HOUSTON – With the New England Patriots back in the Super Bowl, it was impossible for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to avoid questions about the perceived feud between him and the Patriots.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was looking on as Goodell fielded a few questions at his annual Super Bowl news conference about deflate-gate and not attending a game in Foxborough since the deflate-gate punishment came down. Goodell reacted like there was no friction at all.
“If I was invited back to Foxborough I’d come,” Goodell said.
Later Goodell was asked if he was welcomed to New England this season.
“I have no doubt if I wanted to come up to a Patriots game and I asked Mr. Kraft, he would have welcomed me back,” Goodell said.
Kraft told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe that if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, the regular-season opener would be a “perfect opportunity” for Goodell to come to Foxborough.
Goodell went to Atlanta for two straight playoff games, and it looked like he was avoiding New England, where he’s not too popular. He can’t avoid the Patriots this week, with New England in Super Bowl LI. But Goodell wouldn’t provide any further fuel to one of the best subplots of this year’s Super Bowl.
“It’s not awkward at all for me,” Goodell said. “We have a job to do. We did our job.”
The “job” was to discipline the Patriots for the controversy over deflated footballs in the AFC championship game two years ago. Goodell has been criticized by some for the discipline, which included a four-game suspension to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but he stood by it.
“We had a violation,” Goodell said. “We went through a process, we applied the discipline in accordance with our process. It was litigated extensively and validated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. We’re moving on from that.
“We’re comfortable with the process, the decision, and we’re focusing on the game now.”
Later Goodell was called out for saying the Second Circuit Court decision dealt with the actual facts of the case (the appeal was mostly regarding his power as commissioner within the collective-bargaining agreement), and Goodell stood his ground.
“They said there were compelling if not overwhelming facts, and that’s the point I just made,” Goodell said.
Not quite true, according to Michael McCann, Sports Illustrated’s legal analyst.
Goodell misrepresents 2nd Cir. in answering @tomecurran Q. 1 judge–Judge Chin–said "compelling" during arguments. He didn't rule on that.
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) February 1, 2017
After more questions about his relationship with the Patriots and Kraft, Goodell became animated for the first time in his nearly hour-long conference with the media.
“Listen, we had a disagreement about what occurred,” Goodell said. “We’re very transparent about what we think the violation was. We went through a lengthy process. We disagree about that. I continue to respect and admire Robert Kraft and the entire organization. They’re an extraordinary organization.
“I’ll be honest with you, I have disagreements with probably all 32 of our teams. I’m not afraid of disagreement. I don’t think disagreement leads to distrust or hatred. They’re just disagreements.”
• Relocation was a big topic, especially with the Oakland Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas looking shaky because casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs have both pulled their financial support.
Goodell didn’t specifically address if the Las Vegas deal was dead.
“We haven’t made a determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market, that’s part of the relocation process,” Goodell said. “There’s a lot of work to be done … Financing of the stadium is just one.”
If Adelson pulled his financial support because he couldn’t get part ownership of the team, Goodell said that wouldn’t happen anyway, because of the team’s desire to keep its game and gambling separate.
“I don’t see an ownership position in a team from a casino,” Goodell said. “That’s not consistent with our policy.”
As for the possibility of the Raiders perhaps relocating to San Diego, which just lost the Chargers, Goodell said that the league was “moving forward” because there still isn’t a new stadium plan in place.
“We were disappointed to have to leave San Diego, we couldn’t get a stadium done,” Goodell said. “I think for any team to relocate to San Diego at this point in time, we’ll have to find a solution to that stadium problem.”
• Goodell made it clear the NFL has no plans to stop “Thursday Night Football.”
He defended the quality of play, saying there were fewer turnovers and penalties on Thursday night games, compared to Sunday games.
“We’ve seen high quality football on Thursday night,” Goodell said.
Goodell also said there’s no proof there’s an increased health risk for players associated with “Thursday Night Football.”
“We have seen absolutely no indication there’s further risk for injuries … on Thursday night rather than Sundays.”
• Goodell said the NFL will return to Mexico next season for another game, between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots.
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