FOXBORO, Mass. — Roger Goodell tried to talk through both sides of his mouth Wednesday in his annual Super Bowl news conference. This didn’t exactly come as a major surprise.
With Patriots owner Robert Kraft and vice president Jonathan Kraft sitting front row, Goodell initially appeared to pass the blame and act like his decision not to attend a playoff game at Gillette Stadium this season was out of his control.
“No, if I’m invited back to Foxboro, I’ll come,” Goodell said in a followup question by The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy.
Here’s Shaughnessy’s first full question.
“Roger, Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe. Tom Brady Sr. was highly critical and personally insulting toward you last week. You’ve not been in Foxboro in the two years since the Deflategate investigation. Your explanation strains all credibility that you needed to be in Atlanta two weeks in a row. It appears you are avoiding Foxboro. The Patriots are here in this game. Back home where I live, it feels like there’s still a war between the Patriots and their fans and you. How would you characterize the situation and is it not awkward?”
And Goodell’s response.
“I would tell you that it’s not awkward at all for me,” Goodell said. “We have a job to do. We do our job. As I said, there was a violation. We applied a process and discipline, and we came to a conclusion that was supported by the facts and by the courts. From our standpoint, we understand the fans who are loyal and passionate for a team object and don’t like the outcome, and I totally understand that. That’s not an issue for me.
“And I was in Boston like two seasons ago for two consecutive playoff games the same way I was in Atlanta this year. That happens. From our standpoint, this is just about making sure we take care of business and do it the way that is right to uphold the integrity of our teams and our rules for all 32 teams.”
Then MMQB reporter Albert Breer, a former employee of NFL Media and The Boston Globe, asked Goodell to clarify his comment of “if I’m invited back.” Here’s their full exchange.
AB: “You said a minute ago that if you were invited back to Foxboro, you’d go. To the best of your knowledge, in the last month, have you been welcome in Foxboro?
RG: “By whom? I’m not sure your question.
AB: “By the team.
RG: “I have no doubt that if I wanted to come up to a Patriots game and I asked Mr. Kraft, he would welcome me back. That’s up to him.
“Listen, we have a disagreement about what occurred. We have been very transparent about what the violation was. We went through a lengthy process. We disagree about that. But I continue to respect and admire Robert, Jonathan and the entire organization. They’re an extraordinary organization, and they’re extraordinary people. I have a very deep, close relationship to them, but that doesn’t change that we have to compartmentalize things that we disagree on.
“I’ll be honest with you, I have disagreements with probably all 32 of our teams. I’m not afraid of disagreement, and I don’t think disagreement leads to distrust or hated. It’s disagreement. You take your disagreements, find a common place, and you move forward. That’s what it is. It’s not all personal in nature, which is how I know people like to make it. For us, it’s about making sure we do what we think is right for the league longterm.”
Here’s Kraft’s response, via The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.
Goodell was asked questions by six different reporters regarding the Patriots, and he seemed to be rattled by the end, especially by Breer.
With all the Deflategate-related questions, it feels as though we’ve traveled back two years in some cruel time machine. But Goodell was given the chance to be human by admitting it is awkward for him to attend a game at Gillette Stadium and chose to take an opposite route.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images