HOUSTON – If the NFL's plan to move Roger Goodell's annual Super Bowl news conference from its usual Friday spot to Wednesday was intended to help defuse the impact hot-button topics such as Deflategate might have on the game, it didn't work.
It dominated the nearly hourlong session the league's commissioner had with the media, with no fewer than four Deflategate-related questions coming up. And each had an unmistakable edge, with a focus on Goodell's contentious relationship with the New England Patriots' organization and fan base.
"We had a violation, we went through the process, we applied the discipline," Goodell said. "It was litigated extensively, it was validated by the Second Court Circuit of Appeals. We're moving on from that. It's part of our history. We're comfortable with the process and the decision, and we're focusing on the game now."
Good luck with that.
The "game" is Super Bowl LI, and it includes the Patriots and Tom Brady, who Goodell suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for his involvement in illegally underinflated footballs used during the playoffs following the 2014 season.
There was no mention of the Atlanta Falcons, the Patriots' opponent, or pretty much anything that would reflect "moving on."
Goodell was asked about being at "war" with the Patriots and their fans. He was asked about whether he felt awkward about his dealings with team owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and Brady, to whom he might very well be handing the Super Bowl MVP trophy on Monday.
"I would tell you that it's not awkward at all for me," Goodell said. "We have a job to do. We do our job. As I said, there was a violation, we applied the process and the discipline.
"We understand the fans who are loyal and passionate for a team and object and don't like the outcome. I totally understand that."
The commissioner tried to say there was nothing unusual about disagreements with NFL team owners, that he has had them with all 32. Still, much was made about Goodell avoiding Gillette Stadium for nearly two years and choosing to attend both of the Falcons' postseason games.
"I was in Boston two seasons ago for two consecutive playoff games the same way I was in Atlanta this year," Goodell said. "That happens."
Does he ever see himself attending another game in Foxborough, Mass.?
"If I'm invited back to Foxborough," he said, "I'll come."
Other highlights from Goodell's news conference:
*The league hasn't made a "determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market."
*Steps to help the sagging television ratings of games – such as placement of commercials and instant-replay procedures – were in place long before this season, and will continue. "We have not dismissed any theories about how we can make it better for the fans on TV or in the stadium,” the commissioner said.
*Thursday Night Football will very much remain a part of the league's schedule, although moving the game around on different television networks could change because fans have complained about not always knowing "where to find it."
*There is an ongoing debate on what to do about forming a developmental league.
*The Chargers bolting from San Diego, their home for 50 years, for Los Angeles. "It is hard on our fans, we understand that," Goodell said. "It is not the outcome that we were hoping for. We hoped to … keep the Chargers there for another 50 years.”