Greg Cote

As Patriots and Falcons prepare, Goodell suffers week’s biggest hit at news conference

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a news conference during preparations for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Wed., Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a news conference during preparations for the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Wed., Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. AP

Super Bowl With a Smirk returns with our third of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual pre-Super Bowl “state of the league” news conference in Houston on Wednesday, and, really, it seemed to go fabulously well for him.

There was not a single uncomfortable question put to him, with the exception of the Chargers bolting San Diego, the Raiders trying to move to Vegas, lower TV ratings, the refugee travel ban, concussions and brain injuries, the broad perception of diminished quality of play — oh, almost forgot! — and the likelihood that Sunday night he’ll be forced to hand the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady after dodging the Patriots for two years over Deflategate.

Quarterbacks under constant sack siege face less pressure. By the end of the 75-minute grilling Goodell’s wingtips were covered by a rising puddle of his own sweat.

At one point, as yet another Deflategate-related question whizzed at him like shrapnel, Goodell said he has “no doubt” that if he were to attend a Patriots game in Foxborough he would be “welcomed.”

Whatever he said next could not be detected above the massive roar of braying laughter that could be heard 1,600 miles away in New England.

▪ In college football, Wednesday was National Signing Day, when teams collect their latest bounty. In the NFL it was National Sighing Day, the dead middle of Super Bowl Week, when fans already are tired of the buildup but resigned to more of it.

▪ You could spend up to $112,000 on a single Super Bowl ticket on StubHub on Wednesday. If Smirk is spending that much for one seat, there had better been an envelope stuffed with about $111,500 waiting on that seat.

▪ The NFL announced Wednesday that the Patriots and Raiders would play a regular-season game in Mexico next season if they can manage to scale Trump’s wall.

▪ Celebrity parties are as big a part of Super Bowl Week as the game itself, according to party planners, and Mike Ditka and Ron Jaworski co-host one Thursday: “Cigars With the Stars.” Sounds like fun, other than the choking cigar smoke and the dreadful possibility of inadvertantly having to converse with either Ditka or Jaworski.

▪ NFL security officials are warning about counterfeit tickets. If, for example, the ticket you bought seems extraordinarily small and reads, “AMC Theaters/La La Land/Admit One,” it might not be a bonafide Super Bowl ticket.

▪ A group called MVPIndex ranks most valuable NFL players on social media and says Julian Edelman, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski rank 10th, 14th and 20th overall, while the top Falcon, Julio Jones, is 47th. Hmm. Edelman ahead of Brady? Are you drunk, MVPIndex?

▪ Friday is the 26th annual NFL Foundation/NFL Legends Super Bowl Golf Tournament. One of the team captain “legends” is Ryan Leaf. Oh, how I wish I were making that up.

▪ In an NFL initiative, Houston Habitat For Humanity rebuilt a home Wednesday despite derisive heckling from members of bitter rival group Rebuilding Together. OK, I made up that second part.

▪ Super Bowl halftime performer Lady Gaga said in a revealing interview that she would not reveal much about her planned show. People are betting on which song she’ll sing first. Smirk could not care less but is hoping for a wardrobe malfunction.

▪ Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Have those plastic zip ties and duct tape ready again just in case Uncle Mort gets belligerantly sloppy-drunk before kickoff like last year.

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