Well, that was awk­ward

NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell dodges on Raiders, par­ries on Pats


Noth­ing pro­duces awk­ward NFL mo­ments quite like watch­ing the com­mis­sioner parry all those thorny is­sues in­volv­ing the league’s old­est and new­est trou­ble­mak­ers — the Raiders and Pa­tri­ots.

Re­porters spent time pok­ing Roger Good­ell about “De­flate­gate,” the Raiders’ now-threat­ened move to Las Ve­gas, and other del­i­cate top­ics at the com­mis­sioner’s less-for­mal, less-crowded and, frankly, less-newsy pre-Su­per Bowl news con­fer­ence, held on a Wed­nes­day this year in­stead of the tra­di­tional Fri­day af­ter­noon slot.

Go­ing sans neck­tie and speak­ing in a room about half the size as his usual Su­per Bowl venue, Good­ell in­sisted noth­ing was off-kil­ter be­tween the league and ei­ther team.

He said “there’s a great deal more work to be done” be­fore the Raiders can move to Las Ve­gas, a re­al­ity re­in­forced af­ter both casino mag­nate Shel­don Adel­son and a backup fi­nancier, Gold­man Sachs, pulled out of the sta­dium deal this week. The league is sup­posed to de­cide on the Las Ve­gas move in March.

“But if any key as­pect is changed, the process could be slowed down,” Eric Grub­man, the league’s ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent of busi­ness ven­tures, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Good­ell said it was un­likely a casino owner could own a stake in a sta­dium, which would seem to dis­qual­ify Adel­son any­way. About the more del­i­cate ques­tion of whether it’s good busi­ness for the league, which has al­ways dis­dained gam­bling, to stick a fran­chise in the gam­bling cap­i­tal of Amer­ica, the com­mis­sioner said the league is in touch with the re­al­ity that gam­bling “ex­ists through­out our world.”

“We’ve al­ways said there’s a fine line be­tween team sports gam­bling and the NFL,” Good­ell said. “We want to pro­tect the in­tegrity of our game and that’s some­thing we’ll al­ways do.”

The com­mis­sioner was only four days away from po­ten­tially hand­ing the Lom­bardi Tro­phy to Pa­tri­ots owner Robert Kraft. It would be the most awk­ward com­mis­sioner-owner hand­off since 1981, when Pete Rozelle pre­sented Raiders owner Al Davis with the tro­phy while Davis was su­ing the league over Rozelle’s at­tempt to block the team’s move from Oak­land to Los An­ge­les.

Fit­tingly, Good­ell took five ques­tions about the Pa­tri­ots, al­most all of them de­signed to put him on the de­fen­sive. The core of it: “De­flate­gate,” and the four-game sus­pen­sion he levied against Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady to start the sea­son.

Among the high­lights: Why didn’t Good­ell at­tend a Pa­tri­ots play­off game, while head­ing to At­lanta twice? Has he spo­ken with Brady? How is he get­ting along with Kraft?

“We have a dis­agree­ment about what oc­curred,” Good­ell said. “We have been very trans­par­ent about what we think the vi­o­la­tion was. We went through a lengthy process. We dis­agree about that . ... I’m not afraid of dis­agree­ment. And I don’t think dis­agree­ment leads to dis­trust or ha­tred.”

Kraft was among the very few own­ers who at­tended the news con­fer­ence, but he ducked out quickly after­ward with­out tak­ing ques­tions.

Good­ell also faced a num­ber of ques­tions on the Charg­ers’ re­cent move from San Diego to Los An­ge­les: “Re­lo­ca­tions are painful,” he said.

Of this week’s news re­ports that San Diego could end up as a home for the Raiders if Las Ve­gas falls through, Good­ell cited a “his­tory of mar­kets that get deals done af­ter a team leaves. It’s a painful way to do it.” Among those mar­kets are Cleve­land, St. Louis, Los An­ge­les and this year’s Su­per Bowl host, Houston.


NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell an­swers ques­tions during a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day in Houston.

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