Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Roger Goodell speaks: No Pro Bowl? More padding? A developmental league on the way?

Posted by: under Super Bowl Updated: May 23, 2012 - 9:02 AM

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with media Tuesday afternoon at a brief press conference following the league's one-day spring meeting. Goodell addressed a number of interesting topics, including the iffy future of the Pro Bowl; the league's Tuesday decision to mandate thigh and knee pads; and the possibility that a developmental league could be in the works.

Here is the commissioner's take on each of those topics:

On the future of the Pro Bowl, which will be played in Honolulu or New Orleans in 2013 -- if the game isn't canceled all together ...

"We’ve had numerous discussions over several months about what we can do to make the game more competitive. I’ve said it repeatedly, particularly since the last game that we have to improve the quality of that game. If we can’t improve it and can’t make it more competitive, then we shouldn’t play ... We recognize it is an All-Star game, but we also believe the fans expect more from an NFL game. That [game last winter] wasn’t a competitive game. The players acknowledged that in all of our discussions going back this past year that it is not competitive, and they point to a variety of reasons. The money is pretty significant. The risk of injuries is something that is on their mind. All of those things are legitimate, but they believe that they can improve the quality of the game. That is something that we are exploring with them.  If we believe we can achieve it, we want to give them every opportunity to do it.  It is going to require a competitive game to be successful long-term."

On the mandate that all players must wear thigh and knee pads beginning in the 2013 season ...

"It’s a decision that we are not implementing for this season in part because we want to work with the players, we want to work with the Players Association. We believe the technology has improved, and, in fact, the pads are far better than they were even a decade ago. They’re more protective. They allow better performance. We also think it’s important. Every other level of football requires these pads and the NFL doesn’t. We think that’s part of sending the right signal to other levels of football ... The technology has advanced. In fact, the CEO of Nike recently told me when they introduced the new uniforms that NBA players were wearing more pads from the hips down than NFL players. There is something wrong with that. We need to put that protection in. You can discuss all you want; but at some point, you have to reach a conclusion."

On the prospects for a developmental league that would be affiliated with the NFL ...

"We have talked a great deal about the idea of a developmental league. We actually think that there could be a role for that. Particularly with the changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement -- the limited amount of time the younger players have to either be evaluated or develop their own skills -- should we have some sort of developmental league? It is something we will continue to pursue. If we do it, my personal view is it should be defined what the actual objective is. If it is a developmental league, let’s call it a developmental league. Let’s design it as a developmental league. If it is going to be a commercial league that is trying to generate fan interest or generate revenue, we should also be clear of that objective. I think our general view right now is to make it a developmental league."

On the hopes to equip all 31 NFL stadiums with WiFi technology for fans ...

"We want to make sure fans when they come into our stadiums don’t have to shut down – they can bring their devices. We want them to have access to the same amount of information, have access to our RedZone channel, have access to highlights, and be able to engage in social media including Fantasy Football. When you come to our stadiums, we want to make it a great experience. That is what it is about ...  We want to make sure the same service is provided and the same technology is there for the fans. The costs vary from the different proposals we have. It is part of the reason we are looking for new technology partners that can help us address what I consider pretty complex problems ... [In 2012] it is possible we could get a stadium or two stadiums in, but it is a pretty big undertaking ... We have talked about a pilot. We have talked about New Orleans – we are in New Orleans this year having the Super Bowl there. That might be a good start. But there are several teams that are very aggressive in this area that have some very good technology available in their stadiums. We are learning from that, and our fans are engaging with it, which is the best news for us."

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