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: 

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Inside the annual NFL meetings
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Inside the annual NFL meetings
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie speaks with NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent after a meeting at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attends the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn breaks from the conference room at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: (LtoR) Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and Owner Dean Spanos break from the conference room at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn (L) and Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke talk after a meeting at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 27: Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia answers questions during the AFC & NFC coaches breakfast at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 27, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 28: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during the closing press conference at the 2018 NFL Annual Meetings at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Great Lakes on March 28, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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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.

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Eric Reid protesting during the national anthem
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Eric Reid protesting during the national anthem
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 18: Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 46-27. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to playing the Los Angeles Rams in their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: (L-R) fFee safety Eric Reid #35, quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 and outside linebacker Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sidelines during the national anthem before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle,Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 02: (L-R) Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 6: Eli Harold #58. Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline during the anthem prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 33-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 15: Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills defeated the 49ers 45-16. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16: Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers (not shown) and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 13: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, the game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 23-20. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 27: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels dugout the National Anthem before the preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on August 27, 2017 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 11: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneels on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the New York Jets at Levi Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. The Jets defeated the 49ers 23-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers leads the team in a 'call to attention' during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium on September 10, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Panthers defeated the 49ers 23-3. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Eli Harold #57, Eric Reid #35 and Marquise Goodwin #11 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi's Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 24-13. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 24: Eli Harold #57, Eric Reid #35, Marquise Goodwin #11 and Louis Murphy #18 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline as Adrian Colbert #38 stands with them in solidarity, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Levi's Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Jaguars 44-33. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 8: Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers leads the team as they kneel and stand together during the anthem prior to the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts defeated the 49ers 26-23. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: Eli Harold #57, Eric Reid #35, Marquise Goodwin #11 and Louis Murphy #18 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the anthem as Reuben Foster #56 and Adrian Colbert #38 stand in solidarty, prior to the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on December 31, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. The 49ers defeated the Rams 34-13. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
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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

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