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INDIANAPOLIS — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke for nearly 50 minutes on a number of topics on Friday during his annual State of the League address, headlined by the fact that all 32 teams will have at least one primetime game starting next season.
The commissioner announced the expansion of "Thursday Night Football" on NFL Network from an eight-game package to 13 games. Thursday-night games will begin in Week Two and go through Week 15 starting in 2012. Every NFL team will appear at leaest one on either "Sunday Night Football," "Monday Night Football" or the expanded Thursday-night schedule.
"We think that's great for the fans, it's great for the teams, because every one will get that prime-time exposure," Goodell said. "And we think it's great for the Network. The Network continues to do an incredible job of promoting our sport, our game."
The potential of NFL expansion and the possible relocation of existing teams dominated much of the conversation. Goodell said on Thursday night to NBC's Bob Costas that if the league were to expand, it would be to 34 teams, not adding just one to reach 33. On Friday, he clarified that statement, saying the league has no plans to add any franchises to its current collection of 32 clubs.
"We have not talked about expansion in the league, at all," said Goodell when asked about the Costas interview. "It has not been on our agenda, it has not been something we've focused on with our membership. I don't see that in the foreseeable future."
Goodell continued that answer by saying, "We want to keep our teams where they are," which led to many questions focused on the Los Angeles situation. Media members wanted to know about the L.A. stadium issue, the future of the Jaguars under new ownership and the chance the Rams may move because of uncertainty over their stadium in St. Louis.
Regarding Los Angeles, the commissioner said the league would like to work out a stadium deal with one of the two potential groups.
"I look at this as a partnership," he said about a possible deal between the league and one of the ownership groups. "I believe that there is a way to make the partnership work. We've proven throughout the country where we can get stadiums are built, they are great for the communities, they're great for the team and they're great for the league overall. You're seeing it right here in Indianapolis.
"I think it's important for us to make smart decisions. We would like to be back in Los Angeles if we can do it correctly, but there are a lot of issues that have to be met."
On new Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, Goodell said that believes Khan will help grow the franchise while keeping it in North Florida. "I know Shid Khan is very interested in our international growth. He believes it's good for Jacksonville as a community to get more global exposure. He's taken interest in playing international games, including in London, and we're going to take advantage of that."
The Jaguars have been discussed as a team considered a potential candidate to move to L.A., as have been the Rams. Owner Stan Kroenke has been non-committal about the team's future in St. Louis, and the organization recently agreed to relinquish home games in coming seasons to play in London. That has caused some isues in St. Louis, as the stadium authority claims the Rams have a deal to play all their home games in the Edward Jones Dome.
"I think it is great for the community of St. Louis to get that global exposure," Goodell said. "But there are issues that obviously are going to have to get resolved. ... We hope that will get resolved shortly. And once that's resolved, we'll make a decision from there. But we will be playing in London next year."
Goodell repeated that the NFL would like to keep all its teams in their current cities.. However, with the Rams' lease at the Dome expiring in 2014, there are doubts about their future.
"We'd love to have the St. Louis Rams stay in St. Louis," said Goodell. "There are lease issues. They are going through the process ... both parties are engaging in that. ... We'll allow the process to play out."
The commissioner answered questions on several other topics during the press conference, as well.
- HGH testing has been a controversial subject between the league and the players, but Goodell said he "certainly hopes" the two sides reach a deal on testing this offseason. "We'd love to implement it, we're prepared to do it, we agreed to do it last August. We have been working to try to address the issues the union has raised. We believe the science is clear. I do not hear any dispute from scientists around the world on the fact that this test is valid, and that we have the basis to put in and implement an HGH test that is fair to the players. We expect to be able to do that. We had discussions as recently as two weeks ago that we made some progress on, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get that implemented immediately."
- On helping former players deal with football-related injuries, Goodell said that "former players deserve the respect for helping us build this game." He added that in the CBA agreed to last August, the league pledged over $1 billion in helping retired players and that the league is always looking for ways to make the game safer.
- Along those lines, the commissioner explained the league's studies into concussions and the ways it is trying to prevent them. All of the information the league has researched on the topic is public, according to Goodell, and since recent safety rules have been implemented, the average time a player with a concussion has sat out has risen from a half-day to six days.
- On the recent tiff between Colts QB Peyton Manning and team owner Jim Irsay, Goodell said, "The NFL has such tremendous interest, and we're here in Indianapolis. We all know what Peyton Manning means to the Indianapolis Colts, what he means to this community, and I think it's not unusual that you're going to have that kind of interest in a great player and a team that has to make some difficult decisions in the next several weeks. So, I'm not troubled by it at all. I don't think it has distracted from the event. I think those are difficult decisions that the team and the player are going to be facing in the next few weeks, and I understand the interest."
- Goodell said he would encourage the NFL's Competition Committee to research pushing back the trade deadline. "In anything that we do from a competitive standpoint, there are unintended consequences. The committee has looked at the trading deadline repeatedly. We will look at it again when we meet back here in a few weeks, and when they go down to Florida to meet for their session. But I do not recommend that they make any change. I recommend they study it. We'll discuss it after they've studied it. Once I understand all the consequences, we'll present it to the membership, and we'll make a decision from there."
- With news the 49ers have secured a $200 million loan for a new stadium, Goodell said "he's excited about a new stadium being built in California, and I certainly hope it leads to more new stadiums in California."
- The commissioner said the number of television blackouts dropped in 2011, but that he is concerned with the lack of sellouts in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati. "I'm always concerned about making sure our stadium are full."
- Goodell said there is definitely a possibility a future Super Bowl could return to Indianapolis. He also added that cold-weather cities, specifically Chicago and Philadelphia, could be considered to host Super Bowls if the ownership groups in those cities are interested. The league will be hosting its first-ever cold weather, outdoor Super Bowl in 2014 in New York/New Jersey, which the commissioner believes will be a great success.
- Another potential Super Bowl host city, Miami, must make improvements to its stadium to compete with the modern facilities around the country. However, Goodell said, "I do believe Miami will host another Super Bowl."