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NEW YORK -- Life is so charmed for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell these days even the weather does his bidding.

All those doomsday predictions of snow, ice and fans being frozen solid at Sunday's Super Bowl have melted away. With the forecast now for clear skies and springlike temperatures at kickoff, the only snow the Super Bowl is likely to see is the fake stuff that fell during Goodell's annual address Friday.

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"I told you we were going to embrace the weather," he said as the room erupted in laughter. "Here we go."

It's easy for Goodell to ooze charm when his league is more popular – and profitable – than ever. Networks are crawling over themselves for even the tiniest piece of the NFL's TV contract. Stadiums in most markets continue to sell out even when the view is better – and cheaper – at home. With a permanent franchise in London looking more like a question of when, not if, other countries are clamoring to be next.

But the NFL has some issues, big ones, and Goodell would be wise to come up with some better answers than the say-nothing side-stepping he did Friday.

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The biggest threat to the NFL, of course, comes in the form of concussions and other health-related issue. That $765 million settlement the league reached last summer with former players who sued over the devastating effects of head injuries is on hold, with U.S. District Judge Anita Brody saying she's concerned it won't be enough money.

"What the judge did, she is taking her time," Goodell said. "She's making sure the settlement … is going to work the way we intended it to work. The No. 1 thing for us right now is to get the money in place to help the players and their families if they need it. That is our priority.

"We are working with Judge Brody, and all of her experts, to convince her and the plaintiffs that the settlement we reached can provide the kind of benefits that we intended. And we're confident we're going to get there."

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Of course he is. Note the use of that word "convince," though. The NFL and its owners have a long history of doing and getting what they want – have you seen some of those shiny new stadiums, most of them paid for by taxpayers? -- but this is one fight they can't win.

Rather than trying to "convince" Brody, the NFL would be better served by having its accountants add a billion or two to the settlement offer. Because the last thing the league wants is for this to go to court, where one former player after another will take the stand and tell their tragic stories.

Former players like Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, who at 59 is forgetting how to get places he's been going for 30 years, and whose daughter complains they can't do things together because "Daddy won't remember." Or Philadelphia Eagles fullback Kevin Turner, who fears he might not live to his 50th birthday after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Hear a few stories like that, and all of the NFL's riches won't be enough to cover its bills, let alone buy back its reputation.

And those are just the former players.

San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis hit Goodell hard Friday, saying players play "one of America's most dangerous and most lucrative games" but have to "fight for health benefits. We have to jump through hoops for it."

Why, Davis asked, doesn't the NFL provide health care benefits for life, especially for those with brain injuries?

"The current players are very concerned," Davis said later. "You have guys now that are worried about the helmets they're wearing, they're thinking about the players who are suffering from brain injury now. It's a weird thing right now, with this whole concussion dispute.

"It's getting better," Davis added. "It's getting better. But guys that are playing now are still worried about it."

Goodell's answer won't do much to reassure them, as he proclaimed their health care "the best in the world." He did acknowledge needing to do more for the former players, then proceeded to try and deflect part of the blame on the union.

"The cost of trying to provide health care for every player that has ever played in the league was discussed with the union. It was determined that these changes were the best changes, and that's what we negotiated," Goodell said. "But we're all proud of the efforts that we made."

That's nice. But we're talking about the health, safety and future well-being of guys who have made and will continue to make Goodell and the NFL owners very, very, very rich. Good isn't good enough.

The NFL has spared no expense or effort in building and expanding its brand. It can and ought to be doing the same when it comes to its players.

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