- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Five days into his tenure as NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell already was thinking about ways to expand the reach of the most powerful entity in sports.

“We cannot become complacent,” Goodell said in an interview yesterday at Giants Stadium. “The NFL isn’t only a professional sports league. It’s an entertainment product. We have to look at everything as competition. It’s part of my nature. I feel like I’m in competition with everybody.”

After outlasting the competition to become only the fourth NFL commissioner since World War II, Goodell, 47, is thinking of the future. He wants to begin playing preseason games in China and play more regular-season games in Mexico.

“We have to continue to challenge ourselves on what we can do to make the game more attractive from a fan perspective,” Goodell said. “Should we be using the technology that’s available nowadays to make sure that our players can communicate with each other so they can come into an opposing stadium that may be loud and be able to play at the highest possible level?

“We’re hindering that right now to some extent. They’re not able to put the full offense in. They’re not able to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Frankly, I’m not sure that the best product is on the field.”

Goodell said he foresees having every player’s helmet wired for optimum communication.

“Not that we’re going ‘Star Wars’ … but it could potentially be that,” Goodell said. “We have rules that restrict crowd noise. That’s counter-intuitive to me. I love the 12th Man. I love the fact that home fans can influence the game. I’m not trying to take that away. I’m just trying to let our teams perform at the highest level.”

Goodell also has his eye on football’s lower levels.

“The game is my No.1 priority,” he said. “What can we do to make sure the game stays healthy, not only at the NFL level but at the college level, the high school level and the youth football level? That’s critically important for our long-term future. I feel a responsibility to our younger players and younger fans.”

Another aspect of that responsibility is the ban on performance-enhancing substances. Goodell promised a continued aggressive effort in that area and lamented the lack of an accurate test for human growth hormone, the newest problematic substance.

“We have an outstanding [drug-testing] program, but it can always be improved,” Goodell said. “We should be held to a higher standard. We’re the NFL.”

Goodell, who will attend the Redskins game at FedEx Field on Monday night, has been with the NFL since he began his ascent up the ladder in the league office in 1984. But it’s still a big jump even from chief operating officer to commissioner.

“When they present you with the first football that has your name on it, it sets you back a little bit,” Goodell said. “It’s a pretty daunting moment.”

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