NFL commissioner says workplace issues are on frontburner

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league is looking at broader psychological evaluations of players as it tries to improve workplace issues.

"We look at the total wellness of an individual -- the physical wellness as well as mental wellness and then we try to give them the resources to try to be able to deal with that," he said. "We have definitely made great strides in that.

"That doesn't mean we don't have more work to do. We continue to focus on that.

Goodell was speaking during the last press conference of the NFL Annual Meeting, which was held in Orlando, Fla. He said workplace issues were a theme throughout the week in talks with coaches, general managers and owners.

Part of the concern over mental health issues stems from the incidents this season in the Miami Dolphins' locker room, from which an investigation looked at incidents involving offensive lineman Jonathan Martin's exit from the team and verbal abuse of a minority equipment manager.

"This is a professional workplace for everybody," Goodell said. "That's players, coaches, trainers, equipment men, executives. All of us expect that and it is our job to make sure we deliver that. I think this is going to be a collective effort.

"We've had several different sessions discussing this with executives, owners and coaches. We are going to talk with our players on April 8 and that's the focus of the meeting. We'll talk about what we can do to ensure a professional workplace. I mentioned to you the other day that I met with 40 players from nine different teams over the last three months to discuss this. They want a professional workplace and we owe it to them. We are going to work with them to try to create that."

Goodell admitted that the NFL locker room is a unique environment, but he said it shouldn't be a workplace where people feel uncomfortable.

"We want them to be professional," he said. "We want them to be comfortable -- everyone in that locker room -- so they can focus on doing their job. That's what we all owe them.

"We will be working with our players, our coaches, our executives and with outside experts. We will be going through a lot of training on the club level over the next several months and I'm confident that everyone understands the importance of it and embraces it."

Goodell said he recently talked to former NFL player Wade Davis, who came out as gay two years ago, about issues the league faces as prospect Michael Sam could be drafted in May. Sam, a former University of Missouri linebacker, came out as gay in January.

"He came into our office and met with several of our executives," Goodell said. "I found his message to be very important for all of us to hear.

"He's part of the family that we all are in the NFL. He just wants to make sure we provide the kind of workplace where people can be comfortable playing football, and he wants to help us work to do that. He recognizes that everyone is not an advocate or someone who is going to carry the flag. But these are young men who want the opportunity to play in the NFL and they want to do it right. Our job is to make sure we provide that opportunity."

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