PHOENIX — Bringing pro football back to Los Angeles remains a high priority for the NFL, but the league isn’t willing to rush that process unnecessarily.
Speaking Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meeting, Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters that having a team in place by 2016 won’t take precedence over ensuring that a franchise in Los Angeles is put in a position to succeed.
“First, let me just say we’re focused on doing this right,” Goodell said. “If we go back to the Los Angeles market, we want to succeed for the long term and we have a lot to do to get to that place. So we’re not focused on ’16.”
Still, the NFL is closer to returning to L.A. than it has been at any stage over the past 20 years, with the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams all emerging as viable candidates for relocation.
If a team did wind up in Los Angeles in time for the 2016 season, Goodell acknowledged that “you’d have to play in a temporary facility.” Obvious short-term locations include the L.A. Coliseum, the Rose Bowl or Dodger Stadium, with Goodell noting that the league “could not possibly construct a stadium in that time frame.”
Said Goodell: “Right now, our focus is on the process, making sure that we’re evaluating the opportunities in their existing markets, making sure we understand that and also making sure we understand what it takes to be successful in Los Angeles long term.”
Here’s what else we learned from Goodell:
1. On the Cowboys signing pass rusher Greg Hardy, who potentially still faces a suspension: “Any club was free to sign Greg Hardy. They understood that we were reviewing his case for potential discipline. That continues,” Goodell said, noting that he expects the case to “conclude sometime in the near future and we’ll make a decision shortly after.”
2. As for the league’s investigation as to whether the Patriots used deliberately deflated footballs in the AFC title game win over the Colts, Goodell said the NFL hasn’t “put a timetable” on the investigation being headed up by league gumshoe Ted Wells. It’s worth noting that Goodell indicated the investigation doesn’t have to be solved by the draft, which strikes us as interesting.
3. On the Adrian Peterson front, Goodell said the league will “continue the evaluation” of the Vikings running back. “I expect to meet with Adrian before a decision is made,” said Goodell, who hopes to have a decision by April 15, when Peterson’s reinstatement is set to be reconsidered.
4. Goodell wouldn’t provide much light on the texting scandal surrounding the Browns, saying: “Any violation of our rules is something that we take seriously. It affects the integrity of the game and all 32 teams need to be operating under the same rules. I think our clubs expect that and our fans expect that. So any violation of that is treated seriously.” Goodell told reporters that he expects the issue to receive top focus “in the next couple of days.”
5. While the Rams are among the teams potentially set for a move to Southern California, the city of St. Louis, per NFL Media’s Albert Breer, has been “aggressive and specific” in their efforts to retain the team. Said Goodell: “I think what (St. Louis has) done, I’ve spoken to the governor, our staff has been there — Dave Peacock — he’s done a terrific job of formulating a plan. They have a great site … and I think they’re working towards making it become a reality. And I think we need to continue that momentum. … And that’s the positive.”
6. Goodell said he shared an “extremely candid” conversation with Florida State quarterback — and potential top overall pick — Jameis Winston at NFL headquarters. The Commissioner said he will make no push to change Winston’s mind about attending next month’s draft.
7. Asked about further exploring an NFL home in Toronto, Goodell confirmed: “We haven’t had much focus on it.”