NFL's Goodell: It’s been a tough year

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted it’s been a tough year for him and the NFL with the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases and Deflategate.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – With the 2014 NFL season starting with two high-profile players, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, facing domestic assault and child abuse charges, respectively, and ending with a controversy about improperly inflated football in the AFC Championship Game, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted at his annual Super Bowl press conference Friday in Phoenix, Ariz. that it has been a difficult year for the league and him personally.

“It’s been a year of what I would say is humility and learning. We, obviously as an organization, have gone through adversity. More importantly, it’s been adversity for me,” he said. “We take that seriously. It’s an opportunity for us to get better. It’s an opportunity for us, for our organization, to get better.”

The NFL initially ruled on a two-game suspension for Rice, then made it an indefinite suspension after a hotel video showed him knocking unconscious his then-fiance Janay Parker in an elevator. A court overturned that suspension, making him eligible to play at any time, but he remains unsigned. Peterson’s six-game suspension for violating the new personal conduct policy is still being fought in court.

Goodell received public backlash for initially giving Rice only a two-game suspension before the elevator video became public.

“We’ve all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly,” Goodell said. “We have taken action. A lot of the concerns that we had back in August where we didn’t have a policy that addressed a very complex issue, we didn’t have answers for that. We didn’t fully understand those issues.”

Since then, the league has hired experts to consult on the issues of domestic violence. He said the league has spoken to “well over” 150 experts on how to better handle those cases and crafted a new personal conduct policy, one that the NFL Players Association contends needs to be collectively bargained.

“We’re in a good place in knowing and learning and having a lot more humility. As an organization and as an individual, it’s been a tough year, but a year of progress,” Goodell said. “I’m excited about the future. The second and probably most important issue for us is that we want to make a difference in this area, not just internally, but externally. We’ve done a great deal to bring more awareness to these issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. We are committed to that.”

He said he attended shelters and hotline centers to speak with advocates and “hear the fear, the emotion and the economic consequences.”

“That is compelling. It will make you understand this issue much more deeply,” he said.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline center is still receiving double the calls it did before the Rice incident, according to ESPN.

Still, numerous players have spoken out about Goodell and the NFL’s handling of the Rice and Peterson cases, among others. But Goodell said he has spoken with numerous players privately about the issues, as well as the players union.

“We are not going to agree on every matter. We understand that, but no one has more respect for the players, what they do in our communities, what they do on the field, their importance to the NFL going forward,” he said.

However, Goodell said the NFL will not compromise when it comes to the personal conduct policy and disagreements that the players or the union may have with the new rules of implementation. And he said the NFL will not wait for law enforcement to investigate or release its findings, a criticism stemming from the Rice case.

The issue of balls that weren’t properly pressurized, known as Deflategate, continues to dog him, but the NFL has said it won’t talk to Patriots players potentially involved that issue until after the Super Bowl, according to the executive director of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith.

“We are focusing principally on two questions: why were some footballs used in the game that were not in compliance with the rules, and was this the result of deliberate action?” Goodell said. “I want to emphasize we have made no judgments on these points, and we will not compromise the investigation by engaging in speculation. When (lawyer) Ted Wells has completed his investigation and made his determination based on all relevant evidence, we will share his report publicly.”

But even the NFL’s investigators in these different cases have come under criticism, specifically with the NFL paying for the investigators and whether they can then be impartial in their rulings. Goodell simply said someone has to pay them.

“We want the truth. That’s what I think our fans want, that’s what our clubs want,” Goodell said. “So, what we want to do is make sure that we find that truth. If there are violations of the rules, we take them seriously, particularly when they deal with the integrity of the game and the rules. The standards are always reevaluated. We will make sure that if the penalties that exist in any given circumstance that don’t fit those violations, we will adjust that. We’ll increase that. That’s important for us to do as we continue to make sure that the league is run in the appropriate way and with the right integrity.”

NOTES

  • Goodell was asked about the potential relocation of the St. Louis franchise to Los Angeles and said the goal is for all franchises to stay in their current markets.

    “As a league, we haven’t gotten to that stage yet, and it will all be subject to our relocation policy,” he said when asked about the potential for a new franchise and stadium in Los Angeles. “There are requirements in that policy, as you know, particularly as it relates to cooperation and working to make sure they solve the issues in their local market. I’m confident that all of that will be covered within the relocation policy and with our membership approval.”

  • Goodell said he believes a new stadium will be needed in Buffalo.

    “I do believe that a stadium long term is going to be needed in that marketplace,” he said. “I’m from western New York. I love Ralph Wilson Stadium, but it’s got to compete against a lot of these new stadiums that have a lot of very important features that that stadium doesn’t have. So they are going through that process. We will certainly work with them, cooperate with them, and if we can be helpful, we will.”

  • No decision has been made about a potential fine for Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch for his lack of cooperation with the media during Super Bowl week or him wearing an unlicensed hat during those media events.

  • Goodell reported that concussions were down 25 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, continuing a three-year trend. Hits to defenseless players in 2014 were down 68 percent, another sign, he said, that player safety is improving. Since 2012, concussions in regular-season games have dropped from 173 to 111, a decrease of more than one-third, he said.

  • Goodell admitted that there are positives and concerns over the possibility of expanding the playoffs, but the league continues to look into that possibility.


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