Updated Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 01:17 AM
NEW ORLEANS — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested Friday the league could use suspensions more often to enforce its crackdown on hits to the head.
"I think we're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders," Goodell said. "It's not just the player, the defenseless player, that's being protected; it's the person doing the striking. We see in the injury rates that the defenseless player and the defensive back are having a higher injury rate."
When players keep violating the rule, he said, they're going to be taken off the field.
"Suspension gets through to them," the commissioner said.
During the season, the league suspended Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed for his third violation of rules prohibiting helmet-to-helmet hits on defenseless players. The suspension was overturned on appeal by Ted Cottrell, an NFL hearing officer. Goodell made the remarks during his annual state-of-the-league news conference, which was heavy with questions about player safety. It came one day after players union leaders challenged the league on several player-safety issues.
Union leaders said they wanted a neutral chief safety officer to be appointed to hear appeals about acceptable levels of care, and that an internal survey of players showed that most did not trust their team's medical staff. The union offered no numbers from the survey.
Goodell sounded irritated by the union's announcements, noting two times that the league and union met for four hours last week — with players and owners in attendance — and the survey had not been raised by the union, an indication of the fractured relationship between the league and the players.
• Goodell believes the NFL will have testing for human growth hormone for the 2013 season. The league and union agreed to start testing when the collective-bargaining agreement was completed 18 months ago, but since then they have sparred over the details.
• Goodell said the league would look to set standards for the quality of playing fields, probably a reaction to the sloppy turf at the Washington Redskins' FedEx Field.
• Goodell said his only regret from the Saints' bounty scandal was his inability to get everyone — he singled out the union — to realize that bounties must be eliminated from the game.
• Forty-six Pro Football Hall of Fame committee members will select between four and seven new members on the eve of the Super Bowl. Former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell will be considered for enshrinement along with coach Bill Parcells, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., season sacks leader Michael Strahan, offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, running back Jerome Bettis, wide receivers Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed, defensive standouts Charles Haley and Kevin Greene, guard Will Shields and defensive back Aeneas Williams.
• Houston Texans running back Arian Foster said he has not spoken with his doctors about "any surgery," disputing a report that he was likely to undergo a heart procedure in about a month.
• Mitch Ross, the man who reportedly supplied Ray Lewis with deer-antler spray, said he can't confirm the Baltimore Ravens linebacker ever used the stuff.
• Constance Helwig-Langlois, the daughter of former Chicago Bears player John Helwig, pleaded guilty in Detroit to fraud after collecting money from an NFL pension plan years after her father's death.
GERALD HERBERT / AP
Roger Goodell is commissioner of the NFL.