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Roger Goodell: NFL will cooperate with Congress regarding Washington Football Team

In this Feb. 3, 2020 file photo

 In this Feb. 3, 2020 file photo NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference in Miami.  Credit: AP/Brynn Anderson

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL will cooperate with a request from two members of Congress seeking to get more information on the league’s investigation into workplace misconduct with the Washington Football Team. Goodell also said the league would continue to respect the privacy of those who participated in the inquiry by not releasing more details of their testimony.

"We’ll respond to Congress. We’ll be cooperative. We’ve been in touch," Goodell said after a six-hour meeting with owners at the Intercontinental Hotel in Manhattan. "We look forward to the opportunity to do that."

Two members of the House of Representatives, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois), sent a letter to Goodell last week and demanded the NFL provide Congress with the results of the league’s investigation. The league was given until Nov. 4 to respond to questions and provide documents.

While a summary of league-appointed attorney Beth Wilkinson was presented to owners, no written report was delivered to the NFL because of the sensitivity of the testimony, which included allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct within the organization.

"We feel that this is the appropriate way to do it," Goodell said. "We summarized the findings and made it very clear that the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team is not what we expect, and steps were put in place so it won’t happen again."

Goodell said protecting the women who stepped forward was paramount to the league’s decision to not provide a written report. Goodell insisted that "we respect them and that we protect them" in reference to those who testified.

Two former employees of the Washington Football Team delivered a letter to members of the NFL’s social justice committee at Tuesday’s meeting, urging the league to make public the findings of its investigation. The letter, written by former WFT cheerleader and marketing executive Melanie Coburn and former marketing and sales executive Ana Nunez, was addressed to owners Gayle Benson of the Saints, Michael Bidwill of the Cardinals, Arthur Blank of the Falcons, Jimmy Haslam of the Browns and Shahid Khan of the Jaguars.

Coburn and Nunez delivered the letter to the hotel lobby to draw attention to the investigation, which resulted in team owner Daniel Snyder paying a record $10 million fine and being stripped of day-to-day operation of the club. Emails between Jon Gruden and former WFT president Bruce Allen, many of which included misogynistic, homophobic, and racist slurs by Gruden, resulted in his resignation as the Raiders’ coach earlier this month.

"While your working group was formed to address issues of racial justice in the league, you also have the ability to seek justice for the hundreds of women and men, such as us, who bravely came forward to share stories of harassment and abuse we experienced while employees of the WFT," the letter read. "The NFL should not be allowed to encourage employees to come forward at great personal and professional risk to speak to investigators, only to sweep the results of that investigation under the rug."

Owners are expected to discuss the WFT situation extensively during an executive session Wednesday morning.

"We deserve to be heard," Coburn said. "There are a lot of employees who are still scared and intimidated and threatened to come forward."

Concussions down in preseason

NFL executive vice president of communications Jeff Miller said Tuesday that the league saw a reduction in the incidence of concussions during preseason games and practices. This year, there were 51 concussions, down from 79 in 2019. There were no preseason games last season.

Miller attributed the reduction to reduced contact in practice and the introduction of new helmets in recent years, including three in 2021. While the NFL has reduced the number of preseason games this year to three games, Miller believes the reduction isn’t simply the result of fewer games, because practices are also included in the calculation.

Vaccinations among players over 90%

More than nine of every 10 NFL players have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, 94.1% of players have been vaccinated.

"We would love to get to that goal of 100%," Sills said.

He added that between 0.4 and 0.6% of the nearly 100,000 COVID-tests conducted this season have been positive. No games have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus.

"We don’t see any evidence of outdoor on-field spread," Sills said.

Sills said the league has seen an increase of soft tissue injuries, including hamstring, adductor and groin injuries. "It’s a call to action to intercede," he said.

Goodell waiting on Watson decision

Goodell said the uncertainty surrounding Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has delayed the league from acting on his situation. Watson has been hit with several civil lawsuits that allege sexual assault of more than 20 massage therapists.

"We don’t have all the access to that information and pride ourselves on not interfering with it," Goodell said. "That process is ongoing. We don't feel we have that necessary information to place him on the [commissioner’s] exempt list."

Watson has not played this season and has been the subject of trade speculation.

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