Goodell hopes union is wrong about lockout chances
AP Sports Writer
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – The way Roger Goodell sees it, more is better when it comes to NFL games.
The commissioner likes overtime, and doesn’t favor changing the rules. He’s pushing to add a game or two to the schedule. He wants more games overseas and in Mexico.
And the notion of less football? Goodell doesn’t like that at all. He said he hopes the pessimism from the players’ union regarding a lockout in 2011 doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“I don’t think anybody wants to see a work stoppage,” Goodell said Friday at his annual Super Bowl-week news conference. “There are no benefits to that. If it comes to anything like that, we would all have failed.”
For 51 minutes, Goodell fielded questions with the nonchalance of a veteran returner fielding kicks. Topics included the oft-maligned overtime system, the possible expansion of the regular season to 17 or 18 games, and the league’s future in Jacksonville, St. Louis and Los Angeles.
But on the subject of the stalemate in labor talks, Goodell’s bearing stiffened. The current contract expires in March 2011, and Goodell disputed an assessment Thursday by NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith that the chance of a lockout next year is a “14” on a scale of 1 to 10.
“I couldn’t make that prediction, and I sure hope he’s wrong,” Goodell said.
“Right now we don’t need a lot of focus on that. We need to take advantage of the opportunity we have right now to structure an agreement and sit down and negotiate. That’s how this is going to get done, and we will have an agreement. It’s just a matter of when, but talking about options like work stoppages is not going to get us there.”
Goodell rejected the idea ownership wants any stoppage, and he said there is no contingency plan regarding the 2012 Super Bowl in the event of a lockout.
“We still have a lot of time and a lot of important opportunities here to structure something that makes sense for everybody,” Goodell said.
On other issues, the commissioner said:
-There’s more work to do on the issue of concussions, but the league has made progress in player awareness and changing the culture.
“We want to make sure people understand that they are serious injuries, and make sure that we deal with them in a conservative and medical fashion,” Goodell said.
-Extending the season will be part of the discussion when talks with the union resume. Goodell favors adding one or two games to replace exhibition games.
“I consistently hear from players and fans that the quality of our preseason is not up to NFL standards and that we need to fix that,” he said. “This is one way of doing that, and what I believe is an effective way.”
-The NFL is still eyeing a return to Mexico; the Cardinals and 49ers held the league’s first regular-season game outside the United States in Mexico in 2005.
“We would like to expand the number of games we’re playing internationally,” Goodell said. “The restructured season, actually, is one of the ways to do that. By adding two more regular-season games, it gives us a little more flexibility to be able to reach our international audience.”
-Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth will be reinstated after the Super Bowl from his suspension for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk last March in the Miami area.
“I met with him when I was down here in South Florida approximately a month ago,” Goodell said. “I think he’s in a better place than he was. I think he recognizes what he did and the horrific nature and the unfortunate outcome, and I think he’s prepared himself to get back in and play.”
-The overtime system is unlikely to be changed.
“We saw overtime in two games this postseason, and they were two of the most exciting games we’ve had,” Goodell said. Arizona beat Green Bay 51-45, and New Orleans reached Sunday’s Super Bowl against Indianapolis by beating Minnesota 31-28.
-Attendance at Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games remains a concern, and with crowds of around 40,000, “you can’t continue to have an NFL franchise.” Goodell said the league wants to keep a team in St. Louis, where the Rams may be sold, and wants to return to Los Angeles.
-The cold-weather Super Bowl bid for the new Meadowlands stadium in 2014 remains under consideration.
“There are real benefits to the league considering this,” he said. “Playing in the elements is central to the way the game of football is played. I think being able to do that and celebrate the game of football in the No. 1 market could have tremendous benefits.”