If Dolphins fans had their druthers, their team would be one of the two playing Sunday.
But probably the next-best thing is seeing their hated New England Patriots squirm on the league’s biggest stage.
So in that regard, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did them a solid Friday.
In his much-anticipated, widely attended annual news conference, he kept the pressure on New England and the franchise’s football air-pressure controversy. Although no judgments have been made, the league will undergo what he called a serious and thorough review of the facts.
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“We want the truth,” said Goodell, channeling his inner Lt. Daniel Kaffee. “It’s what our fans want.”
And the league will pursue the truth with a name all-to-familiar in South Florida circles. Ted Wells, the New York-based attorney, led the investigation into the Dolphins’ bullying scandal in 2013.
He has now been tasked with determining why the footballs used by the Patriots in their AFC Championship Game win over the Indianapolis Colts were inflated below the league’s mandated minimum of 12.5 pounds per square inch. And Wells will try to determine if it was a deliberate act. A deflated football can help the grip a quarterback has on a football.
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have insisted they have done nothing sinister, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft has demanded the league apologize for the innuendo if nothing comes about from the inquiry.
Those remarks have raised eyebrows in league circles; Kraft and Goodell are not only close allies but friends, and the past two weeks have potentially caused a rift. If Kraft is truly looking for contrition, he was probably disappointed Friday.
“My job is to protect the integrity of the game,” Goodell said.
And if rules are violated? Goodell said he must act, before repeating: “This is my job.”
Goodell earns north of $40 million to do that job — but his recent stewardship has left many asking whether he’s worth the cost. The past year was arguably the most trying of Goodell’s tenure as league boss, from the Ray Rice video to the Adrian Peterson abuse allegations to now his signature event clouded by a whiff of cheating.
“It’s been a tough year for me,” he conceded, calling it one of “humility and learning.”
Still, he dug in Friday, saying that he gave no thought to resigning and shrugged off a suggestion he should be fired. And as for that eye-popping salary? Goodell said it was up to the discretion of the owners, a group that includes Miami’s Stephen Ross.
Deflategate dominated much of the nearly 50-minute session, but little new ground was actually covered. He did say that whether a competitive advantage was gained by the Patriots is secondary to whether the league’s rules were violated.
But there was plenty of other news made by his briefing. Among the highlights:
▪ The league, still grappling with the enormity of the concussion epidemic, will appoint a chief medical officer to oversee the league’s health policies.
▪ Despite the recent maneuvering of Rams owner Stan Kroenke — he plans to build a football stadium in Los Angeles, which most believe presages a move from St. Louis — Goodell insisted no decision has been made on relocation.