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Commissioner Goodell has first news conference

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Sept. 6, 2006) -- The NFL and its union are discussing strengthening their drug program to keep pace with the increase in the number of performance-enhancing substances and the efficiency of masking agents.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, in his first news conference since taking over for Paul Tagliabue on Sept. 1, said he has been discussing the problem with Gene Upshaw, the head of the NFL Players Association. Among the topics discussed were increasing the number of tests and perhaps the number of substances tested.

But Goodell, who has been the NFL's chief operating officer the past six years, noted that the review is nothing new: The union and the league review the drug testing program annually. The NFL currently makes approximately 10,000 random tests annually for performance-enhancing drugs to about 2,000 players.

"I think we've got a lot of great experts who will be able to work with this," Goodell said. "We've always been at the front of the line in drug testing and I think we will continue."

Goodell touched on a number of subjects, taking in most cases the same positions as Tagliabue -- not unexpected given that he has been on the job for less than a week and was Tagliabue's No. 2 man for so long.

He said his first priority will be visiting all 32 teams, starting this week. He will attend the NFL's opening game Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh featuring the Steelers and Miami Dolphins, then return for the Sept. 10 contest between the Giants and Colts before going to the Monday night game in Washington between the Redskins and Vikings.

He actually began talking to players today at Giants practice. He got a hug from Michael Strahan, chatted with Tiki Barber and center Shaun O'Hara, and shook hands with Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi and coach Tom Coughlin. But Coughlin, who doesn't like his daily routine interrupted, also appeared to be a little taken aback when Goodell stopped near the practice field to chat with reporters before going upstairs to the press box for a more formal session.

Goodell also said:

  • The league is looking at the possibility of wiring players other than quarterbacks so that there will be fewer false starts by visitors in noisy stadiums. "Don't get me wrong," Goodell said. "I love the 12th man. But keeping the game moving without so many penalties is also very important."
  • He doesn't anticipate the NFL expanding beyond 32 teams in the near future. But Goodell, who has been the league's point man in trying to get a franchise back in Los Angeles, said putting an expansion team in southern California could be the exception.
  • The NFL has reached a new six-year contract with its officials, who five years ago were locked out for part of the 2001 preseason and the first week of the regular season when they failed to come to an agreement. The dispute was settled before the second week, which was postponed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
  • He is hopeful the league and the union will agree on extending the labor contract before November 2008, when both sides have the option to reopen talks. "We hope we can reach an understanding."

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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