“We are moving on from that,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday during his Super Bowl LI news conference. “That’s part of our history, but it’s something that we are comfortable with the process, the decision. We’re focusing on the game now.”
Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season after an NFL-commissioned investigation by attorney Ted Wells determined it was “more probable than not” that the quarterback was “generally aware” of Patriots staffers taking air out of footballs before the AFC Championship Game against the Colts back in January of 2015.
Goodell was asked whether his relationship with New England fans and Brady was awkward and if that influenced his decision to attend consecutive games in Atlanta instead of heading to Foxborough for this year’s AFC Championship Game between the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“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, a discipline and we came to a conclusion that was supported by the facts and by the courts.
“So, from our standpoint, we understand what fans, who are loyal and passionate for a team, object and don’t like the outcome. I totally understand that. That’s not an issue for me.
“I was in Boston 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 us taking 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.”
Added Goodell: “If I’m invited back to Foxborough, I’ll come.”
The commissioner reiterated his decision on Brady’s suspension was with an eye towards upholding the integrity of the NFL.
“The thing you have to do every day is earn that trust, earn that credibility and it’s by how you act and how you do things,” Goodell said when asked about the perceived erosion of trust between the league office and fans.
“Be transparent, making sure people understand the decisions you make.
“I don’t expect for one second, for people to agree with every decision I make or we make as a league. Those are always difficult, sometimes contentious and sometimes less than perfect decision. But you do them in the best interest of the long-term health of the game and the NFL. And I think we do that.
“We always seek to do things better. I will always seek to do things better. That is how we’ll continue to operate. And if we can do it differently, we’ll do it differently.”
Despite the perceived rift between Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the commissioner said the issue of Brady’s suspension was like many disagreements he has with NFL owners.
“We have a disagreement about what occurred,” Goodell said.
“We have been very transparent about what we think the violation was, went through a lengthy process.
“We disagree about (the violation). But I continue to respect and admire Robert, Jonathan (Kraft), the entire organization. They are an extraordinary organization and they are extraordinary people, in my opinion. So, I have a very deep and close relationship to them.
“But that doesn’t change that we have to compartmentalize things that we disagree on. … I have disagreements with probably all 32 of our teams.
“I’m not afraid of a disagreement and I don’t think disagreement leads to distrust or hatred. It’s a disagreement.
“You take your disagreements, you find a common place, and you move forward. That’s what it is.
“It’s not all personal in nature, which I know people like to make it. But for us, it’s about making sure we do what is right for the league, long-term.”