PHOENIX – Roger Goodell is proud of his Jamestown roots, and they helped frame his explanation Friday for why the Buffalo Bills need a new stadium.
“I’m from Western New York; I love Ralph Wilson Stadium,” the NFL commissioner said during his annual Super Bowl news conference. “But it’s got to compete against a lot of the new stadiums that have a lot of very important features that that stadium doesn’t have.”
Goodell pointed out that Bills co-owners Terry and Kim Pegula have been “very focused” on the construction of a replacement for The Ralph. New York State recently recommended four locations for a new stadium, three of which are downtown.
“I do believe that a stadium, long term, is going to be needed in that marketplace,” Goodell said. “That’s one of the things” the Pegulas are “evaluating with their franchise: What’s the next generation of stadium? I think that that’s an important consideration for the Buffalo market and that region, but also for the NFL and Terry and Kim.
“So they are going through that process. We will certainly work with them, cooperate with them, and if we can be helpful, we will.”
Not surprisingly, the majority of questions Goodell fielded two days before the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks square off in Super Bowl XLIX were about the controversy surrounding whether the Patriots illegally deflated footballs during the AFC Championship Game, aka “Deflategate.”
“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?” the commissioner 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 Ted Wells has completed his investigation and made his determination based on all relevant evidence, we will share his report publicly.”
Goodell also was peppered with questions concerning his job performance, in light of the NFL’s mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case. One reporter asked if Goodell, who reportedly made $44 million in 2013, felt he deserved a pay cut (“That’s up to the owners”), while another asked if he could envision any set of circumstances that would lead to him resigning or being fired.
“No, I can’t,” he said. “Does that surprise you? Listen, it has been a tough year. It’s been a tough year on me 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.
“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. We’ve all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly.”
This is what Goodell had to say on other topics.
• On player safety: “Since 2012, concussions in regular-season games have dropped from 173 to 111, a decrease of more than one-third. The real credit goes to the players and coaches. They’ve adjusted to the rules and the challenge of creating a culture of safety for our game. But there’s more to do on player health and safety. Carefully reviewing and approving our concussion protocols will be a focus of our medical committees this offseason. And we are establishing a position of chief medical officer. This individual, who we expect to have in place very soon, will oversee our medical-related policies, ensure that we update them regularly, and work closely with our medical committees, our advisers and the Players Association.”
• On instant replay: “We are looking at other ways to enhance replay and officiating. That includes potentially expanding replay to penalties if it can be done without more disruption to the pace of the game. And we are discussing rotating members of the officiating crews during the season as a way to improve consistency throughout our regular season and benefit our crews in the postseason. In officiating, consistency is our number one objective.”
• On possible playoff expansion: “The possibility of expanding the playoffs has also been a topic over the last couple of years. There are positives to it, but there are concerns as well. Among them being the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January.”
• On whether Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will face any league discipline for his refusal to answer questions during scheduled media sessions this week: “Our staff will probably look at that following the Super Bowl and make a determination, as they have in the past. I’ve been very clear that when you’re in the NFL, you have an obligation to the fans. It is part of your job. There are things that we all have to do in our jobs that we may not necessarily want to do. I think Marshawn understands the importance of the Super Bowl, the importance of his appearance and the importance of him as an individual in this game. Fans are curious. Fans want to know. The media would like to make that story clear to our fans. I understand it may not be at the top of his list, but everyone else is cooperating. Everyone else is doing their part because it is our obligation. As I say, there are a lot of things we don’t like to do in our job, but it comes with the territory. It comes with the privilege of playing in the Super Bowl.”