Goodell’s “if I’m invited” explanation doesn’t fly

The NFL’s phalanx of former political P.R. operatives had plenty of time to come up with a talking point that would properly address Commissioner Roger Goodell’s extended absence from games played in New England. They opted for the passive-aggressive Italian grandmother approach.

“If I am invited back to Foxboro, I will come,” Goodell told reporters.

Goodell later was asked if he feels welcome in Foxboro.

“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, though,” Goodell said.

Um. OK. Well, here’s the thing. If Goodell were to ask Kraft about coming to a game and if Kraft would automatically welcome Goodell back in response, why does the initiation of the process hinge on Kraft? Goodell, who runs the league, would merely have to say, “I’d like to come to a game.” Since #DeflateGate first surfaced, Goodell hasn’t.

Besides, does anyone really think that a visit by Goodell to any NFL stadium depends on a formal invitation? He’s the Commissioner. He goes where he wants, and owners surely regard a visit from him as an honor.

The truth is that he deliberately (and wisely) has avoided New England to the point where his absence has become conspicuous, and the only way it can be plausibly explained two years later is by saying that there hasn’t been a formal invitation.

Now, there has been. If the Patriots win on Sunday, Goodell is invited to the first game of the new season.

Which means that Goodell has yet another reason (beyond the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy and the MVP press conference) to secretly root for the Falcons.

Chad Johnson reflects on playing for Bill Belichick

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When the Patriots were preparing for the Super Bowl five years ago, receiver Chad Johnson was wrapping up his one and only season with the team. Johnson reflected on the experience during a Thursday visit to PFT Live.

He explained that coach Bill Belichick generally runs everything in New England, and Johnson also shared a specific story regarding a meeting in which Belichick ripped quarterback Tom Brady in front of the entire team for his performance in the 2010 playoff loss to the Jets.

Johnson explained that the environment in New England caused him to check plenty of his individuality at the door. As to whether that mandatory adjustment to his personality affected his performance, Johnson attributed his struggles both to his limited time to learn the offense (he arrived after the lockout ended in August 2011) and to his belief that the New England offense isn’t conducive to outside receivers not named Randy Moss.

For more from Johnson on the Patriots and my vow to beat him in Madden, check out the video of his visit to the PFT Live set.

Cam Jordan likes to make Cam Newton complain to officials

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Thursday’s PFT Live included a visit from Saints defensive end Cam Jordan. Cam Jordan talked about plenty of things, including the quarterback he most likes to sack.

Coincidentally, his favorite target goes by the same first name.

“I like to keep it in our division,” Jordan said. “I like hitting Matt Ryan because he’s part of the Falcons and I know what it can do to the team. I like hitting Jameis Winston because he’s a young kid who has so much of a competitive drive to him. He hates getting sacked, he knows what it does to his team. I probably absolutely love hitting Cam Newton because after you hit Cam Newton he’s gonna roll around seven times, flop, flail and look for the flag to be thrown. These are things that you sort of watch on film and you know if you hit him enough times he’s gonna get upset.”

So what does Cam Jordan say to Cam Newton when Cam Jordan hits him?

“Not much because you don’t have to say much because he’s already upset,” Jordan said. “He’s upset that he’s been hit. He should’ve played basketball . . . he would’ve fit right in or soccer, for sure.”

Strong comments from Cam Jordan. They cry out for a response from Cam Newton. Hopefully, he’ll be making the rounds at Radio Row.

Pat McAfee leaves $2.75 million on the table, potentially owes the Colts $400,000

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Colts punter Pat McAfee surely didn’t take his decision to retire early from football lightly.

With McAfee calling it quits, he’s walking away from a $2.75 million salary he would have received in 2017. Under the terms of his current contract, he’ll also owe the team $400,000 in previously-paid bonus money.

It’s unknown whether the Colts will actually collect the money; it’s not mandatory but plenty of teams regard a signing bonus as advance compensation for future services, and they want back any portion of the bonus that hasn’t been earned.

Via Bob Kravitz of WHTR, McAfee recently said he seriously considered retiring a year ago but decided to return. With comedic chops and a large following on social media, it makes sense for McAfee to strike while the media iron is hot — especially since he can make a lot more than $2.75 million per year if things work out in his second career.

Chargers officially terminate Qualcomm Stadium lease

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The Rubicon from Qualcomm has been crossed, officially.

The Chargers have officially canceled their stadium lease in San Diego, triggering the termination on the first day of the 2017 window for doing so. The team wired $12.575 million in order to formalize the end of the relationship between the Chargers and the San Diego stadium where the team has played for decades.

The team has had the annual ability to terminate its Qualcomm Stadium lease, with the amount of the early termination fee shrinking each year. The lease ends with only four years remaining on it.

The Chargers will play for two years in L.A. at the StubHub Center, an undersized soccer stadium. In 2019, the Chargers and Rams will christen a new state-of-the-art stadium in Inglewood.

Titans ownership issue still isn’t resolved

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The NFL has plenty of open issues at any given time. One issue has been open for a long time, and there’s still no resolution in sight.

When Titans founder Bud Adams passed in 2013, ownership of the team passed to three branches of his family tree in equal amounts. A problem arises from the fact that, with three different groups acquiring equal ownership, no one has clear control of the franchise — and thus there’s no one to officially represent the franchise in league matters with final say on behalf of the team.

“The issue that we’ve had over the last couple of years was a designation of who was going to represent the club,” Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Wednesday in his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference.  “That has changed to some extent over the last couple of years.  The fundamental aspect of our policy is to make sure that we have an individual who has the ultimate authority over that franchise and can make those decisions, including league-level decisions as well as locally, and it’s clear.  It’s clear to the ownership group and it’s also clear to the membership, so that is the issue that the committee has been addressing.  They have been in violation in the past.  I am hopeful that we’re getting to the point where that is going to be resolved once and for all.”

Although the problem lingers, the NFL has fined the Titans only once for failing to be in compliance. At some point, the NFL needs to draw a line in the sand — especially since the Titans seem to believe that there’s nothing they need to do to comply with league policies. Indeed, 11 months ago, owner Amy Adams Strunk suggested that she already has the control she supposedly needs.

In early 2016, PFT reported that the Titans had retained an antitrust lawyer in connection with the lingering dispute, a clear warning to the league that, if the Titans are pushed hard enough, litigation could ensue. That approach possibly has caused the league to tread lightly for now, but it’s hard to imagine the league tolerating the failure to comply indefinitely.

Gary Kubiak plans his next step in football

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Former Texans and Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has retired from the grind of running an NFL team, and he’s planning his next move. It’s clear that his next move will involve football, in some way.

In a special bonus segment of PFT Live, Kubiak talked about his decision to retire and his options for the future. He also answered the very important question of which quarterback is more intense: Broncos G.M. John Elway or former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Whatever Kubiak does, there’s a great chance he’ll thrive in the same way he did as the head coach of both the Texans and the Broncos. For more from Kubiak, who spoke at Radio Row in Houston for the first time since retiring last month, check out the video.

Gigantic Thursday PFT Live coming

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Wednesday’s PFT Live was huge. Thursday’s will be even huger. If that’s even a word.

It’s a 10-guest extravaganza, including visits from Cardinals running back David Johnson, Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, former Texans, Colts, and Titans receiver Andre Johnson, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan, former 49ers coach and Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, former Patriots and current Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, former Bengals, Patriots, and Dolphins receiver Chad Johnson, and ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio.

The show begins at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio, sliding over toe NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. Also, every guest from every hour of every show will be available in podcast form, at iTunes or audioBoom.

Moose Johnston: ’90s Cowboys would adapt to social media

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When FOX’s Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were remarking, fair or not, on the potential connection between the subpar playoff performance of Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his off-day excursion to Miami, plenty pointed out that Aikman’s teammates did far more controversial and potentially disruptive things.

Indeed. They did.

One of the players who didn’t do controversial and potential disruptive things in those days, fullback Darryl “Moose” Johnston, appeared on Wednesday’s PFT Live. He expressed confidence that his teammates would have adjusted their behavior to fit the reality that, in today’s world, everyone is carrying around the ability to take photos and shoot videos of any and all antisocial behaviors.

Here’s the spot where I express confidence that you’ll watch and listen to everything Johnston had to say.

Paul Tagliabue regrets downplaying concussions in 1994

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As former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue prepares for his latest — and perhaps best and last — shot at enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, he has addressed directly and candidly one of the issues that could be the hardest for the selectors to overcome: Tagliabue’s attitude toward concussions.

In an interview with Ron Borges, Clark Judge, and Rick Gosselin of the Talk of Fame Sports Network, Tagliabue was confronted with his decision to describe concussions as “one of those pack-journalism issues” in 1994, adding that “there is no increase in concussions, the number is relatively small, the problem is the journalist issue.”

“Obviously, I do regret those remarks,” Tagliabue told Borges, Judge, and Gosselin. “Looking back, it was not sensible language to use to express my thoughts at the time. My language was intemperate, and it led to a serious misunderstanding. I overreacted on issues which we were already working on, but that doesn’t excuse the overreaction and intemperate language. Bottom line, it sounded like I was shooting the messenger, instead of dealing with the message which was the concussion issue.”

Tagliabue opted not to admit to a similar error in appointing Dr. Elliott Pellman to chair the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee in 1994. Pressed to explain why Tagliabue would put Dr. Pellman, a rheumatologist, in charge of such an important committee, Tagliabue provided a long-winded answer that ultimately justified the decision by explaining that “the chairman of  committee needs to be able to work with people, needs to be able to recruit people, he needs to identify the special knowledge . . . that’s being addressed, but does not necessarily have to be a specialist in that particular area if he has other qualities and other skills that are supportive of what you’re trying to accomplish.”

To have real credibility within the committee and with those who will be asked to accept the committee’s work, it’s vital that the chairman be a specialist in the field in question. And if that’s the best argument Tagliabue can muster for putting a non-specialist in charge of such an important area of research, it’s going to be hard to convince at least 80 percent of the selectors to put Tagliabue in the Hall of Fame.

Notwithstanding his willingness to admit to an error when discussing concussions in 1994, Tagalibue’s candor underscores the chronic failure of the league to take the issue seriously at any point in his tenure, with the apparent strategy being to downplay and dismiss the issue and to denigrate those who were proving via the application of scientific principles and painstaking study that chronic brain trauma leads to potentially serious health consequences. With the league not taking the issue seriously until more than three years after Tagliabue’s tenure ended, it’s going to be even hard to convince at least 80 percent of the selectors to put Tagliabue in the Hall of Fame.

In 2015, Donald Trump took aim at Roger Goodell

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may not have had anything to say about President Donald Trump on Wednesday, but then-candidate Donald Trump has plenty to say about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell more than a year ago.

The Commissioner is a dope,” Trump previously told the New York Times in comments published on Wednesday. “He’s a stupid guy.”

The remarks were made in 2015, when Mark Leibovich of the Times was interviewing Trump in connection with a profile. There’s no reason to think President Trump has changed his mind on the subject, given his friendship with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“The Commissioner is a weak guy,” Trump said at the time. “When he made the Ray Rice deal, everybody said: You’re stupid. You’re weak. And it was such a weak deal. So now he’s going overboard with their star, Brady.”

Trump wanted Brady to go overboard in return.

“I said, ‘Tom’ — I gave him a lawyer — I said, ‘Here’s what you do. Sue the NFL for $500 million tomorrow. Sue ’em up in Boston, for everything. They’ll come to the table.’ He said, ‘Aw, man.’ He really was torn. He’s not Trump. He said, ‘I just want to win another Super Bowl.'” (Ultimately, the lawsuit regarding Brady’s suspension was filed by the NFL in Manhattan, with the goal solely of determining whether the suspension was permitted by the labor deal between the NFL and the NFL Players Association.)

Trump also thinks Kraft erred in trusting Goodell to go easy on Brady in exchange for Kraft’s decision not to fight penalties imposed on the team.

“Bob said, ‘I had a wink from the Commissioner,’” Trump said. “He choked, just like [Mitt] Romney choked. He said: ‘You know what? They winked at me.’ I said, ‘Bob when you make a deal, you should have gotten it all wrapped up.’ Who ever heard of making a deal like that? Now you got this mess.”

Notwithstanding the mess, the Patriots are on the brink of winning the Super Bowl in the same season during which Brady served his four-game #DeflateGate suspension. And President Trump likely isn’t on the brink of inviting Roger Goodell to the White House for a slice of pizza, a taco salad, and/or a bucket of chicken.

Will Las Vegas become the new Los Angeles?

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The departure of Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson from the Las Vegas stadium project wasn’t surprising. The departure of Goldman Sachs was.

And now that the Raiders lack both a partner for the cash needed to build the venue and the construction and operation expertise needed to turn the money into an actual, functioning facility, the question becomes not only whether the Raiders will abandon their plan to move to Las Vegas but also whether Las Vegas will become the new Los Angeles.

With two teams back in L.A., the league needs an “or else” destination that can be used as the place where a team may relocate absent the taxpayer money needed to construct or to dramatically renovate a new stadium. Las Vegas, with $750 million in taxpayer money ready to devote to the stadium project, provides an attractive option that a city faced with losing its current team would have to take seriously.

The question becomes whether Las Vegas will allow itself to be used for the next generation or so as the leverage for various other cities as those cities try to get stadiums built. It could be easy to justify, if: (1) it ultimately results in a team coming to Las Vegas; and (2) Las Vegas periodically gets plenty of free publicity in the process of being the “or else” option for more than a few NFL teams between now and 2035.

What will Drew Brees do when he’s done playing?

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Saints quarterback Drew Brees often is asked how long he’ll play. He’s rarely asked what he’ll do when he’s done playing.

On Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, I asked him what he’ll do after his playing career ends.

Like Peyton Manning, Brees could do plenty of different things and be highly successful at whatever he tries. He mused about broadcasting and politics. He said being the NFL’s Commissioner is one of the few things he hasn’t considered, yet.

That line of questioning prompted a discussion regarding the league’s habit of reaching decisions on disciplinary issues and working backward, and regarding whether the Commissioner is the one making the decisions or whether others are doing so from behind the proverbial curtain.

Regardless, Brees was compelling — as he always is — and he capped the interview by addressing whether he can support the Falcons in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Carson Palmer: “My house in Arizona is not on the market”

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Those Carson-Palmer’s-house-is-on-the-market-unless-it-isn’t reports can be resolved once and for all, at least for now. Based on words directly from Palmer himself.

“No, my house in Arizona is not on the market,” Palmer said in a statement from the Cardinals to PFT. “And every year we have taken off for offseason family adventures so there’s nothing to read into there either.”

The latter part of that quote relates to the report that Palmer’s kids have been pulled out of school in Arizona.

Palmer has yet to decide whether he’ll play in 2017. However, it appears that two key facts suggesting that he won’t be playing for the Cardinals have no relation to that possibility.

If Palmer retires or decides to play for a different team, the Cardinals will have to scramble to replace him, either by going with Drew Stanton or finding someone from outside the team.

Josh Norman, Emmanuel Sanders combine for a unique product pitch

Wednesday’s PFT Live included a visit from Washington cornerback Josh Norman and Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Like most of the folks making the rounds at Radio Row during Super Bowl week, Norman and Sanders have a product they’re pitching. Norman and Sanders had two products.

And it made for a couple of minutes of literal bathroom humor, given the nature of the products being pitched. It’s definitely worth a minute or two of your time to take a look and give a listen to what they said and how they said it.

We’ll be separately posting a longer segment with Norman and Sanders that included no references to bathrooms or products that would or could be used in there.