1 of 6 | NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to media during his annual Super Bowl press conference prior to Super Bowl 50 in San Francisco on February 5, 2016. Goodell spoke on Los Angeles's new football team, player safety and guidelines and announced that an NFL game will be played in Mexico. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
SAN FRANCISCO -- Times are changing for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who delivered his annual State of the League address at a news conference at Moscone Center before a mostly media crowd he estimated at 5,000 on Friday morning.
Goodell, who last year on Super Bowl Friday in Phoenix was asked to defend his job and explain mishandled discipline matters, focused on expanding the game and continuing to find avenues to improve the NFL product.
"To sum up our approach, I would say this: Get better," Goodell said. "That's our goal. That's what our teams do, that's what our league will do."
Goodell confirmed the NFL will further its international reach with the first regular-season game in 10 years in Mexico City, to be played Nov. 21 between the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans. He said the International Series played in London this year sold out in record time. The thirst for the league is at record highs to the extent Goodell would not rule out expanding to a full regular-season schedule or even a permanent franchise in the UK.
"We're very excited about the reaction to the three games. I'm not surprised (at the sellouts) based on the last three years," Goodell said of the UK series. "We give people an opportunity to engage football on a global basis. And the fans want more.
"Every year I go back to London I see the fans are more sophisticated, they follow it more. We are considering playing new games in the UK. It's a balancing act with our schedule. ... I believe in the future we'll see more games in the UK."
Goodell's approval rating was not questioned Friday but with tenuous stadium situations lingering following the Rams officially moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles, there is great uncertainty about the future of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders. Last Friday, Raiders owner Mark Davis visited a potential stadium site in Las Vegas in a very public gathering not far from the strip.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos said this week he would still prefer to find a way to work out a permanent stadium solution in San Diego. Goodell said he appreciated that effort but added the Chargers have a "very attractive option" to join the Rams in a new stadium in Los Angeles as a co-tenant.
"It is very much a priority for us. We want to work to try to keep our teams where they are. As I said earlier this year, relocation is a difficult process. But it's something from a business standpoint, it becomes a reality," Goodell said. "My pledge to Dean Spanos, Mark Davis and the mayor of Oakland and San Diego is to support them."
Goodell claims St. Louis could still have a football future. He told Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon three days after the relocation meetings in Houston ended that the NFL is open to the idea and Goodell would like to forward that conversation.
Goodell is less enthralled with the idea of changing the personal conduct policy, one he said is working in part because the players were afforded vocal input during labor negotiations in 2011. NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said Thursday players continue to push for third-party arbitration in personal conduct matters. Goodell has been reluctant to surrender the ultimate authority in such cases.
"One thing I know is not to negotiate in front of 5,000 people who don't have a say in it. I said we're open to changes. It's a system," Goodell said. "I am certainly open to it. We'll continue the dialogue if we can find changes that improve that process, we'll do that. ... I'll go back to one other thing. When we put in our personal conduct policy, it had tremendous input from the players association. It is working -- we had a 40 percent reduction in player arrests in 2014-15."
The NFL announced last week concussion incidences increased, a fact Goodell attributed to additional awareness.
"We continue to make progress. We've had 39 of those rule changes in the last three years," Goodell said. "We've also made tremendous improvements with equipment. There's tremendous technology coming in. This year there will be a new helmet. ... We've also seen new equipment."
Goodell said the NFL-GE technology challenge led to the development of the new headwear and also protection under artificial playing surfaces.
"Super Bowl 50 has been a great platform for us, to celebrate our history," he said. "It's also a chance to look forward. Looking ahead the future is bright. Our focus is on growing and improving the game in every area. We will continue to look at rules and technology to protect our players."
On other topics, Goodell said:
--He was "disappointed" in the on-field product presented at the 2016 Pro Bowl in Hawaii. While he wants a showcase stage for the game's best players, but as he did raising the issue three years ago, Goodell said a different angle is needed after initially seeing positive results from implemented shifts.
"I didn't see that this past week," he said.
--The Tom Brady vs. the NFL appeal is pending but Goodell said he is not focused or spending any energy on the litigation.
--The league will continue to consider changes to the drug policy, as per the league's usual offseason process, but Goodell said he does not envision any change involving permitting marijuana use.
--Daily fantasy sports need regulation, Goodell said, for the protection of fans. He said the legality of the games -- argued by industry behemoths FanDuel and DraftKings as a game of skill, not gambling -- is not under his jurisdiction.
"I don't make that determination -- each state makes that determination," he said. "We will obviously follow the law. I've said before there needs to be federal regulation."