Roger Goodell casts doubts over 18-game season


HOUSTON -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, meeting with fans before the Super Bowl, cast doubt on the possibility of an 18-game season and seemed to open the door a crack to the possibility of the Raiders remaining in Oakland.

Goodell was joined at the forum by the three finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award -- Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Greg Olsen. As part of the hour-long session, fans were able to ask questions to the foursome.

Among the issues fans raised:

» Longer season: When asked about whether the NFL would extend the regular season to 18 games, Goodell said "I don't see big movement" in support of an extended regular season. But Goodell also remains unhappy with the quality of preseason games, saying the preseason "doesn't fit NFL standards." But he acknowledged that an 18-game season is tough on players and reiterated that the league would not move to an 18-game schedule without the agreement of players.

» Raiders relocation: Goodell, who has made clear that the league would have preferred the Chargers remain in San Diego and the Raiders in Oakland, said there is still a lot of analysis to be done before the fate of the Raiders can be determined. The Raiders have filed for relocation to Las Vegas and owners are expected to review it at the annual meeting in March. But earlier this week, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who had been part of the negotiations for the construction of a Las Vegas stadium, announced would no longer provide financing for the project and reports followed that Goldman Sachs would not be involved in the financing either.

That has raised questions about whether a Las Vegas deal is salvageable or whether Oakland might have a chance to get back into the process. Among the questions remaining for the league before a final determination is made: Is Las Vegas a viable NFL market.

"Are we confident that we can't find a solution in Oakland?" Goodell added. "Is Las Vegas a market we are confident will support the team long-term?"

» Medical marijuana: Goodell said the league's medical directors have not yet supported its use, but the NFL would be open to changing its policy if the science indicates it could be of use to injured players.

» Player discipline: Goodell opened up the possibility that former players could eventually play a role in discipline for violations of the personal conduct policy. Goodell makes those decisions now and reiterated that he will not cede that authority to outsiders with no interest in the NFL. Olsen said that the disciplinary process for players is low on his list of priorities because it affects so few players.

"The only thing that we feel very strongly about is handing off the ultimate decisions that relates to personal conduct to somebody who has no affiliation with the NFL -- someone who doesn't care about the way the fans care about the game, who cares about the way the NFL is perceived -- so giving that to somebody who has absolutely no equity or no stake in the NFL, I am opposed to," Goodell said.

"Frankly, one of the groups that we've talked about is retired players. They care an awful lot about our communities, about the game, about the players' activities."

» National anthem protests: Goodell reiterated the position he first took when Colin Kaepernick did not stand during the 2016 season: "We have to respect people's constitutional rights, but for us, it's all about patriotism."



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