By Julian Linden
NEW ORLEANS, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The National Football League (NFL) is determined to push ahead with a range of stricter rules for dangerous play and doping to improve player safety, Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Friday.
Despite facing ongoing criticism from players and their union, Goodell used his annual address on the state of the game to reinforce the league's commitment to making changes.
"The issue of player health and safety has always been a priority and will continue to be a priority," he told a packed news conference ahead of Sunday's Super Bowl between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
"I'll do anything to make the game safer and better."
The commissioner said he was determined to press for the introduction of a tougher new doping program, including the implementation of blood tests for human growth hormone (HGH).
"I believe HGH testing will happen before the 2013 NFL season," Goodell said.
"It's the right thing to do for the players and it's the right thing to do to send a message to everyone else in sports. The science is there. We need to get to that agreement."
Goodell said the league also wanted to crack down on dangerous tackles, particularly around the head and neck area, and would consider eliminating some low blocks.
"We have to take these hits out of the game that we think have a higher risk of causing injuries," he said, adding that he wanted repeated offenders suspended to get the message through.
"I think we're going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders. It's not just the defenseless player being protected, it's the person doing the striking."
Goodell said most of the changes the league wanted to implement had already been agreed with the NFL Players Association during the last collective bargaining agreement (CBA), but the sides were still divided on how to implement them.
"We're spending most of our time dealing with issues we've already dealt with," he said.
"These are things that have been resolved and are in the (CBA) document. We need to focus on, how do we work together to make the game better?
"We have to find solutions in the best interests of the game." (Editing by Gene Cherry)