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Roger Goodell on off-field violence and abuse: 'We have made real progress'

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference at the Hilton Hotel on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Credit: Bryan Smith

Roger Goodell understands he can't undo the mistakes of the past when it comes to the league's poor handling of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse issues. But the NFL commissioner said Friday he believes the league is now in a better position with a newly revised policy to deal with the problems.

"Part of life is growing and learning and understanding that no one has all the answers and you learn from your experiences," Goodell told an audience of about two dozen Associated Press Sports Editors at the league's New York headquarters. "Everyone makes mistakes. What I have to do is learn from those mistakes and do better. That's why I've been so proud of the organization, because we have pulled together and addressed the issues in a responsible way. We have made real progress that's going to affect not just the NFL, but very much beyond that."

Goodell cited the league's handling of Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy's case, which resulted this week in a 10-game suspension for the former Carolina Panthers pass rusher. Goodell said that, unlike the league's previous personal-conduct policy, which counted on law enforcement and the courts to decide matters before he doled out punishment, the league ran its own investigation into Hardy's case.

Hardy has appealed Goodell's suspension.

"I saw a real opportunity to make a difference on a big scale," said NFL adviser Lisa Friel, former head of the sex crimes prosecution unit in the New York County District Attorney's office. "I saw an opportunity to make a difference outside as well as inside the NFL. I think the league can lead and show the country that when a league has a commitment, I think we can show how to handle domestic violence, sexual assault and other kinds of misconduct, and other businesses can follow suit."

Goodell came under intense criticism last summer, when he handed down just a two-game suspension to Ravens running back Ray Rice for striking his fiancee in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino in February 2014. Goodell acknowledged the punishment was too lenient, and then suspended Rice indefinitely after a video posted on a website in early September showed Rice punching Janay Palmer, whom he has since married, in the face and knocking her out.

"It's been a year of learning and self-evaluation, which you have to do at any point in life," Goodell said.

The commissioner addressed other issues:

He said the NFL will continue to monitor the stadium situations of the Rams, Chargers and Raiders, all of whom have shown an interest in moving to the Los Angeles market. Goodell said owners could move up a possible vote from next March to determine whether any or all of the teams might relocate.

Goodell expressed enthusiasm about the upcoming draft, which will be in Chicago after a decades-long run in New York. He held open the possibility that the draft could be held in other cities. "I think we want to get through this before we get to the next one."

The commissioner said he believes that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who was accused of rape as a freshman but never charged and has been involved in a handful of other off-field controversies, understands what will be expected of him in the NFL.

"I had the opportunity to meet with Jameis a few weeks ago. I had a good session with him, talked about what it means to be an NFL player. I think he understands the league that he's coming into and what's expected of him."

Goodell said the league continues to be against legalized betting on the NFL, and said several teams' recent involvement in fantasy football operations should be closely monitored.

New York Sports