have a chance to meet with you and then there's a conference hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi which has helped us in stadiums and arenas around the country to make sure our stadiums are safe. They've done terrific work. I'm here to support them and speak with them along with (Department of Homeland Security) Secretary (Janet) Napolitano. Tomorrow's the Madden tour."
What do you think of the Saints?
"I didn't see them on the field, but I just congratulated them not only on a great season, but how they did it. I think the relationship between the team and this community is very special."
Can you go back to four years ago when the team came back to New Orleans following Katrina and I remember and I remember Commissioner Tagliabue saying a lot of chicken and the egg analogies that had to happen for the club to succeed financially post-Katrina. Can you go back to that time and tell us if you are surprised at how things turned out?
"I'm not surprised, because I think this team has always had a special relationship with the community. I think they've played a very valuable role as well as the NFL. First, we built the Dome, which was a symbol of the tragedy that took place here. I think that was a big part of it. When we came back here and played, it was one of the highlights of my career in the NFL. That was a great evening in general. I'm not surprised by this community. The community comes back and meets every challenge. It shows the world why it's such a great place to be."
What did you learn from Pete Rozelle and what did you learn from Paul Tagliabue?
"New Orleans holds a pretty special place for me, because one of my jobs early on for Pete Rozelle was that I was his driver for the Super Bowl. I'll never forget Super Bowl XX in 1986, the Bears-Patriots game and yours truly was waiting for him at the airport and I locked myself in the car. Fortunately I got in the car before he got there. Pete was so aware of the issues, so aware of what was important and why the NFL was successful, so gracious in the way he did everything. He's the reason I got into the NFL. I was in love with Pete Rozelle. I was a high school student and followed and studied everything he did . Then I had the good fortune of working for Paul Tagliabue who I think is one of the smartest men and most capable men I ever worked for. He gave me a lot of opportunities as did Pete. I'm grateful that I've worked for the two greatest commissioners in sports"
Can you update us on the labor situation and how you feel about it going forward? The other side is saying that on a scale of 1 to 10, the likelihood of a stoppage is at 14. Where does it stand as far as you're concerned?
"I don't think there's a lot of place for rhetoric, personally. I think the job is to get to the negotiating table and get it solved. We've got a lot of work to do. We have a lot of opportunities as a league to grow the game, to address our issues through collective bargaining that will serve us all well, including the players and the clubs, and most importantly the fans. We have a responsibility here to the fans to make sure that we continue to deal with our game in a responsible fashion and they want to see football. That's our job so we should get to work on it."
Did the recent audit by the Packers prove anything to either side?
"I don't look at it that way. I think it speaks for itself with respect to their financial performance. I think the union understands the issues that are being faced by the clubs and they need to understand those issues. Now we need to come up with solutions to address those issues so that everyone can benefit."
You mentioned your meeting this morning in Jacksonville this morning. Are there any lessons they can take from what has been done here the last few years to show them how to build that ticket base?
"We focus an awful lot on what we call best practices and making sure that we do everything we can to share intelligence from one market to another. But you also have to recognize that every market is unique. Every community has its own challenges; every team has its own challenges. We have to be intelligent about the approach we take.
"I think one lesson – and I mentioned this to the players, I mentioned it to the coaches and I mentioned it to the front office – is that the relationship between this team and the community is special and we should all work to try to create that kind of relationship."
Is there anything to report from your office on the Vicodin situation here?
"No, there isn't anything in particular in that case. As I understand it, it's going along in a separate process. We obviously will monitor that but there's nothing."
And what about the StarCaps case?
"The StarCaps case, again, we have defended it in federal court and state court and we've won on both of those levels. We have won on the federal appellate level on a unanimous decision and right now we're waiting on the state court to make a judgment on that. When they do, we obviously will take the appropriate steps at that point. We have aggressively defended that case and will continue to do so."
What went in to the decision of scheduling the Saints against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving?
"Every national opportunity for us to be able to put our best foot forward is something we continue to look at in our process of making the schedule. Obviously we have to Super Bowl champs playing a big game on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas and that creates a lot of attention and a lot of excitement, just like our Kickoff Game here with Minnesota is going to do. They're great celebrations of football; and the Saints have earned the opportunity to play on that stage and I'm sure they're going to represent their community and the NFL very well."
Will you be at that Vikings game here?
"Oh yes. I wouldn't miss it."
Will Brett Favre be there?
"That's a good question, which I can't answer. I don't know."