As part of the Super Bowl week tradition, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took center stage Friday to deliver his annual State of the League address to cover any and all topics relevant to the sport this season and moving forward.
Leading up to the Super Bowl was the NFL's annual Pro Bowl, which took place last week but did not endear itself to Goodell with the quality of play—or lack thereof.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Goodell sounded off on problems with the NFL's annual all-star showcase:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
Roger Goodell says "we may have to think about (the Pro Bowl) differently. ...If it's not quality, we have to do something different." Harsh2016-2-5 20:05:11
It was an embarrassment to see Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett run 57 yards for a touchdown that didn't count because Pro Bowl rules dictate a player is down when touched inside of two minutes, but it's also an exhibition game.
Players aren't trying to hurt each other in a game that has no significant meaning, so it's a tricky situation for Goodell to try to balance.
A big conversation around professional football for virtually two decades has been Los Angeles, so with the NFL making its triumphant return to the city next season, Goodell sees big things happening for the league, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post:
NFL believes return to L.A. in Inglewood will be "transformational," Goodell says.2016-2-5 19:34:09
The Rams' exit from St. Louis had its share of detractors, notably in St. Louis, but based on comments from Goodell, the NFL is as much to blame as Rams owner Stan Kroenke, per ESPN's Andrew Brandt:
Andrew Brandt @AndrewBrandt
Re the exit from St. Louis, Goodell admits league negotiated for Kroenke with city/state. Translation: they did the dirty work for him.2016-2-5 19:57:37
Even though the Rams are on their way to L.A. and there have been discussions about a second team joining them, Goodell noted his goal is to keep teams in their current homes, per Rapoport:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
On San Diego and Oakland, Roger Goodel says: "We want to work to keep our teams where they are." Chargers and Raiders could both stay2016-2-5 19:38:32
The Chargers have the first option to join the Rams in L.A. starting in 2017, but the Raiders have a chance to return to the City of Angels if the Chargers decline to make a move.
Moving back to Los Angeles is a big step for the NFL, but it's part of a larger expansion process for the league that Goodell believes is already happening, per Pro Player Insiders:
Goodell: "Goal is to build the game internationally. London games have been a great success." #NFL2016-2-5 19:35:17
Goodell also didn't rule out the possibility of getting an NFL franchise in London, even sounding optimistic but calculated about the idea, per NFL Network's Albert Breer:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
Goodell says potential London franchise will hinge growth continuing in UK -- "If it does, I think that's a realistic possibility."2016-2-5 19:47:42
Breer also reported the NFL almost added a fourth game in London for the 2016 season, with Wembley and Twickenham being considered to host it.
The NFL's international reach will go beyond London next year, as Goodell confirmed the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders will be playing a regular-season game in Mexico City on Nov. 21, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Texans owner Bob McNair issued a statement about his team playing a game in Mexico City, per Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston:
Mark Berman @MarkBermanFox26
NFL makes it official: the #Raiders will host the #Texans in Mexico City on Nov. 21. Game will be televised by ESPN https://t.co/2jq2EoperZ2016-2-5 20:02:43
The other major topic of discussion in football, at all levels, is player safety. The NFL continues to take steps that will protect the welfare and well-being of its talent on the field, with the commissioner declaring there will be new helmets in use next season, per Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Goodell is even willing to let his hypothetical son play football, according to Maske:
"If I had a son, I'd love to have him play the game of football," Goodell says.2016-2-5 20:15:07
Expanding on that and the inherent risk associated with playing football, Goodell noted he believes risk comes with being a human being, per Pelissero:
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
Goodell says he still feels good about youth/high school football. "There's risk in life. There's risk in sitting on the couch."2016-2-5 20:16:05
However, when asked about stars like Calvin Johnson retiring at a young age, Goodell said those are "individual decisions" and he doesn't "see so many people walking away," per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
It's worth noting Johnson hasn't officially retired yet. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Feb. 1 that Megatron told Lions head coach Jim Caldwell he planned to retire at the end of the regular season, but Caldwell told him to take time before making such a big decision.
Looking at possible rules changes, in addition to making the NFL safer, Goodell said he's pursuing a directive in which players who get called for two personal fouls in a game would be automatically ejected, per Rapoport.
One policy that's come into question of late is the NFL's stance on marijuana, which can result in fines and suspensions for multiple violations, something Goodell doesn't see changing anytime soon, according to Around the NFL:
Around The NFL @AroundTheNFL
Goodell: I don’t forsee a change in the marijuana policy in the short term2016-2-5 19:58:46
Per Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, Goodell noted he "doesn't distinguish between medical marijuana [and] marijuana" when it comes to the NFL's policy.
One player who is familiar with the NFL's substance-abuse policy, wide receiver Josh Gordon, recently filed for reinstatement after being suspended the entire 2015 season for violating that policy.
Goodell said he did receive Gordon's request for reinstatement but did not address a potential decision, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Another drug-related story making the rounds involves Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and the Al Jazeera America documentary (via the Huffington Post's Travis Waldron and Ryan Grim) reporting he was connected to a clinic that supplied him with HGH.
Per Breer, Goodell noted the NFL took action immediately upon learning of the allegations against Manning:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
Goodell on Peyton Manning and hGH: "When these allegations first came up, we started our own investigation."2016-2-5 19:54:52
Goodell added that the NFL will share the facts in Manning's investigation "when we find the facts," per Rapoport.
A major developing story throughout this week involves Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was dropped by his agent Friday, per Schefter. Manziel's father, Paul, told Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News he fears for his son's life if he doesn't get proper help.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Goodell said the league wants "to help these young men," but he didn't comment on how "concerning [Manziel's] situation is right now."
The Manziel situation is one of great delicacy that goes far beyond football, so Goodell was fair to be limited with his words on the topic.
Per Jane McManus of ESPN, he offered what could be a mission statement for the NFL moving forward:
Jane McManus @janesports
Goodell: "To sum up our approach, I would say this: Get better."2016-2-5 19:36:59
The NFL is the most popular sport in the country, owning this entire weekend as the build-up for Super Bowl 50 reaches a fever pitch, so finding ways to improve the sport now and in the future is essential.