Even though St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, the league's second-richest owner to Seattle's Paul Allen, has announced plans for an 80,000-seat football stadium in Hollywood Park, and has the financial and political wherewithal to get it done, the NFL is not ready to name a lead horse in the Los Angeles derby.
In his annual Super Bowl news conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the league is not at the point to handicap which team or teams might wind up in the nation's second-largest market. The Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are all on year-to-year leases, unhappy with their current venues and mulling possible relocation to L.A.
"There have been no determinations of us going to Los Angeles, any particular team going to Los Angeles, or going to any particular stadium," Goodell said. "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 gotten 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. But I'm confident all of that will be covered within the relocation policy and with our membership approval."
Asked what the league was prepared to do if an owner decided to go rogue and move without league approval — as has been suggested of Kroenke — Goodell said: "The ownership takes very seriously the obligation to vote on any serious matter, including relocation of a franchise."
Regardless, the league does not have a good track record of stopping an owner who is determined to move. About the only time that has happened in recent memory is when then-owner Ken Behring moved the Seahawks to Anaheim for a week in 1996, but promptly whipped a U-turn when then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue threatened to impose a hefty fine on the club.
Goodell said the NFL has not made a determination of whether the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs in the AFC championship game against Indianapolis, and declined to "engage in speculation" that might compromise the ongoing investigation.
"We take seriously anything that potentially impacts the integrity of the game," said Goodell, who did not have an answer as to whether, prior to the game in question, the league had ever tested the air pressure in footballs during a game.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft did not attend the news conference, although he usually does. At the start of the week, he requested an apology from the league if it could not definitively prove the Patriots tampered with the footballs in the AFC title game.
Asked about that apology request, Goodell said: "This is my job. This is my responsibility to protect the integrity of the game. I represent 32 teams. All of us want to make sure the rules are being followed, and if we had any information where the potential is that those rules were violated, I have to pursue that, and I have to pursue that aggressively."
The league will create a position of chief medical officer who will have oversight on all NFL health policies. The executive, who is expected to be appointed in the coming months, will work with the league's medical committees, advisers and the NFL Players Assn.