NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tiptoed carefully around the issue, but in comments to the fans and media before Sunday's playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium, he fell well short of endorsing the likelihood that Baltimore might someday host the Super Bowl.
The question arose because the owners have scheduled the 2014 game at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, which -- at least temporarily -- has shown they are willing to play football's biggest game in an outdoor stadium in less-than-optimal weather conditions.
"It's the first time we've played a northern site game in an outdoor stadium,'' Goodell said. "The membership did it for a couple of reasons. First, there are two teams in that stadium and it's a new stadium that we were very proud of and would be a great platform and great stage for the game. The second is the size of the market. New York is, from a size standpoint, our No. 1 market and would be a great platform."
When the subject of Baltimore came up, however, he pointed to the requirement that the Super Bowl city have 25,000 available hotel rooms and left open the question of whether any cold weather area other than New York was worth the trouble.
"There are different views,'' he said. "Some people think the game should be played in as perfect weather conditions as possible. Other people think the game should be played in the elements. I love the games in the elements. Some of our most important and historic games have been in the elements. That has been part of our tradition, part of our history. So, we thought, let's see how it works and what happens after that, we'll make a decision."
Goodell touched on a lot of issues in a half-hour question-and-answer session with selected Ravens season ticket holders and a quick briefing with reporters covering the Ravens-Texans playoff game.
He fielded a question about the game's international ambitions by indicating that the NFL wants to expand its presence in London, perhaps playing two or three regular-season games there in future seasons. Goodell said the league has had no trouble coming up with teams willing to travel to the United Kingdom, but conceded that some teams aren't eager to lose a potential home sellout to further the league's global outreach.
Ravens president Dick Cass, who sat on stage with Goodell and moderated the Q&A session with the fans, indicated that the Ravens are one of the teams that would rather not sacrifice a sold-out home date to travel overseas.
During the media session, Goodell also commented on Ray Lewis and the possibility that this might be his final season.
"Just an awesome player,'' Goodell said. "The intensity that he plays the game with. He never stops whistle to whistle. I think he's inspiring, not just for his teammates, but he has a tremendous influence on other players around the league. He has a great relationship with them. I speak to him frequently about issues, because he understands the game. He understands what other players are thinking and feeling about the game. If he does step away from the game, I'll wish him well, but his leadership will be missed."
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