Face the Nation transcripts February 3, 2013: Goodell on Super Bowl Sunday

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on February 3, 2013, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, CBS NFL analyst Jim Nantz, CBS NFL analyst Shannon Sharpe, and former NFL quarterback Phil Simms.

SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, it's Super Bowl Sunday, the event that's become part of America's culture. New Orleans is ready and the fans around the country are excited about the big game, but when the President of the United States says that if he had a son he'd think long and hard about letting him play the game, the commissioner of the National Football League knows he's got a problem.

GOODELL: I'll do anything that's going to help us make the game safer and better and they have my commitment to that.

SCHIEFFER: But how do you make it safer without changing the game as away know it? We'll ask commissioner Roger Goodell. We'll talk about that and today's game with the CBS broadcast team, Jim Nantz, former Giants quarterback Phil Simms, and Hall of Fame receiver Shannon Sharpe. It's the big game in the Big Easy, and it doesn't get any better than that. And this is "Face the Nation."

ANNOUNCER: And now from New Orleans, site of Super Bowl XLVII, "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. We are at Jackson Square in historic New Orleans just down want road from the Superdome, where the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers are going to face off this evening. We're joined by the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, plus our CBS sports broadcast team, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, who will be calling the game tonight and hall of fame wide receiver and CBS analyst Shannon Sharpe, who seems to me the only guy here today wearing some Super Bowl rings.

SHARPE: I thought the occasion warranted me bringing out the big diamonds.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Commissioner, we thank you for being with us. Some very serious questions now that are on your plate. The president of the United States says he's not sure he'd want his kid to play football if he had a son. What is your reaction to this? Would you want your children to play football now if...

GOODELL: Absolutely. I have twin daughters, just like the president. And I'm concerned when they play any sport. The second highest incidence of concussions is actually girls' soccer. So what you have to do is make sure that the game is as safe as possible. In the NFL, we're changing the rules. We're making sure the equipment is the best possible equipment. We're investing in research to make sure that we can address concussions, not just to make football safer at the NFL level, but all levels, and other sports.

SCHIEFFER: Well, and let me ask you this -- and I'm going to ask you this question because some widows of some NFL players have asked me to ask you -- do you now acknowledge that there is a link between the game and these concussions that people have been getting, some of these brain injuries?

GOODELL: That's why we're investing in the research so that we can answer the question, what is the link? What causes some of the injuries that our players are still dealing with? And we take those issues very seriously. So we're putting $30 million into the National Institutes of Health. This morning we announced an initiative with General Electric to put more research into how do these injuries occur? How do we prevent them? And how do we diagnose them with some leading companies. And this is something we think is going to be very important.

SCHIEFFER: Because for years the league would not acknowledge, really, that there was a connection. You now acknowledge that there is a connection?

GOODELL: Well Bob, again, we're going to let the medical individuals make those points. We are going to give them the money, advance that science. In the meantime, we have to do everything we can to advance the game and make sure it's safe.

SCHIEFFER: Jim?

NANTZ: Well the commissioner talked about football and all sports. And I think there's no question there's a link. It's just there's still a lot more research to be conducted to find out exactly how soon these athletes come back to perform. Do they come back too soon? Do they put them back in the game too soon? I really applaud what Roger has been doing. I know there's been an outcry by the players around the League trying to make the game too safe, it's taking away what is a contact sport. But I really believe he is trying to look after the future, not only of the sport but of these individuals. Somebody cries about he's penalized or fined too much, but what they don't realize is there are thousands of people right now lined up with lawsuits against league. Talk to them about what their later life is after football. You know, he's trying to look after your later life. I really believe that.

SCHIEFFER: Well you know, Mr. Commissioner, in light of those lawsuits, there are some people out there who are saying that the league hid the dangers of this game from the players who were playing it. Did you?

GOODELL: No. And in fact, we're all learning more about brain injuries. And the NFL has led the way. We started a concussion committee back in the mid-90s with players association to study these issues and to advance science. We're obviously now learning more and more, and we're investing more and more, and I think that's going to lead to answers, even outside of brain injury, I think even to brain disease.

SCHIEFFER: Phil, would you advise parents to let their kids play football?

SIMMS: Yes, I would. I have two kids, two sons that play football at many levels, even in the pros. And I would not hesitate now, especially, because what we have learned about what goes on with the contact and everything. Because here's why-- because they've changed the rules to make the game safer. And it's changing at every single level. So that means it's even changing in the Pop Warner. So we're going to have generation of kids now starting, they're going to go through -- hopefully they'll play 10 years of professional football. But they're going to play -- their contact is going to be limited to such a small percentage of what people like Shannon and myself went through. So I think we're going to see -- it's going to take a few years, but we're going to see a new generation of players that get through the NFL and their health is going to be so much better than some of the generations we've seen before.

SCHIEFFER: Shannon, what I want to ask you is how can you make this game safe and ensure that it's safe? Football is about blocking and tackling. How do you make it safe and yet keep it football, the game that we know?

SHARPE: Well, I think the commissioner and the NFL has done a great job of trying to bring awareness, as you mentioned, from the Pop Warner level, the helmets-- they're trying to make them safer. They're dealing with the NASCAR, they're dealing with the military to try to find the safest helmet possible. It also comes down to the players. And you look at Alex Smith. He got a concussion. He did everything right. He said, "I don't feel good." They took him out of the ball game. The week leading up to the next game, he didn't feel any better. They put Colin Kaepernick in and, Colin Kaepernick is the starter now. So the player is saying to himself now everybody is watching this, why am I going to tell them that I have a concussion if I run the risk of losing my job? Colin Kaepernick had a seat center stage. Alex Smith is walking around with the practice squad guys. So guys bear some responsibility. You look at the article that came out in the paper the other day that the commissioner had a 61 percent disapproval rating. See change is always met by resistance. You look at integration, it was met with resistance. You look at civil rights, it was met with resistance. But as we look back, we realize that was the right thing to do. I think 10, 15 years from now all the players will sit back and say, you know what? I didn't like what the commissioner did at the time, but it was the right thing to do. He has an obligation to the National Football League to grow it, make sure it's prosperous 30 gears from now, but he also wants to make sure his players are healthy leaving the game and having a 20-year healthy rate after the game.

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