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NFL will address workplace environment, Colts owner's issues, Roger Goodell says

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | 7:16 p.m. CDT
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a news conference at the NFL football annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., on Monday. Goodell and the owners have already made changes to several rules considerations for the coming year and are addressing concerns about workplace environment for players in the league.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Commissioner Roger Goodellsaid the NFL will meet with the players union on April 8 to discuss improving the league's workplace environment.

In the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, league representatives have met with some 40 players in the last three months, as well as with the Dolphins and outside organizations, Goodell said Monday at the NFL owners meetings. The league is trying to get "as much input as possible. It's more about people understanding the importance of a proper workplace."

Goodell added the focus is on medical evaluations of the players involved, including tackle Jonathan Martin, who left the Dolphins in the middle of last season, saying he was harassed by guard Richie Incognito. Martin was traded to the 49ers earlier this month.

An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Miami Dolphins offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin. Incognito was then suspended and missed the final eight games last season, and he became a free agent when his contract with the Dolphins expired.

On Monday, Incognito made a peace offering to Martin via Twitter. Incognito posted: "Call me on my cell phone. Love you brother. (Stuff) got crazy but we held it together," with the hash tags of CALLME and FAMILY.

And in another tweet to Martin: "No hard feelings. Let's just move on :)"

Goodell noted that improving the workplace environment involves "a culture change." He did not address what discipline any of the players face from the league for the bullying.

"What we need to do is make sure we have a workplace we are all proud of. This will be an important meeting with the players," Goodell said.

The NFL Players Association did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Goodell also addressed the absence of Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has entered a treatment facility after police found multiple prescription drugs in his vehicle during a traffic stop earlier this month. The 54-year-old Irsay faces preliminary charges of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance.

"He is seeking help and he's done that voluntarily," Goodell said. "To my knowledge, there's been no formal charges at this point. Obviously any policies or laws that are broken, whether they are (by) commissioner, player or coach, those are subject to discipline."

Irsay is being represented at the meetings by his daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon. And Indianapolis' suggestion that teams be allowed to open or close the stadium roof at halftime to enhance the fan experience has been tabled.

League owners will address potential rules changes and bylaws adjustments this week, but only approved one item Monday: a one-year extension of the Raiders' stadium lease in Oakland. Earlier in the day, Raiders owner Mark Davis reiterated, "We're trying to get something done in Oakland" for a new home.

League owners passed a rule Tuesday in which referees can consult with director of officiating Dean Blandino and his staff to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned.

Blandino and other staff will be monitoring the games, and they will immediately begin reviewing challenges before the referee even gets to his monitor. They then can make recommendations on what replays to look at, but the referee still will make the final decision.

Blandino believes the change will speed up the review process and help ensure the calls are made correctly.

"The referee will be the ultimate authority; we'll consult and come to a consensus," Blandino said of the proposal, something the NHL does on a smaller scale to great effect, although the final call in hockey comes from the league office. "Our system is more inclusive as to what we look at."

Under the proposal, observers at the central officiating site could begin discussing the play even as the referee is consulting with the coach making a challenge.

"Then we could say to the referee, 'We've got two shots we want you to see,' "said Rich McKay, president of the Falcons and co-chairman of the influential competition committee. "Dean sold us and we think he's got something there."

AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Steven Wine contributed to this story.


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