Reporting from Carlsbad — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opened the annual rookie symposium Sunday by speaking to a conference room filled with newly minted pros, touching on issues of player safety, off-the-field conduct and the importance of leadership.
As for the biggest issue on the league's landscape, the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011? That didn't come up.
"I opened it up for questions and nobody asked about that," said Goodell, who spoke to a small group of reporters afterward.
There is no question, though, that the NFL and its players' union is — like that roomful of rookies — heading into less-than-familiar waters. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in March.
"There will be an agreement at some point," Goodell said. "Everyone would like it sooner rather than later."
For first-year players, at least, the focus this week is the 14th annual symposium, a four-day orientation at La Costa Hotel and Conference Center. The program is designed "to prepare players for the opportunities and challenges ahead," and covers topics such as personal finances, life skills, NFL policies and procedures, and family issues.
"The next few days is designed to help them not only transition into the NFL but also beyond the NFL," Goodell said. "It starts with being good men and making sure that you have as long a career as possible.…
"It's about preparing yourself for life. Football is not the only thing and it's not going to last forever. I think they understood that message."
Underscoring that, Goodell spoke by phone earlier Sunday to hospitalized New York Giants rookie Chad Jones, who was seriously injured in a car accident last week.
"I mentioned how life changes quick," Goodell said. Jones "is in the hospital fighting for his life. He sounds like he's doing well, but he's got a long road back."
Jones is one of three drafted rookies excused from the mandatory symposium for medical reasons. A league spokesman said the other 252 of the 255 drafted players have checked in.
In his meeting with reporters, Goodell answered several questions on a variety of topics. Among them:
On player safety: "It's been a major focus for us in the rules and the enforcement of the rules. We're going to focus a lot on equipment. At least 14 teams are going to be testing some new kinds of pads. Hip, thigh, knee pads, and pads in the ribcage and shoulder area. What they're designed to do is perform at a high level but also make the guys safer."
On the shooting last week outside a birthday party for Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick: "We're still gathering the facts. I think they've been reported fairly accurately, from what I can tell. We've been told by law enforcement that [Vick] is not a focus of this at all."
On whether he has a preference between the competing L.A.-area stadium concepts, Industry and downtown: "No. I think there's a lot more work that needs to be done. We're at a very early stage. I think it's promising that there are alternatives developing, but there's still a big hurdle to get these financed and built. They are difficult projects to get done."
Mike Pereira, the NFL's just-retired director of officiating, has been hired by Fox Sports as a multi-platform rules analyst.
The network will be building Pereira a command center in Los Angeles much like the one he used at league headquarters in New York, allowing him to monitor every game and make sense of controversial calls.
"If I was given my choice of anything I could do after retiring from the league, this is pretty much it," Pereira said from his home in Sacramento, from which he'll commute to L.A. every weekend during the season.
In addition to his contributions to Fox TV and radio, Pereira will conduct a live chat with football fans during games, analyzing controversial calls, etc.
"For 12 years I've been teaching officiating to 120 guys," he said. "Now I feel like I'm going to be teaching officiating to millions. I really have a chance to educate people on the rules."