NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, left, talked with Mayor Mufi Hannemann during the NFC practice at Aloha Stadium yesterday.
Goodell likes game here
The NFL commissioner is looking for ways to make the Pro Bowl "more exciting for our fans"
An international movement may be afoot in the National Football League, just don't count the Pro Bowl as one of the games being considered for this long-distance road show by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
In an 8-minute interview yesterday for select members of the media, Goodell discussed a variety of topics ranging from the positive steroid test of San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman to the positive influence Tiki Barber had in the NFL as he plays in his last game today as a member of the New York Giants.
Goodell, who was selected as the league's commissioner last August, also addressed whether Aloha Stadium is fit for duty to host the NFL's All-Star game in the future and the possibility of this annual event being shipped overseas to China for one year in the near future, a notion Goodell wasn't willing to embrace.
"I think our focus right now is on our regular-season games here," Goodell said when asked if the Pro Bowl was one of the games being considered for the international market.
"We announced our series of limited regular-season games and we've had a tremendous reaction from the UK already. We haven't even gotten to the point where we can sell tickets, but it's been an overwhelming reaction. I'm not as focused on that (moving the Pro Bowl abroad) as much as continuing with our international regular-season games."
Goodell prefers to focus on how the NFL and the state of Hawaii can improve upon the Pro Bowl experience for the local and mainland fans alike. This will be the 28th game played in the Aloha State, with all but one being a sellout. Through the years, a variety of activities have been attached to this game.
The commissioner has been to the Pro Bowl many times through the years to see what worked and what didn't. He is meeting with state representatives to discuss how this long-term relationship can continue to improve.
"Well, I've been involved with this game for a number of years," Goodell said.
"I've been coming over here for a long time. It has been a great relationship with the state and we hope to be able to continue that.
"We're always looking for ways in which we can make the Pro Bowl more exciting for our fans here and also our fans on the mainland. We'll continue to evaluate that. We are talking about some things that might be helpful to improve it.
"It will be good for the state and good for us."
One area the NFL could help the state is in the building of a new stadium. Every few years, the idea of scrapping Aloha Stadium in favor of a new venue is a topic of discussion, but it hasn't led to any blueprints in West Oahu. The facility has seen better days and will likely need millions of dollars for improvement over the next several seasons.
Goodell's main focus is for the safety of the Pro Bowl's patrons. The NFL already helped ease the concerns of its players by having the old turf ripped up in favor of the more flexible FieldTurf that currently adorns Aloha Stadium. But halting the rust that continues to eat away at the 32-year-old facility is another matter entirely.
"The stadium experience is important for our fans," Goodell said.
"We want to make sure our game is played in the greatest stadiums. Obviously, they have to be safe. That's the first start and that's important to us.
"I have heard some discussions about a new stadium and we'd obviously be willing to engage in those discussions also."
As for some troubling issues off the field, including Merriman's positive steroid test and the shooting death of Denver's Darrent Williams, education is the key in the commissioner's mind. He wants to help the players avoid some of these problems by providing guidance any way the league can. Goodell is considered a more personable commissioner who isn't afraid to associate openly with the players.
"I think that's one of the benefits for being over here is that you do get a chance to talk with the players, some of our elite players, obviously," Goodell said. "And they do share some things they're facing in the league.
"We constantly want to hear from players. What are the issues that they are facing? What are things we should be aware of that we could be doing differently to support those players?"
Merriman's problems fit well with Goodell's personable approach.
"I think he's a very straight-up guy," Goodell said of Merriman, who was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's steroid policy, but is still here for today's game. "He recognizes the issue and is supportive for what we're going to do. I think he wants to be very active to make sure other people don't make the same mistake. I was very impressed with him."
As for Williams, Goodell feels his tragic shooting death was avoidable.
"We're meeting with a panel of players over the next few weeks to talk about the pressures that they are facing," Goodell said. "How we can better educate our players. And how to make sure our players are better prepared to avoid those circumstances. It was a tragic thing that happened to Darrent Williams. We don't want our players to be in that position."