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Chargers-Saints game in London official; Bills to play some games in Toronto

2/2/2008 - NFL

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in between questions about Spygate and why he ordered the demise of six videotapes, addressed numerous other topics in his "State of the NFL" speech Friday in Phoenix.

As expected, Goodell announced that the New Orleans Saints will host the
San Diego Chargers at Wembley Stadium in London on Oct. 26.

"The reception we got was extraordinary for last year's game [the Giants against the Dolphins], and we're so grateful we're
coming back," Goodell said, noting that many franchises had expressed interest in the London
game.

The league approved the Buffalo Bills' plan to play a
regular-season game in Toronto in each of the next five seasons,
plus a preseason game in Canada every other year. Goodell said the Bills' plan "was done thoughtfully to help regionalize the team even more broadly."

That game almost certainly will be in December, after the CFL's
Grey Cup has been played.

For the first time in years, the league is considering revamping
seedings in the playoffs to ensure that more late-season games are
meaningful. That could lead to a wild-card team actually hosting a
first-round game if it has a better record than the division winner
it is meeting.

Goodell admitted concern that some teams had virtually nothing
to play for toward the end of the schedule.

"The incentive should be to win as many games as possible," he
said. "Last season, I believe there were nine games in the last
two weeks when at least one of the teams did not have any impact on
the postseason [riding on the outcome]."

Among other issues Goodell touched upon:

•  Responding to complaints from some retired NFL
players, Goodell said he wants to speed up
disability payments to league alumni.

"The players that helped build this game deserve to have a system that's responsive, professionally done, independently done,
and that's what we're working on,'' Goodell said.

"In fact, we have made some changes that I think will take some of the red tape out and make the process, hopefully, simpler to get
to the results that we are looking for, which is to have an
effective, responsive disability program,'' Goodell said.

Goodell said he spent "four or five hours" talking to NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw about possible changes in the
program.

"I'm confident that we're going to make some changes that are going to be beneficial to our former players," said Goodell, who
did not elaborate on any changes.

•  There is no timetable for testing of human growth
hormone in the NFL. The league has given anti-doping researcher Don
Catlin $500,000 to look into an HGH urine test, and also invested
$3 million with the USOC to be used for anti-doping research.

"We're not at a point of a widely used test we can be
comfortable with," Goodell said. "I don't think there's a
significant amount of HGH use, but I have no basis in fact for
saying that."

•  He believes the owners and the NFL Players Association can
make progress toward extending or revamping the collective
bargaining agreement, which runs through 2010. Both sides can opt
out of the deal in November, which would lead to no salary cap for
the 2010 season.

"The labor agreement is critically important to our business,
which has changed over recent years," he noted, adding that costs
have increased greatly because of stadium construction debt. "That
needs to be recognized in the labor agreement and the union has
recognized it."

•  Goodell said violations of the player conduct policy decreased by
20 percent, including a large reduction among rookies. He also
emphasized that the league, in the wake of the death of Washington Redskins player Sean Taylor
and three other 24-year-old players, is doing "everything we can
to educate players on simple things they can do to protect
themselves and their families. They are celebrities."