NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference Wednesday...

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference Wednesday in Phoenix ahead fo Super Bowl LVII. Credit: AP/Mike Stewart

PHOENIX – Super Bowl LVII is still a few days away but the NFL and its commissioner are already looking ahead to next year’s game. No one has any idea who will be playing in that one or what the storylines will be heading into it, but everyone certainly knows where it will be.

Las Vegas, baby!

“I think I’d be making a mistake underestimating anything that happens in Vegas and how big it can be,” Roger Goodell said on Wednesday at his annual news conference ahead of the big game.

The Super Bowl is already among the most monstrous events in the world. Bringing that circus to Sin City can only amplify its cacophony. The league recognized that when it awarded Super Bowl LVIII to Las Vegas in 2021. The game was initially bound for New Orleans, but when the NFL’s regular season schedule was expanded to 17 games it pushed the Super Bowl back a week and created a potential conflict with Mardi Gras celebrations that would take place in February 2023. New Orleans was given Super Bowl LIX instead and Las Vegas jumped in for Super Bowl LVIII.

This won’t be the NFL’s first large-scale event in the city. The Raiders moved there and have been playing home games there since 2020. The 2022 NFL Draft was held there (Goodell said that “was extraordinary for us”). And last week the Pro Bowl came to town.

None of those, however, brought as much titillating thrill as the Super Bowl is certain to bring.

Goodell was also asked about and spoke on a number of other matters.

He hailed the league’s accelerator programs for expanding the diversity among head coaches and front offices as a positive and noted that new Titans GM Ran Carthon was first introduced to Tennessee’s ownership group at an event held under that program at the league’s meetings in December. “There is more work ahead of us,” Goodell said of that issue.

He said he thought the quality of officiating in the league “has never been better” despite several glaringly questionable calls and procedures during the conference championship games. “They are not perfect, officiating never will be,” he said. “Our officials are held to an incredibly high standard, and I think they meet it.”

In light of the league’s report last week that the concussion rate among players went up 18% in 2022, Goodell said that was due to a “broader” and “more conservative” definition of the injury after the NFL adjusted its protocols following incidents with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagavailoa during the season.

He had little to offer on what is reportedly the imminent sale of the Commanders by disgraced owner Dan Snyder. Several reports on Wednesday indicated a deal could be in place for a potential vote among the rest of the owners at the league meetings in March.

Goodell noted that the new broadcast deals with the major networks begin with the 2023 season and will include flexible scheduling for both Sunday night and Monday night games late in the season. He said he believes the flexing of Thursday night games, a much more arduous logistical process, will come about at some point as well.

And getting back to Las Vegas, Goodell said he was pleased with the new Pro Bowl format that took place there last week. The old format of an actual game – or at least something that resembled it with players in pads and helmets – was scrapped in lieu of other skill competitions and a flag football contest.

“We made the pivot to say we’re not going to play this game in the same context,” Goodell said. “I don’t see us going back in any way. I think this is the future for us.”

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