What comes now for NFL after tumultuous season?

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“The reality of it is, ‘football as we know it’ has evolved over decades. … Our job is to have an unqualified commitment to the health and safety of the people who play the game, and then to make those changes where we see necessary,” NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said.

“I don’t think there is this thing of ‘football as we know it.’ What we have is football that has constantly developed,” Smith said. “And even with all of the (recent) rule changes … my guess is this Super Bowl will be the highest-rated of all time.”

Indeed, while the concussion lawsuits mount — a U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia will hear oral arguments in April on the NFL’s effort to dismiss a group of cases — and questions arise about what insurers will charge the league moving forward, the money does keep rolling in. Revenues already topped $9 billion at the time of the last labor deal in 2011, and new TV contracts will only help increase it.

“At $10-to-$12 billion? It ain’t going nowhere,” said Warren Sapp, a retired defensive tackle elected Saturday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who now works for the NFL Network, another piece of the league’s marketing machine. “We play a beautiful game. We hit each other. (Players) have to take care of each other better. Then it will be fine.”

Meantime, the NFL continues to look for new ways to increase its cash flow.

During his state of the league address two days before the Super Bowl, Goodell did not rule out increasing the regular season from 16 to 18 games, and he reiterated the possibility of expanding the postseason, too. He announced that two 2013 games in London already are sold out, and there could be three in future seasons — down a path that, eventually, could lead to a franchise based in Britain.

“For you to be adding games to the season, are you looking out for player safety? Or are you trying to generate more player revenue?” 49ers receiver Randy Moss said. “If you’re trying to look and protect the players, and keep it healthier and better every year, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Several players in this year’s Super Bowl were incredulous that the league would even consider more games. A handful voiced concern over a disconnect between players and owners.

The president of the NFLPA, former Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, said he wonders how truthful Goodell and other NFL off
icials are being when they say — as they often do — that players’ well-being is a priority.

“The league, their No. 1 focus — at least they say their No. 1 focus — is health and safety. And we say our No. 1 focus is health and safety. How come we have such a hard time moving the ball on some health and safety issues?” Foxworth said. “I believe health and safety is on their list of top five things, but it comes in well behind increasing the bottom line.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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