Goodell proud of bringing Super Bowl into cold-weather city

ASSOCIATED PRESS Commissioner Roger Goodell says he is proud of bringing the Super Bowl to a cold-weather location.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Commissioner Roger Goodell says he is proud of bringing the Super Bowl to a cold-weather location.
Posted: February 03, 2014

NEW YORK - Less than a minute into Roger Goodell's state of the league address yesterday at the Rose Theater, fake snow began falling on the stage behind him.

"I told you we were going to embrace the weather," the NFL commissioner said with a smile.

I can't help wondering whether the league would have taken the same humorous approach to the weather if it had been 10 degrees and snowing outside. But as luck would have it, there isn't a polar vortex in sight.

When the NFL unveils its first cold-weather, open-air Super Bowl tomorrow night, there won't be any snow, and the temperature could be in the mid-40s. Who knew Mother Nature could be bought?

Hell, the game probably won't even set the record for the coldest Super Bowl. That distinction currently belongs to SB VI, which was played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. It was 39 degrees at kickoff for that game. One more thing for derelict gamblers to bet on.

"I believe Pete [Rozelle] would be very proud of where we are this week," Goodell said. "He did something unprecedented when he took the NFL championship game and put it in a neutral site. That was a radical idea at the time.

"We [also] are doing something innovative and unprecedented. Something consistent with the essence of football and the Super Bowl."

I'm not sure I follow Goodell's Pete-would-be-proud logic, given that Rozelle moved the Super Bowl to short-sleeve cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans, so that weather specificially wouldn't impact the game. But, hey, who am I to disagree with the commish? The man is on a roll.

Now, the next question is, since Super Bowl XLVIII very well could turn out to be a rousing success, will other cold-weather cities, including Philadelphia, get serious consideration for future Super Bowls? Or was this just a one-time, wild and wacky thing?

"I think we have to get to as many communities as possible and give them the opportunity to share in not only the emotional benefits [of hosting a Super Bowl], but also the economic benefits," Goodell said. "And it helps the NFL. It helps grow our game. This opportunity has been extraordinary and something we're all going to look back at as a very important time in our history.

"But we have a very aggressive process in selecting cities. The ability to host the Super Bowl is more and more complicated and complex, because of the size of events and the number of events. So the infrastructure is incredibly important.

"We're well over 30,000 hotel rooms needed even to host a Super Bowl. So there are some communities that might not be able to do it from an infrastructure standpoint. But we know the passion is there."

Philly has the infrastructure. But don't go putting a room-for-rent ad on Craigslist yet. The league already has awarded the next three Super Bowls to Phoenix, Santa Clara, Calif. (where the 49ers' new stadium is being built) and Houston. And Minneapolis, Indianapolis and New Orleans are the three finalists for the 2018 game.

Two things that could happen soon in the NFL, though, are an expansion of the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams and a change in the replay-review process.

Goodell said there has been "a great deal of focus" over the last year about expanding the playoffs. For years, the Chiefs' late owner, Lamar Hunt, would regularly propose expanding the playoffs to 14, or even 16 teams. But few of his colleagues shared his enthusiasm for the idea.

But the league is all about increasing its revenue these days, and adding two more playoff teams and two more playoff games it can sell to its broadcast partners certainly would accomplish that.

"There are a lot of benefits to doing it," Goodell said. "We think we can make the league more competitive. We think we can make the matchups more competitive toward the end of the season. There will be more excitement, more memorable moments for our fans. We think we can do it properly from a competitive standpoint."

The league's competition committee will discuss the idea when it meets next month. The owners could vote on playoff expansion as soon as their March meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Goodell said the league also is considering centralizing replay reviews - probably out of its office in Manhattan or NFL Films in South Jersey - much as the NHL does with goal reviews.

Currently, plays are reviewed on the sideline by the on-field referee. There also is a replay official in the booth at each game.

"We think there's plenty of room to improve the game of football, officiating in particular," Goodell said. "What we all want is consistency, fairness in our officiating. We believe we might be able to achieve more consistency when we bring instant replay where there's a more centralized version in the decision-making process. That's something the competition committee is going to consider over the next 2 months and come back with a recommendation to the ownership."

Goodell said the replay decisions wouldn't necessarily be made off-site.

"[The league] may not make the [replay] decision, but can at least provide some input that would be helpful to officials on the field," he said. "To make sure they're seeing every angle, to make sure they have the proper opportunity to make the best decision.

Other highlights of Goodell's 41-minute news conference:

* He is confident that the $765 million concussion lawsuit settlement between the league and former players will eventually be approved by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody. Brody rejected the settlement last month because she was concerned the settlement amount might not be enough to pay all of the affected players.

"We're working with Judge Brody and all of her experts [to prove] that the settlement we reached can provide the kind of benefits we intended," Goodell said. "And we're confident we'll get there."

* Despite the fact that recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington, the league has no plans to stop testing its players for it. The league also isn't considering the possibility of medical marijuana to help players deal with pain.

"It is still an illegal substance on a national basis," Goodell said. "It is something that's part of our collective bargaining agreement with our players. It is questionable as to the positive impact [of marijuana]. But there certainly is some strong evidence to the negative impacts, including addiction and other issues.

"We'll continue to follow the medicine [use]. Our experts are not indicating right now that we should change our policy in any way at this point in time. But if [there is different information] down the road someday, that's something we would never take off the table if it would benefit our players at the end of the day."

A reporter asked Goodell whether he would be willing to consent to random drug-testing.

"I am randomly tested and I'm happy to say I'm clean," he said.

* The league added a third game in London for next season, which already has sold out. But the league isn't ready to discuss the possibility of putting a franchise over there.

"When I go over for the games in London, I am continually amazed by the passion for football over there and their knowledge of the game," he said. "The way the third game sold out is just another indication that the more we give fans in the U.K. of NFL football, the more they want. That's a great tribute to the fans there.

"What our next step is, I don't know. That's something we're going to have to evaluate. We believe we're going to continue to continue to grow there, but it's going to take work. We're going to have to continue to invest in that marketplace and find ways to engage those fans even more."

* The league isn't considering asking the Redskins to change their name. Goodell said that in the Native-American communities it has polled, nine out of 10 people supported the name. He said eight out of 10 Americans in the general population also have no objection to the name.

"Let me remind you that this is the name of a football team," Goodell said. "A football team that has had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans."

* Goodell said the fact that Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land near the now-closed Hollywood Park racetrack does not mean he is thinking of moving his team to Los Angeles, which has been without an NFL team since 1995, when the Rams bolted for St. Louis.

"Stan is a very large developer on a global basis," Goodell said. "He has land throughout the country and throughout the world. We're aware [of the purchase]. There are no plans, to my knowledge, of stadium development."


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