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Goodell Calls For ‘Culture Of Safety,’ Denies Saying He Fears NFL Player Dying On Field

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league will continue to do “everything we can” to make football safer.

Player safety in the NFL has been a frequent topic of conversation recently and Goodell discussed it again Wednesday during a lecture and question-and-answer session at the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

“We know that in order to secure the future, we can and must do more to make the game safer, and in the process, we will make other sports safer as well,” Goodell said.

A recent ESPN The Magazine profile on Goodell claimed the commissioner was petrified of a player dying on the field — a story later disputed by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.

On Wednesday, Goodell came to his own defense.

“I have never said that,” he said.

Goodell called for “a culture of safety for every sport” and welcomes the national conversation about player safety and the growing issue of concussions.

“I worry about any injury on the field,” Goodell said. “We are trying to make the game safer for the players who play. The fans care about that. The teams care about that. We are going to do everything we can to make the game safer. Any injury that we see, we want to reduce, particularly catastrophic injuries. We have been able to do that by carefully managing the rules and carefully doing what we can to improve the equipment, and we are not going to relent on that. We will continue to stay after that.”

The NFL is facing concussion-related lawsuits from thousands of former players. In a series of interviews about head injuries with The Associated Press in December 2011, 31 of 44 players said they wanted the league to have independent neurologists at games.

Goodell said the league “will continue to make rule changes, invest in equipment and provide our medical staffs with the tools and authorities” to prevent injuries.

“Medical decisions override everything else,” he said. “We know that our actions set an example.”

Goodell said concussions are down 40 percent in the two seasons in which kickoffs were moved 5 yards to the 35-yard line, a change designed to create more touchbacks and fewer returns.

“Players and coaches have adjusted (to rule changes). They always do, but there is more work ahead,” Goodell said. “We will find other ways to take the head out of the game. The helmet is for protection. It should not be used as a weapon.”

Goodell pointed to the NFL’s recently announced partnership with General Electric to develop ways to improve head protection.

“Science can be a game-changer in making sports safer,” he said.

What must the NFL do to protect its players? Be heard in the comments…

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)