FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jamal Adams has been cheered plenty of times during his football career. This might have been the most awkward.
The New York Jets rookie safety participated in a forum Monday for season-ticket holders that included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and running back Matt Forte. During a question-and-answer session, a fan asked the panel about player health and safety.
Adams, a first-round draft pick from LSU, isn’t so fond of the NFL rules that often protect offensive players.
“I’m all about making the game safer … but as a defensive player, I’m not a big fan of it,” Adams said with a laugh . “But, I get it. But, again, and I could speak for a lot of guys that play the game, we live and breathe — this is what we’re so passionate about.
“Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field. I would be at peace. Literally. That’s not a lie.”
Many of the approximately 150 fans in the team’s auditorium applauded Adams’ comment. It was a curious response from Adams — and reaction — particularly coming off the largest update on chronic traumatic encephalopathy so far.
Boston University and VA researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week that they found signs of the disease in nearly 90 percent of the 200 brains examined, including 110 of 111 from NFL players.
The 21-year-old Adams, who is quickly becoming one of the faces of the Jets franchise, made it clear that his comment came from his passion for the sport.
“There’s so much sacrifice that we go through as a team and just connecting as one and winning ballgames, there’s nothing like playing the game of football,” Adams said. “But, again, I’m all about making the game safer. That’s all I can say about it.”
Goodell, speaking to reporters after the session, understood where Adams was coming from.
“I think what he was really making the point of is how much he loved the game and how passionate he is about the game,” Goodell said. “It’s just something that means a great deal to him. I get the emotion of that.”
Goodell added that he thinks fans understood that that was the message Adams was trying to convey — not literally hoping to die on a field, if he was given a choice.
During the session with fans, Goodell acknowledged that there’s still lots of work to be done in the area of player safety and the recent study is another tool for the league to use to try to make further improvements. A change in the way players react to teammates’ injuries as well as their own has also been a positive.
“Players now are doing a great job of raising their hand when they don’t feel right,” Goodell said. “Teammates are raising their hands, officials, coaches. We have backup plans with video. I think all of that is part of a culture change to say, ‘It’s great to be a hard-nosed player, but you play within the rules, and you also play as safely as possible.'”
In other topics addressed by Goodell:
— He doesn’t anticipate further expansion in the league by adding more teams, but could see the NFL increasing the number of games played in Europe. The NFL will play four times overseas this season.
— Goodell has been amazed at how big the NFL draft has become in recent years, saying over 80,000 were in attendance in Philadelphia this year. He isn’t sure when or if the draft will return to New York, adding that 24 teams are interested in hosting the 2018 event.
— He isn’t concerned that a team such as the Jets, with a completely revamped roster, is looking to do poorly in one season to benefit with a prime draft position the next year. “I don’t think any team tanks,” Goodell said. “I really don’t. I think teams, depending on where you are, go through transitions.”
— Goodell isn’t concerned by any potential criticism a team — such as Baltimore — could face by signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose political statements made headlines last season. “Those are independent decisions that clubs make,” Goodell said. “Clubs are going to do what they think is in the best interest of their franchise and what it is that they can do to win.”