NEW YORK – The last time David Tepper attended a league meeting, he was the center of attention as the newest member of the exclusive club of owners.
This one, the fall gathering at the Conrad New York hotel in downtown Manhattan, feels a lot more settled by comparison.
“This one is very relaxed. That one was a whirlwind,” Tepper said with a smile. “Now I’m just one of 32 guys in the room, so to speak.”
And as one of the 32 owners, Tepper traveled to New York to receive updates about a number of NFL agenda items ranging from business ventures to social responsibility. Tepper is joined at the meetings by team president Tom Glick, who has been on the job for a month.
“It’s been great,” Tepper said of Glick getting started. “There are a lot of things to do between what we’re trying to do with the state of the current stadium, what we’re going to do with the practice facility, how the business is being run in general, so he’s really helped there.”
The league meeting started Tuesday with a report on player health and safety, and as a member of that advisory committee, Tepper was pleased to hear about some encouraging findings.
NFL executive vice president of health and safety initiatives Jeff Miller informed the media that preseason concussions (practice and games) were down 13 percent from a year ago. He also shared that the number of players choosing to wear the best performing helmets continues to rise dramatically (only three percent of all players are wearing the lowest performing helmets).
“Nobody is claiming victory,” Miller said. “There is a lot of work to do.”
Still, it sounds like progress.
“The league is trying hard to make things better. That’s apparent,” Tepper said. “The question is getting more data. They are trying to make the helmets better. They look like they’re better, but we need a few more years of data to know 100 percent.”
Measures the league has taken in the name of player safety, most notably the increased protection of quarterbacks and stricter rules governing use of the helmet as a tackling weapon, have come under criticism. But NFL ratings are up so far this season, so viewers don’t seem to mind.
“The top 20 shows on TV are NFL shows. There is no other,” Tepper said. “The changes have not been bad for the game; you can’t say that based on the ratings.”
Parity has also been great for ratings. Games continue to be unpredictable, with a fair share of dramatic finishes each week.
The Panthers, who are 3-2 entering Week 7, are a perfect example entering the meat of the 2018 campaign.
“It’s amazing how emotionally you can get involved with each and every game. The highs and lows,” Tepper said. “The (Graham) Gano kick was crazy to beat the Giants. Last week (at Washington) we had a chance to win at the end and came up short. That’s really tough and you feel that.”
But, as Tepper knows as well as anyone, the focus is always on what’s next.
“Greg Olsen said it right the other day – that’s the NFL,” Tepper said. “It’s like my other world – you have a trade that goes bad, next trade. You can’t worry about it. Next game, we’ll win the next game.
“We have a lot of good players and a lot of potential. Hopefully it fully comes together and gets realized.”