Roger Goodell Is Contrite but Offers No Real Answers in Press Conference

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 19, 2014

Jason DeCrow/AP Images

NEW YORK — This is how you basically break down the press conference Roger Goodell held Friday:

I disappointed myself and the NFL. I won't tell you why exactly.

We're going to make changes. Can't tell you exactly what they will be. Good try, though.

I messed up on the Ray Rice penalty. But I won't say why. He has an appeal, you know?

How did I think his fiancee ended up having her body dragged out of an elevator unconscious? See my previous answer. Can't say nothing.

We're going to get this right. What's our plan, you ask? Can't tell you.

I was wrong. I let the NFL down. Don't bother asking me what I got wrong. You want details? Well I want to be a movie star. Let's move on to the next question I won't answer.

Now, watch me dance.

In a half-full ballroom in midtown Manhattan, at a hastily called press conference with approximately 20 cameras in the back recording his every utterance and expression, Goodell—who has been in hiding for almost two weeks—stood at the front of the room and said, well, pretty much nothing.

He ducked and danced and juked and tippy-toed. He evaded better than Julio Jones against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the way he danced, it's a good thing the press conference took place in a ballroom.

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"I disappointed myself," said Goodell. "I disappointed the NFL. I disappointed our fans."

How exactly? He didn't say. He didn't say a whole lot.

This was dramatically different from, say, an Adam Silver press conference. After Silver talks, he drops the mic. When Goodell was speaking, the mic fell asleep from boredom.

It is true that Goodell was perhaps the most contrite I've ever seen him. At most press conferences, Goodell is strong, almost cocky. He does not suffer foolish reporters or questions. He is warm and charming but will also respond with a smirk to something he doesn't like.

As someone who has watched him closely, covered many of his press conferences and interviewed him one-on-one, I can tell you, Goodell was different this time. Is it an act? Sure, it could be. But I also believe the rash of crimes—and his own serious misstep in dispersing the ridiculously light Rice suspension—has changed him. Goodell changed because he had to change.

At the top of his press conference, he took responsibility for his flawed handling of the Rice case and what's happened across the sport. The state of the league, and its missteps, Goodell said, "starts with me."

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

"I got it wrong on a number of levels," he later added.

But there was a big problem with the press conference, and it was this: There was absolutely no substance to it.

Goodell didn't answer a single pertinent question. Not a one. The man who told the New Orleans Saints during the Bountygate case that "ignorance is not an excuse" was now evading and dodging accountability.

Goodell said sorry a lot, but that was about it. It was almost as if the press conference was called just so Goodell could say he left his undisclosed location where he'd been hiding. Other than that, there was really no point to him doing it.

Across Twitter, almost everyone—from media to current player and former players—agreed.

"In my personal opinion, being a former player," former New England Patriots and ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi said on the air, "I want a new commissioner to lead my league."

Again, the main problem was that Goodell talked of transparency but refused to answer almost any question of substance. It was actually shocking to see.

There was one significant change that was interesting, and that is Goodell's sudden willingness to work with the union. Goodell and the union have been basically in open warfare with, to me, Goodell often ignoring the union's opinions and ideas.

Goodell made it clear there will be new conduct policies and that he will work with the union to enable them. That particular piece of Goodell Glasnost was something we haven't seen in some time.

At one point, Goodell explained that as the league is investigated by former FBI agent Robert Mueller, he doesn't expect anyone to "just to take my word." To Goodell, the league is being forthright and open.

"The same mistakes can never be repeated," he said.

About 45 minutes after he said that, the press conference ended.

So did the dancing.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.