While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declined to make a direct link between playing football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), he supported earlier statements made by Jeff Miller, the league's senior vice president of health and safety policy.
Speaking at the league owners' meetings Wednesday, Goodell framed the discussion around the research into CTE, per ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert:
The most important thing for us is to support the medicine and scientists who determine what those connections are. We think that the statements that have been made by [Miller] and others have [been] consistent with our position over the years. We've actually funded those studies. So we're not only aware of those and recognize them but we support those studies. A lot of the research is still in its infancy, but we're trying to find ways to accelerate that.
Goodell begins talking about the issue at the 33-minute mark of the video below:
According to ESPN's Steve Fainaru, Miller responded "certainly, yes" on March 15 when asked by a U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce roundtable whether any connection between football and CTE and other neurodegenerative diseases exists.
It was the first public admission by any league official of any possible link. As a result, many wondered if Miller's comments would impact the ongoing litigation between the league and former players. Paul Clement, an attorney representing the league, told Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio that the acknowledgment will "have no bearing on the pending appeal."
On Wednesday, Goodell was also pressed to respond to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who questioned whether playing football leads to diseases such as CTE, per Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal:
Seifert reported the commissioner declined to answer when asked about Jones' comments.
This issue certainly isn't going to fade from public consciousness anytime soon, especially with the NFL announcing the number of documented concussions rose from 206 in 2014 to 271 in 2015.
The league is continuing to institute rule changes with the goal of making the game safer.
Most recently, the NFL outlawed chop blocks and expanded the parameters for what constitutes horse-collar tackles, per CBSSports.com's Will Brinson. In addition, according to USA Today's Lorenzo Reyes, the result of touchbacks will be possession of the ball on the 25-yard line for the receiving team. The rule could be read as a step toward discarding of kickoffs altogether since it's considered one of the most dangerous plays in the sport.