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Goodell: NFL hasn't made a decision on Vegas market


Recent shifts in the Raiders' plan to bring the franchise to Las Vegas made them a heavy topic of conversation Wednesday during NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's annual Super Bowl week news conference.

On Monday, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson pulled out of a plan to potentially help finance a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas. The loss of Adelson as an investor means a potential Raiders move to Las Vegas has been compromised -- at least for now. Goodell was asked whether Las Vegas was still a viable option after the latest developments.

"We haven't made a determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market," Goodell said. "That's part of the relocation process. The Raiders submitted an application, it's one that we're considering carefully, but there's a great deal of more work to be done. There are several elements with that. Financing of a stadium is just one. Obviously the stadium project itself. The depth of the market. All of those are things that we've studied over the last several months, but that will increase in intensity over the next month or so as we move forward in that process.

At the moment, Oakland appears to be without a Plan B. As NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted on Tuesday, Adelson's withdrawal is not a fatal blow. The one thing working in Oakland's favor is that they really don't have much of a deadline.

While Goodell acknowledged that gambling is part of the NFL subculture on Wednesday, he was opposed to a portion of ownership structure coming from a casino owner. Many potential sources of funding in the Vegas area could have significant casino ties.

"Well, we've always said that we're going to maintain the integrity of our game by making sure there's a separation between sports gambling and the NFL," Goodell said. "That is something that we think is imperative for us. We want our fans to know that the game they're seeing unfold on the field does not have any undue influence.

"We recognize gambling occurs out in the marketplaces, but this is something from our standpoint, we have rules that are in place. The Raiders have not asked us to compromise those rules as it relates to our policies. We will continue to have that separation going forward. I don't see an ownership position in a team from a casino. That is not something that is consistent with our policy. Not likely a stadium, either."

Goodell, when asked about the Raiders possibly bumping down to San Diego, said that any move to the former Chargers' home would need to come with an agreeable stadium proposal; a difficult maze to navigate given the Chargers' recent departure. Rapoport added that it might be time to start considering alternate sites for the Raiders beyond Vegas and California.

What else did the commissioner have to say?

» Goodell again strongly defended the league's Thursday Night Football brand amid criticism about the quality of play. He also said that the league could be looking into possible alterations on broadcast schedules and how many teams have to play Thursday night games.

"Thursday Night Football is something that we're very committed to," he said. "Thursday Night Football ended up being the No. 2 rated show in all of prime time on NBC this year and No. 4 on CBS. So, we see our fans reacting positively to that. There's been a lot of discussion about the safety of the game but we have seen absolutely no indications that there's any further risk of injuries and injury rates are slightly lower on Thursday night than they are on Sunday.

"As it relates to the quality of the game, we've seen that be incredibly positive also," Goodell continued. "We've seen less turnovers, we've seen less penalties. In almost every aspect of what you would say the quality of the game, we've seen high-quality football on Thursday night. We put all 32 teams on there, that is something that we did, we are thinking about whether we re-evaluate that, maybe don't have quite the number of teams. Maybe even change the staggering of our Thursday night games so that you have consecutive games on CBS, consecutive games on the NFL Network and consecutive games on NBC because we heard from our fans quite a deal, 'Where is the game? We want to know where the game is.' So we're going to look at all of that."

» With several states approving or looking into the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, the NFL is at an interesting crossroads. Goodell was asked by The Washington Post about a forthcoming proposal from the player's union that would look to seriously decrease penalties related to marijuana use.

"Well as you point, they haven't made a proposal. We certainly haven't seen it. I've read it in the paper also and I've spoken to (NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith) about it. But I think what it's signaling, from our standpoint is that the labor agreement we have has worked incredibly well for the players, for our clubs and for, I think, the game in general. It's encouraged investment. We see the salary cap, which may be projected to increase by $15 million a club. In the last four years alone, the salary cap has jumped almost $1.7 billion, including benefits.

"That's extraordinary and historically has never come close to being achieved before. So what we have is a labor agreement that is working well for all parties. But we sent the union last spring several pages or lists of issues that we wanted to address as the league and as ownership. I expect and we put on that list drug policy as one of those issues. So we would love to engage, but I think what we're seeing here is a reason why we should all sit down and get at the table and begin negotiations so that if we want to reach a different policy on either the drug policy or any other matter, we can all begin that earlier and do it in a way that's responsible."

Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo added that this is an issue that could be negotiated before the next collective bargaining agreement expires.

» There is no timetable for the NFL's investigation into domestic violence accusations made against Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.

"I am not putting any pressure on our investigators," he said, "We have highly trained, highly skilled people and we don't put time limits on those decisions. We want them to be thorough, fair, to come to the right conclusions and notify me from there. At this point, there is no timetable."

» Rapoport asked Goodell about the pace of play, and whether or not the NFL would look into different alterations to commercials, game clocks and television broadcasts.

"We've been focused on this long before this year," Goodell said. "In fact, a year and a half ago when we had the over-the-top game with Yahoo, we actually took commercial inventory out to try and address this. What we're trying to do is to make our product as exciting, our games as exciting and action-packed as possible. So it comes on various different levels for us and we have not dismissed any theories on how we continue to engage our fans more extensively either on television or in the stadium.

"That's what we do, that's what we work towards all the time. In respect to what specifics we could do, we're gonna have the competition committee focusing on several issues, one is on instant replay. Would we bring the surface tablet to the sideline to try and speed that process up so they can make a decision more quickly and resume the game as quickly as possible so we don't have unnecessary delays. Would we look at a clock that could occur from the moment an extra point is kicked to the kickoff so we don't have unnecessary delays getting the teams assembled and back on the field.

"So there could be a play clock that would essentially dictate when the teams have to be prepared for the kickoff. We're going to look at a number of other changes in the way we manage the game, whether we make announcements on replay before the replay starts or whether we just go and do view the replay. So there are a number of things where we think we can shorten the management of the game, focus less on stoppages of the game and more on action. From a commercial standpoint, we did test in Week 16 and we tested it in the Yahoo game last year, we want to look at should we have the same number of breaks. We have five breaks per quarter. We think we could do four breaks per quarter. That is something we are leaning very heavily into. That's not a competition committee issue, but it's an issue with our membership and our broadcast partners. We see opportunities to do that and maybe we're going to move some of the stoppages as well as some of the commercial aspects of the game. We think less is more in this area and we can do it with the right balance that will improve the quality of the experience either in the stadium or also on television and that's what we're focusing on. I expect to see a lot of those changes this offseason."


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