Goodell underscores safety with fans

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in an email to 10 million names in its database Thursday, highlighted the league's safety programs and new emphasis on safety in youth football.

The letter came a day after two excerpts from a new book -- "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth" -- detailed what authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru claim was the NFL using its power and resources to downplay the effects of concussions on NFL players.

In his letter, Goodell said the NFL is committed "to deliver the game that the fans love and the safety that players deserve." He also wrote that "we will continue to find ways to protect players so they can enjoy longer careers on the field and healthier lives off the field."

The 1,000-plus-word letter comes on the heels of excerpts of "League of Denial," which ran on ESPN.com and in Sports Illustrated. The book claims that the NFL used its power and resources to discredit independent scientists and their work, that the league cited research data that minimized the dangers of concussions while emphasizing the league's flawed research and that league executives employed an aggressive public relations strategy designed to keep the public unaware of what league executives really knew about the effects of playing the game.

It says the NFL's stance on concussions began under former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who left office in 2006, but continued under Goodell, his successor. The book claims that the NFL underplayed concussions despite paying out $2 million in disability benefits in 1999.

The health of former players and the league's previous scientific exploration formed the basis of a lawsuit filed against the NFL by more than 4,500 former players. The players charged that the league's Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee conducted fraudulent research to hide the connection between football and brain damage. On Aug. 29, the NFL and the former players settled the lawsuit for $765 million.

In the letter, Goodell wrote that "there have been numerous safety-related rules changes going back decades: from the 1970s when we eliminated the head slap, to the 80s when we eliminated clubbing, to the 90s when we increased protection for defenseless players, to the 2000s when the horse collar tackle was made illegal. When we identify dangerous techniques, we adopt rules to eliminate them."

He added: "Our commitment goes beyond the NFL. We know that our actions influence college, high school, and youth football. It is part of a shared responsibility to protect the future of our game. We are especially proud of our partnership with USA Football this year to successfully launch 'Heads Up Football,' a program designed to ensure that coaches are trained and certified in proper tackling techniques as well as concussion and hydration education."

He concluded by writing that "Football will remain the hard-hitting, physical sport that you love. And we will continue to be vigilant in seeking ways to make the game even better and safer. The future of football is brighter, bigger, better, and more exciting than ever" and thanking fans for their support.

"League of Denial" will be released Tuesday by Crown Archetype.