Goodell addresses safety, anthem protests, more as owners' meetings close

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell closed the owners' meetings in Orlando on Wednesday by reinforcing the league's stance on safety as he weighed in a variety of topics facing the league.

Goodell is bullish about a new rule passed that calls for a 15-yard penalty and possible ejection if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet.

"Our focus is taking the head out of the game, to make sure we're using the helmet as protection and not a weapon," Goodell said at his press conference.

Goodell said league officials will meet with players, coaches and medical personnel from all 32 franchises during the offseason to address the rule change.

Take a look around the meetings in Florida:

He also said that coaches support using replay to confirm ejections.

"If we're able to have replay to confirm when there's one of these fouls when it happens in the game, then we should be able to use replay to confirm when an ejection may be necessary," Goodell said. "I believe that our coaches and clubs feel (reviewing ejections) is the appropriate thing to do."

Undoubtedly, some players will be disappointed to have to adjust their style of play to a rule change.

NFL Players Association president Eric Winston sounded skeptical of the changes.

"The league will continue to pass rules and fine players more with the hope that things will change, but meaningful change will happen only when everyone-players, coaches, owners-share responsibility in making the game as safe as possible," Winston wrote on his Twitter account.

Among other topics, Goodell was asked about the situation involving free agent safety Eric Reid, who remains unsigned after taking part in anthem protests last season. Reid, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, said earlier this month that he isn't being pursued as backlash to his social activism.

Goodell denied Reid is being blackballed.

"The 32 teams make their individual decisions on the players they think will best help their franchises," Goodell said.

Goodell was noncommittal on the league's national anthem policy, but instead pointed to a new social justice initiative the league recently passed that he says it allows players to bring awareness to issues they feel strongly about.

"I think we've come to a unique program to support the players and those issues that are important to them," Goodell said.

Goodell said Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson remains under investigation for sexual harassment in the workplace with Mary Jo White heading the investigation. Goodell had no new info to share.

"I haven't gotten an update from her in the last 30 days or so," Goodell said. "But when she has completed her investigation, I certainly will meet with her and you will be aware of it also."

Goodell emphasized the pending sale of the Panthers will have no effect on the investigation.

With the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas for the 2020 season, the gambling topic also is simmering as the NFL once was stout in its disapproval.

While Goodell asserted that "the integrity of our game is No. 1" he also allowed there is a bit more openness when it comes to the topic. He said Las Vegas has became more diverse and more of an "entertainment mecca" over the past two decades.

"I think we have to make sure that we continue to stay focused on making sure that everyone has full confidence that what you see on the field isn't influenced by outside factors," Goodell said. "That's our No. 1 concern. That goes to me, what I consider the integrity of the game, and we will not relent on that."

--Field Level Media