Column: NFL’s Roger Goodell has his swagger back with an answer for everything
Four months after it looked as if he might lose his job over crisis mismanagement, Roger Goodell laughed Friday when asked whether he could imagine circumstances that might lead him to resign or be fired.
“No, I can’t. Does that surprise you?” he said with a big grin.
Sadly, not one bit. Even with a passel of soggy footballs at his feet, the NFL commissioner held his annual Super Bowl news conference while appearing pumped up and slick.
Nothing, it seems, can deflate this guy.
For 45 minutes in a crowded ballroom, America’s most embattled sports leader bragged about humility, claimed enlightenment and only occasionally smirked while making it clear the NFL was a very popular business. The message was, it’s Goodell’s league again, Goodell’s show, and he and his $44-million contract were raring to go helmet-to-helmet.
All that old news about Ray Rice and the league’s trivial approach to domestic violence? Goodell said the league is now filled with “caring” people, including himself. He said his awakening occurred when he visited shelters and phone hotline centers, as if that was necessary to understand the issue. He was so proud of this development, he referred to himself in the third person.
“We in the NFL and this commissioner understand it a lot more today than I did before,” he said.
The buzz — literally — about the NFL’s deadly concussion problem? Goodell talked not about advancements in treatment, but frequency of diagnosis, and actually acted as if brain injuries could soon be endangered species.
“Concussions were down 25% this past regular season, continuing a three-year trend,” Goodell nearly shouted. “Since 2012, concussions in regular season games have dropped from 173 to 111, a decrease of more than one-third.”
That still means, of course, that NFL players endured 111 potentially life-altering hits in just four months of games, but somehow the commissioner chose to look at the numbers differently.
Asked about conflicts of interest that are apparent in every league scandal, Goodell fired back at the reporter who dared question the integrity of a system in which the investigator is paid by the party being investigated.
“I think we have done an excellent job of bringing outside consultants in,” he said to CNN’s Rachel Nichols. “Somebody has to pay them, Rachel. Unless you’re volunteering, which I don’t think you are, we’ll do that.”
Goodell had clearly come a long way from the confused and beaten man who last faced the media during the Rice scandal in September. He has been no doubt inflated by another season of unmatched profits ending in an undeniable beauty of a Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.
“Listen, it has been a tough year, it’s been a tough year on me personally, it’s been a year of what I’d say [was] humility and learning,” he said. “We obviously as an organization have gone through adversity, but more importantly it’s been adversity for me.”
He said he’s taking seriously allegations the Patriots deflated footballs during their AFC championship game win over Indianapolis. However, he did not explain why the league could not finish what should be a simple investigation during the two weeks between the incident and the Super Bowl.
However, he did take a shot at self-muted Marshawn Lynch, implying the Seattle Seahawks’ running back would be heavily fined for essentially refusing to answer questions from the media this week. In contrasting himself to Lynch, Goodell claimed he was available to the media “almost every day,” an assertion that incited an avalanche of tweets from reporters who haven’t been able to talk to him in months.
“I’ve been very clear that when you’re in the NFL, you have an obligation …an obligation to the fans,” Goodell said. “There are lot of things we don’t like to do in our jobs, but it comes with the territory, and it comes with the privilege of playing in the Super Bowl.”
One more way to tell the swaggering Roger Goodell was back? Asked about football returning to L.A., he was his old taunting self.
“There have been no determinations of us going to Los Angeles, any particular team going to Los Angeles, or going to any particular stadium,” he said. “We have several alternatives that we are evaluating … 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.”
Yes, it’s again Roger Goodell’s world, and NFL fans just live in it. Or, in Los Angeles’ case, don’t live in it. Which seems like a lesser slight on some days than others.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.