By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
The National Football Foundation announced that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will receive the organization's Gold Medal -- its highest honor -- on Tuesday night as part of its annual banquet in New York.
As a prelude to the event, Goodell addressed a number of health and safety questions facing football. Among the topics he discussed were youth and player safety, the potential harsh cold weather during Super Bowl XLVIII and the reaction of the fans to this season's new safety rules.
How do you see evolution impacting college and youth football?
I think what's made football so great over the years is that we've evolved. One of the most critical times for football was before the NFL was ever created in 1905. President (Theodore) Roosevelt then said we have to change the rules of the game, make the game safer. There were 18 skull fractures and 18 deaths that year in college football, and this is roughly 15 years before the NFL was even created. He brought the leaders of football then -- three coaches, I believe. They began the NCAA. They began and put changes in that made the game safer. They obviously created rules that have made the game not just safer, but more exciting, like the forward pass. So I believe that together we can all make this game better and safer at the same time.
We love playing in the elements. We saw that on Sunday. I think that was great. It was a throwback time. It was something that made us all feel great about the game, and playing in the elements is part of football. So we're excited about coming here. And we think it's going to be a great event. Not only for this region, but for the NFL.
Has there been backlash from fans on the new rules that are intended to improve safety?
Fans obviously have a strong perspective, and it's an important one. What we've tried to do is take those dangerous techniques out of the game that we think can lead to injuries, and remove them from the game. That's been part of our history over the decades, and it's made the game safer, and it's made the game better. I think the game -- and I've never been more optimistic about the game of football -- is in terrific position going forward, because it is safer and it is better. We will always evolve. We will always make changes going forward that we think can improve safety for the players but also improve the excitement of the game. We see it every weekend, whether it's college football or high school football. I've been to college games, high school games, youth football games, NFL games. The competition has been extraordinary, and it's been fun. I think the game has gotten to a great place, and I think its best days are ahead of it.