NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conceded Friday that it “has been a tough year” for professional football.
The oft-criticized Goodell fielded questions at a pre-Super Bowl press conference on “Deflate-Gate,” Marshawn Lynch and whether the commissioner still has a future leading the league. When asked if he could see any circumstance in which he would resign, Goodell scoffed: “No I can’t. Does that surprise you?”
Goodell also announced the league was establishing a chief medical officer tasked with continuing improvements in NFL player safety.
“it has been a year of humility and learning,” Goodell said, adding, “We’ve all done a lot of soul searching starting with yours truly.”
After rolling out new statistics showing a decrease in player concussions (down 25%) and hits to defenseless players (down 68%), Goodell reflected on the league’s struggles to grapple with domestic violence controversies that brought a wave of bad press upon the league last fall. And while Goodell credited the league and its teams for embracing a revised conduct policies, some observers, like ESPN’s Hannah Storm, felt he used awkward “platitudes” to discuss a serious issue that threatened to permanently tarnish the NFL’s image.
“You can’t be afraid to say it like it is,” said Storm on air after watching Goodell’s presser.
Few owners were in attendance at the press conference, including New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft. Goodell’s close relationship with Kraft has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the so-called “Deflate-Gate” controversy, but the commissioner insisted his office remains impartial and that the NFL has made “no judgment” in the ongoing investigation into whether someone in the Patriots organization intentionally broke league rules by under-inflating their footballs during this month’s AFC Championship Game.
“We take seriously anything that potentially impacts the integrity of the game,” said Goodell. The commissioner also addressed the other story that has dominated headlines in the lead-up to the Super Bowl – Seattle Seahawks star running back Marshawn Lynch’s monosyllabic confrontations with the media.
“I’ve been very clear that when you’re in the NFL you have an obligation to the fans, it is part of your job,” said Goodell, who later added, “I think Marshawn understands the importance of the Super Bowl … and his importance in this game.” Goodell declined to say whether Lynch would be penalized by the league for his actions.
Despite a difficult year, Goodell said, “Football’s popularity is extraordinary and the credit goes to the players, coaches and the fans.”