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Hub Arkush: Goodell speaks, doesn't say much

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 11:04 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 11:23 p.m. CDT

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For as long as there have been Super Bowls, the NFL commissioner has met with the assembled media on the Friday before the game.

Back when I first started in the Stone Age, it’d be myself and a few hundred other ink-stained wretches from around the country getting together with Pete Rozelle in the ballroom of the hotel we were all staying in.

Not much has changed over the decades other than the passing of the torch from Rozelle to Paul Tagliabue to Roger Goodell, and the explosion in the number of media with the addition of all our electronic broadcast and digital friends.

As the media numbers have swelled from a couple hundred to a couple thousand, team owners and front office personnel have also flocked to the event.

It is now known as the commissioner’s “State of the League” address and has become the second biggest event of Super Bowl week trailing only the game itself.

Goodell is very good with the media. Like Rozelle, he has some background in public relations. But, back in the day, the biggest single vehicle to promote the game was the free print media, and the commissioner needed to feed the beast.

Today the NFL is a $10 billion industry, growing rapidly and wildly profitable.

The NFL still respects the media, but the media needs it more than the league needs the media. Real answers to hard questions are nonexistent.

Predictably, the majority of the questioning Friday morning was about the New York experience and the future, if any, of cold weather Super Bowls.

Goodell continued to strongly defend the decision to hold this Super Bowl in New York and talk about what a great experience he thinks it’s been. But the Commissioner was 100 percent non-committal about the possibility of another “cold weather” Super Bowl.

Equally surprising was the fact there wasn’t a single question asked about officiating. Goodell was asked about possible changes in instant replay – questions that he dodged – but nothing about the officials.

The commissioner spoke about how thrilled he was that all three games to be played in London in 2014 are already sold out, but said he had no idea what the NFL’s next push into Great Britain and Europe might be.

He was also completely non-committal about the possibility of future games in Mexico, Brazil and Canada.

In response to a question about a recent study that says concussions were down 13 percent in the NFL, a surprising finding considering all the increased scrutiny, Goodell said it was because of changes in the rules and the culture in the NFL, an answer met with great skepticism by many in the room.

Goodell was quite definite that the league has no intention of changing its policies on marijuana – synthetic, medicinal or other – until medical science indicates it should. And there is no current evidence that it is close.

The commissioner also assured everyone there was no change in the status of an eventual franchise in Los Angeles, or evidence that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is proceeding with efforts to make that move.

Goodell was smooth, engaging and pleasant as could be, but we know no more about the hot button issues surrounding the game today than we knew going in.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears and pro football for Shaw Media. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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