NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday he’s done “a lot of soul searching” after a difficult 2014 season.
The season began with his controversial handling of the domestic abuse case of running back Ray Rice; included criticisms of officiating, especially in the playoffs; and ended with the Deflategate scandal in which the New England Patriots are being accused of under-inflating footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
“Listen, it has been a tough year,” Goodell said at his annual state of the league address. “It’s been a tough year on me personally. It’s been a year of, what I would say, humility and learning. A lot of it, 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, but now we have experts in the field. They’re in our office; they’re helping us understand this.”
Here are some highlights of Goodell’s remarks.
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▪ On Deflategate: “Ted Wells and are staff are conducting a thorough and objective investigation. 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? We have made no judgments on these points, and we will not compromise the investigation by dealing in speculation.”
▪ On expanding the playoffs: “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 officiating and the use of 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 No. 1 objective.”
▪ On the future of the Rams in St. Louis: “We want all of our franchises to stay in their current markets. That’s a shared responsibility. That’s something that we all have to work together on. The league has programs, including stadium-funding programs, that we make available and we will and have worked with communities, including St. Louis. Stan (Kroenke) has been working on the stadium issue in St. Louis for several years. They had a very formal process … it did not result in a solution that works either for St. Louis or for the team. There’s quite a bit of discussion about it and the St. Louis representatives seem determined to build a stadium. That’s a positive development, something that we look forward to working with them (on).”
▪ On what Kroenke’s plans for 80,000-seat stadium in LA mean for the Rams or any other club that wants to move there: “There have been no determinations of us going to Los Angeles, any particular team going to Los Angeles or going to any particular stadium. We have several alternatives that we’re evaluating, both from a site standpoint — there are teams that are interested but are trying to work their issues out locally. And so, as a league, we haven’t got to that stage yet. It will all be subject to our relocation policy. There are requirements in that policy, particularly as it relates to cooperation and working to make sure they solve the issues in their local market. ”
▪ On player safety: “We are doing more to protect our players from unnecessary risk. Hits to defenseless players were down 68 percent. 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 have adjusted to the rules and the challenge of creating a culture of safety for our game.”
▪ On the NFL hiring a 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.”