SUPER BOWL WATCH: Katrina, Coin flip bets, Modell

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 4:31 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013

Goodell says steps the league has taken in recent seasons have made the game safer, and more steps are likely going forward.

"We will not relent on this," he said.

Neurosurgeons will be part of gameday medical staffs beginning next season, he said. The league is also looking at eliminating certain low blocks and will continue to impose harsh punishments for illegal hits — particularly for players who are repeat offenders.

Proper tackling technique also needs to be emphasized, getting players to get away from using their heads and return to using their shoulders and arms.

"The No. 1 issue is, take the head out of the game," Goodell said.

Asked specifically about Obama's concerns, Goodell said "I welcome" the comments because it keeps attention on the dangers of head trauma.

"What we are doing is leading the way to try and make sure people understand you need to treat these injuries seriously," he said.

SAINTS BOUNTIES

Goodell refused to apologize for his harsh treatment of the Saints' bounty program, even if it means he's not the most popular man in New Orleans this week.

Coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season, and four current or former Saints players were punished after an investigation found the club had had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned.

"There's no question that there was a bounty program in place for three years. I think that is bad for the players, it's bad for the game," Goodell said. "I don't believe bounties are going to be part of football going forward, and I think that's good for everybody."

His only regret was not convincing teams, players and coaches that everyone shares in the responsibility of making the game safer.

"I wasn't able to make that point clearly enough with the union and with others," he said. "But that is something we're going to be incredibly relentless on."

ROONEY RULE

Despite eight coaching vacancies and openings for seven general managers, no minorities were hired for the NFL's most high-profile positions this off-season. Goodell says that's unacceptable.

"There was full compliance of the Rooney Rule. In fact, I believe there were a record number of interviews," Goodell said. "But we didn't have the outcome we wanted. It's very important to the success of the league to do that, and we're committed to find that solution."

Goodell said the league needs to look at whether the rule needs to be expanded or adapted.

COLD-WEATHER SUPER BOWLS

Next year's Super Bowl in New York is unlikely to be the last played outdoors in a cold-weather city, judging by Goodell's remarks.

"The game of football is made to be played in the elements," he said. "Now, we hope they will not be extreme, but we will be prepared if that's the case. Some of the most classic games in history were played in extreme conditions."

— Nancy Armour — http://www.twitter.com/nrarmour

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WHAT'S IN A NAME? FOR HARBAUGHS, DEFINITELY A 'J'

Jack and Jackie Harbaugh weren't trying to be cute when they gave all three of their kids names that start with the letter "J."

John, the eldest, was a given. He's named after Jack, whose given name is also John. Jim's name came from Jackie's doctor in Perrysburg, Ohio, who also was named Jim.

"They came in and said, 'What are you going to name this baby?' and I said that I liked the name Jim," Jackie Harbaugh said.

As for Joani, their third child and only daughter, her full name is Joani Marie and it comes from Jackie Harbaugh's mother's middle name and the first name of Jack Harbaugh's mother.

So it really wasn't planned, this whole family of J Harbaughs?

"No," Jackie Harbaugh said. "We aren't very creative."

— Nancy Armour — http://twitter.com/nrarmour

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SALSA VS SQUIRREL

Which dance do you prefer: Victor Cruz' touchdown salsa or Ray Lewis' game entrance squirrel?

Cruz breaks it down: "The Ray Lewis slide has a little more intensity, a little more swagger fire under it. The salsa is just for swagger, for flavor, a little bit, but it's two completely different joints."

Cruz did his interpretation of the Lewis dance and said he likes them both.

"It's unique to each other's character, each other's personality," he said.

Lewis might trade dance props for any holdover luck from Cruz' trip to the Super Bowl last year; the wide receiver won a title with New York.

Cruz said he plans to tweet during Sunday's game from his (at)teamvic account, about the game and the entertainment.

"I'm looking forward to Alicia Keys ... singing the national anthem, as well as Beyonce at half time," Cruz said. "I feel like they picked some good performers this year."

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody — http://twitter.com/nekesamumbi

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FAN TAKES: GOODELL

Fans at the NFL Experience are here for fun but also have some strong thoughts about Commissioner Roger Goodell as he talks about the state of the league.

Many are torn with the Super Bowl in town as they heal from Goodell's disciplining of the New Orleans Saints in a bounty scandal.

Despite mixed feelings, the party's not stopping.

Here's what some folks said Friday as a local brass band, the Brass-O-Holics, jammed on a stage.

— "He's the grinch who stole our Christmas, but it's Mardi Gras, so it's all good in the neighborhood. Welcome, Roger." —Stephanie Arwood, a New Orleans resident in a Marcus Colston jersey with her young son.

— "There's a lot of anger toward Roger Goodell. I hope the Saints fans have mercy on him while he's here, truthfully. ... Katrina's a perfect example of how we'll pick up and move on, but we're not going to move on until the season's over with. Especially while he's here, I think we'll take every opportunity to give back to him what he gave to us." —Sammie Mitchell, a New Orleans resident sporting a gold Saints jersey as he took pictures with friends and family.

— "I don't have any hard feelings. ... "It's time to move on and get ready for next season. We just have to move forward." —Edwin Cowart of Gretna, La., sporting a Jimmy Graham Saints jersey. He says he's following the lead of coaches and players in moving on.

— Stacey Plaisance

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5 KEY PLAYERS: BALTIMORE

We asked AP pro football writer Barry Wilner to pick five key players for each team in this Super Bowl. You'll want to pay attention to these guys on Sunday.

First, for the Baltimore Ravens:

—JOE FLACCO (QB, JERSEY NO. 5): Flacco is on a personal streak this postseason with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. He outplayed top draftee Andrew Luck, then Peyton Manning, then Tom Brady in leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl. And he's been successful in the playoffs over his five-year career — he has an 8-4 playoff record and an NFL record by leading his team to playoff wins in each of his first five seasons.

—RAY RICE (RB, JERSEY NO. 27): Rice has been the hub of the Ravens' offense throughout his career — a threat to break long gains on runs or screen passes. This season, he rushed for 1,143 yards and nine TDs, caught 61 passes for 478 yards. He has two touchdowns in the postseason.

—RAY LEWIS (ILB, JERSEY NO. 52): Lewis has been the emotional engine for Baltimore his entire career, and retires after this game. Teammate Bernard Pollard calls him "The Raven." Lewis missed 10 games this year with a torn right triceps, but has been sensational in playoffs with 44 tackles. He was the MVP of the 2001 Super Bowl, the Ravens' only championship, and Defensive Player of Year in 2000 and 2003.

—PAUL KRUGER (DE, JERSEY NO. 99): Kruger had a breakout season and has been among the best defenders in playoffs. He led Baltimore with nine sacks and has 2½ in the postseason. He's very disruptive and also can drop into coverage, though that's not his strength. He doesn't get double-teamed as much with Terrell Suggs getting healthier.

—CARY WILLIAMS (CB, JERSEY No. 29): Williams is a very up-and-down defender who has two picks in postseason, including one in the end zone in the AFC championship. A so-so tackler, better as coverage man, yet made 75 tackles during the season. Williams joined the Ravens in 2009 after Tennessee cut him.

— Barry Wilner

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HGH TESTING

Repeating something the league has been saying for more than a year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he hopes there will be HGH testing soon — before the start of the 2013 season if he has his way.

Your turn, players' union.

The league and union paved the way for testing two seasons ago in the collective bargaining agreement. But the sides have been at an impasse, with the NFL Players Association saying it needs more information about the validity of a test that is used by Olympic sports and Major League Baseball. The union also has issues with the appeals process, saying the league won't agree to the independent arbitrator that Major League Baseball's drug-testing program has.

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EDITOR'S NOTE — "Super Bowl Watch" shows you the Super Bowl and the events surrounding the game through the eyes of Associated Press journalists across New Orleans and around the world. Follow them on Twitter where available with the handles listed after each item.