As if wishing made it so, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described his league — and himself — as having addressed missteps on difficult matters such as domestic violence and being ready to move on.
“As an organization, and as an individual, it’s been a tough year,” Goodell said Friday during his pre-Super Bowl news conference, “but a year of great progress, and I’m excited about the future.”
Nearing the end of a season he acknowledged was filled with “plenty of challenges,” Goodell was asked whether he thought he deserved a pay cut — “That’s up to the owners,” he replied — and whether he could envision resigning or being fired.
“No, I can’t. Does that surprise you?” Goodell said. “We’ve all done a lot of soul-searching, beginning with yours truly. And we have taken action.”
Goodell brushed aside a question about whether there are conflict-of-interest problems with paying those who head up “independent” investigations, such as into the league’s handling of the Ray Rice case or the ongoing look at the New England Patriots’ use of deflated footballs in the AFC title game.
“We have had people who have had uncompromising integrity” run those inquiries, Goodell said. Then, speaking directly to the reporter, he added: “Somebody has to pay them ... unless you’re volunteering, which I don’t think you are.”
Rice is the former Baltimore Ravens running back who punched his now-wife in an elevator, drawing an initial suspension from Goodell of two games. Goodell changed that to an indefinite ban after video from inside the elevator was posted by TMZ. Rice later appealed, and an arbitrator reinstated him.
That and other domestic violence cases led the league to design a new personal conduct policy, which was approved unanimously by owners but has been criticized by the players’ union.
“We’ve made enormous progress,” Goodell said Friday. “We’re in a good place.”
On the main topic of conversation heading into Super Bowl week — the deflated footballs used by the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game — Goodell said: “Whether a competitive advantage was actually gained or not is secondary in my mind to whether that rule was violated.”
A resolution will not come until after the Super Bowl.
“We don’t know enough in this investigation to know who was responsible or whether there was even an infraction,” Goodell said.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft has said he expects the investigation to determine his team did nothing wrong — and he expects an apology from the NFL. Kraft did not attend Friday’s news conference.
Another issue that won’t be resolved until after the season’s final game, Goodell said, is whether Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will be fined for refusing to answer any questions at required media sessions this week. The NFL docked Lynch $100,000 earlier this season for not talking to reporters.
“I understand it may not be on the top of his list,” Goodell said, “but everyone else is cooperating, everyone else is doing their part.”
On other topics, Goodell said:
— Any club’s move to Los Angeles, without an NFL team for 20 years, would have to be approved by owners, and “there have been no determinations of us going to Los Angeles, any particular team going to Los Angeles or going to any particular stadium.” The St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers have been viewed as the teams most likely to try to head to L.A. Goodell also noted that San Diego needs a new stadium, as does Buffalo.
— The league will take a look at possibly expanding instant replay reviews to include whether a penalty was committed and consider rotating officiating crews during the regular season. Crews currently work together all season long.
— Adding more playoff teams is also on the table, but there are concerns, including “the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January.”
— The league is hiring a chief medical officer to oversee health-related policies.