Roger Goodell (l.) with GBs Mike McCarthy
Roger Goodell (l.) with GBs Mike McCarthy
HOUSTON – (Special to Digital Sports Desk from The Sports Xchange) – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell doubled down on Deflategate and reaffirmed his commitment to “Thursday Night Football” in his State of the League address at the George Young Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon.
“We’re thrilled to be here in Houston,” Goodell said, projecting attendance will reach one million after topping 250,000 for the first three days of the week.
Shortly after opening his address began at 1 p.m. CT, Goodell was peppered by multiple questions regarding DeflateGate, relocation and ratings.
With New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft seated in the first row five seats from the aisle and 15 yards from Goodell, the commissioner stood by his decision to suspend quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2016 season based on findings that revealed a violation of rules and besmirching the integrity of the game.
If the last game of the season ends with a Patriots victory, Goodell said he is ready to hand the trophy to the champions.
“I would tell you that it’s not awkward at all for me,” Goodell said, adding that he didn’t dodge two playoff games in Foxborough, Mass., to attend back-to-back games in Atlanta for that reason. “If invited I’ll return. I have no doubt if I wanted to return to Foxborough and I asked Mr. Kraft, I’d be welcomed back. I continue to respect and admire Robert and Jonathan (Kraft). I’m not afraid of disagreement. And I don’t think it leads to distrust or disrespect.” … We have a job to do. From our standpoint, we understand the fans who are loyal and passionate for a team object and don’t like the outcome. From our standpoint, this is just about making sure we take care of business.”
As for any conversation with Brady, Goodell cited a policy of never revealing when he speaks to players, only that it happens regularly.
On relocation, of the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles and the Oakland Raiders to a city to be determined, Goodell said the NFL stands by its belief that relocation is a last resort. The league, Goodell said, deeply incentivized the city of San Diego to replace dilapidated Qualcomm Stadium with an unprecedented $300 million in total funding to kick-start a project.
The Chargers are leaving for Los Angeles after 56 years in San Diego.
“These are painful processes — it is hard on our fans, and it is not the outcome we were hopeful for,” Goodell said. “It has taken awhile to recognize that a new stadium was needed. It’s a process that has to identify a solution that is good for the community and the team. We weren’t able to do that.”
Placing a team in Las Vegas, the stated intent of Raiders owner Mark Davis, will not progress until owners review the status of the team’s relocation plan from Oakland.
Goodell said no determination was made on Las Vegas and its viability as an NFL market, of which stadium financing will be just one factor reviewed. Another is whether gambling can co-exist with the NFL.
“It does today, it exists throughout our world,” Goodell said. “What we’ve always said is there needs to be a fine line between team sports gambling and the integrity of the NFL. … That is something we think is imperative to us.”
Goodell said the league has been studying shifts in television ratings for a number of years and plan to enact a change in planned breaks per quarter — four instead of five — next season. That will not include eliminating “Thursday Night Football,” which Goodell touted as the No. 2 show in prime time.
“What we’re trying to do is make our games as exciting and action-packed as possible. We have not dismissed any theories. We’re going to have the competition committee focused on several issues,” Goodell said. “There are number of things where we think we can focus on management of the game, stopping the game. We have five breaks per quarter, we think we can do it with four. We think less is more in this area.”
NEW YORK – (Wire Service Report) – New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo continued to show support for Josh Brown even after the embattled kicker admitted to years of abusive behavior toward his ex-wife in newly released police documents. However, In a later development Friday, Brown was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list — a move that only NFL commission Roger Goodell has the authority to make. Sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the veteran is done with the Giants.
New information was released by the state of Washington earlier this week, prompting the Giants to announce Thursday that Brown would not travel with the team for Sunday’s game in London against the Los Angeles Rams.
“It was a tough conversation with Josh,” McAdoo told reporters at Friday’s tense press conference in London. “We’re not going to turn our back on Josh. He’s our teammate.”
McAdoo repeatedly said the team was still gathering information about the allegations.
“We’re looking to get as much information as we can to make an informed decision,” McAdoo said, adding: “Everything’s concerning.”
The NFL announced Thursday that the league will re-open its investigation of Brown and would review the newly released documents. The Giants signed former Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould to replace Brown for the London game.
“We’re not worried about the distractions,” McAdoo said Friday. “We’re not worried about the outside noise. We need to focus on each other and winning the football game.”
Giants co-owner John Mara said Thursday in a radio interview that the Giants were considering placing Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list.
“(Brown) admitted to us he’d abused his wife in the past,” Mara said on WFAN. “What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.”
Brown admitted to domestic violence in letters, emails and a journal, according to police documents released by the King County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday.
“I have abused by wife,” Brown wrote in one of his journal entries obtained as part of the investigation stemming from his arrest on May 22, 2015.
The documents were part of the final case file by King County Sheriff’s Office for Brown, who was charged with assault in the fourth degree/domestic violence after an incident with his ex-wife.
Brown’s ex-wife told police that he had been physically violent with her on more than 20 instances over the past several years.
In a 2013 “Contract for Change,” signed by Brown, his then-wife Molly Brown and counselor Jerry Price, the kicker admitted that he had physically, verbally and emotionally abused his then-wife.
“I have been a liar for most of my life,” Brown wrote in one journal entry, according to the police documents released Wednesday. “I made selfish decisions to use and abuse women starting at the age of 7 to fill this void. I objectified women and never really worried about the pain and hurt I caused them. My ability to connect emotionally to other people was zero. My empathy levels were zero.
“Because I never handled these underlying issues I became an abuser and hurt Molly physically, emotionally and verbally. I viewed myself as God basically and she was my slave.”
The NFL initially suspended the kicker just one game for the 2015 incident — Brown was arrested for allegedly grabbing the wrist of his now ex-wife in a heated dispute at a home the couple shared in Woodinville, Wash. — because of “insufficient information to corroborate prior allegations.”
The Giants then signed the 37-year-old Brown to a two-year, $4 million extension this offseason. By being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, Brown will still be able to collect his base salary of approximately $1.15 million, according to ESPN. Brown has three days to appeal being placed on the list.
A Washington state sheriff criticized the NFL after the league made a statement about how his department handled information requests.
King County sheriff John Urquhart told Seattle radio station KIRO that an investigator never made it clear that he was representing the NFL and never identified himself when asking about the Brown case.
“‘NFL, National Football League,’ he could have (said) any of that,” Urquhart said. “Robert Agnew, Comcast.net, post office box in Woodinville. We had no idea who this yokel is.
“I would have said exactly the same thing, ‘We cannot release the case file.’ But since this is a hot-button item in the NFL, since it’s the NFL, we probably would have told them orally a little bit more about what we had. I don’t like to get pushed around by a bully.”
NFL senior vice president of communications Natalie Ravitz wrote on Twitter that the NFL did, in fact, make it clear to police that the league was seeking information on Brown’s domestic violence case.
Ravitz said the NFL submitted a public records request on May 26, 2015, and also said four different individuals working for the NFL contacted police.
“It was clear we were looking for info for months,” Ravitz wrote.
The NFL’s domestic violence policy has a six-game baseline for first offenses, but allows for different lengths of punishment should mitigating circumstances allow. In a letter sent to Brown, NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch said the league wanted to investigate further upon learning of the new documents released by the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“As you may be aware, the NFL made multiple requests of the Sheriff’s Office for any and all pertinent information developed through its investigation,” the letter to Brown stated. “Because the Sheriff’s Office was treating its investigation as an open matter, however, the NFL’s requests were rejected and the materials first became known and available to us at the same time they were released publicly. The released materials appear to contain information regarding other incidents of abuse separate from the May 22, 2015 incident for which you were disciplined under the Personal Conduct Policy. As a result, further investigation by the league into those separate incidents is needed.”
The letter said the NFL expects “to conduct this review expeditiously and make any appropriate adjustments to your roster status in a timely manner.”
Brown is not allowed to attend practices or games by being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, but he is permitted to attend the Giants facility “for meetings, individual workouts, therapy and rehabilitation, and other permitted non-football activities,” the letter said.
FOXBORO – (Staff and Wire Service Report – Special to Digital Sports Desk) – Tom Brady is back at work and the All-Pro quarterback of the New England Patriots was not the only one returning from a four-game suspension.
“Obviously it’s exciting getting Tom back,” said Brady’s favorite target, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed two games with a hamstring injury and has only one reception this season.
Brady sat out the first four games of the regular season for his role in what the NFL alleged was intentionally deflating game-used footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Commissioner Roger Goodell said during the 21-month off-field battle that Brady’s actions that day and during the investigation of pregame practices by the Patriots’ equipment staff led the league office to act in protection of “the shield.”
The Patriots were 3-1 using backups Jimmy Garoppolo (2-0) and Jacoby Brissett (1-1) at quarterback.
Not all suspensions are created equally, but many other top-paid performers are due back this week.
Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus rejoins the team this week at Los Angeles. The Bills’ highest-paid player should bring energy and impact — if he’s in shape — to a defense riding high off of a shutout of the Patriots at Foxborough in Week 4 and another stellar showing the week prior against the Arizona Cardinals.
Dareus was banned four games for a repeat violation of the NFL’s drug policy.
Le’Veon Bell returned to the Steelers on Sunday night and the Pro Bowl running back made his presence felt in Pittsburgh’s landslide victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Bell rang up 178 total yards Sunday night and the Chiefs struggled to bring him down with one defender on repeated occasions in a 43-14 loss.
“He’s ‘The Juice,'” All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown said of Bell’s game Sunday. “He’s the No. 1 back I feel like in the league and, just having his presence out there, any given time you can see him take it to the house.”
Bell, suspended for a second marijuana-related violation, was also making his first regular-season appearance since tearing the MCL and PCL in his right knee last season, an injury caused by a Vontaze Burfict tackle. Burfict also debuted in Week 4 with the Bengals. The linebacker was suspended for repeat violations of the player safety rules.
Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was banned for the entire 2016 season for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Brady’s teammate, outside linebacker, Rob Ninkovich, is due back Monday from his own four-game suspension. He was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance, and the announcement of his absence came just days before the regular-season opener.
Former Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon is eligible to return to the Cleveland Browns from his latest suspension but he will not be on the field when the Patriots visit on Sunday. Gordon announced last week he was checking into a rehab facility. Browns outside linebacker Armonty Bryant was eligible to return from suspension Monday, but Cleveland placed him on waivers.
Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is scheduled to return Monday to the Dallas Cowboys, who began the season without their top two pass rushers — Lawrence and Randy Gregory, who is out 14 games for separate violations.
“I can’t wait,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said of Lawrence. “It will be fun to get him working and keep improving each week.”
Lawrence led the Cowboys with 31 quarterback pressures last season.
Among other players returning from four-game suspensions this week are Colts defensive lineman Arthur Jones, Falcons cornerback Jalen Collins, Jaguars defensive back Aaron Colvin and Packers defensive lineman Mike Pennel.
Ravens tight end Nick Boyle is serving a 10-game suspension after a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Free agent quarterback Johnny Manziel, released by the Browns in March, was suspended four games for violating the substance-abuse policy. He might not be back at all.