BARRY WILNER,AP Pro Football Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Commissioner Roger Goodell says if the NFL puts a team in Los Angeles, it is probable the league would expand to 34 franchises.
Appearing Thursday night on “Costas Live” on NBC Sports Network, Goodell said the league “doesn’t want to move any of our teams.”
“We probably don’t want to go to 33” teams by adding just one new club if a suitable stadium is built in the Los Angeles area, Goodell said. Instead, the league would consider adding two. An odd number of teams would pose scheduling problems, including at least one club being off each week, and would create one division with five teams.
There has been speculation an LA stadium could house two NFL franchises, although Goodell did not address that with host Bob Costas.
Goodell says there are several issues that must be solved in LA, particularly which of two current stadium proposals is best. He didn’t suggest any timetable for returning to Southern California.
Goodell talked about head injuries and said the NFL was helping other sports and the military through its research into concussions.
“We’re in a leadership position in sports. People look up to the National Football League,” he said. “We do have a game that’s rough. There are inherent risks playing it. But the second-highest incident of concussions is girls’ soccer. So what we’re learning about concussions in football is helping other sports. Not just every level of football, but every other sport.
“Now the NFL is sharing our research with the Defense Department to help treat our military personnel in the field.”
Earlier in the program, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and several current and former players were asked about lawsuits against the league by ex-players who claim they weren’t warned about or protected enough against brain trauma during their careers.
The Associated Press published a story Thursday based on interviews with a dozen former players who have filed suits against the league. What emerged was, at best, a depiction of a culture of indifference on the part of the league and its teams toward concussions and other injuries. At worst, there was a strong sense of a willful disregard for players’ well-being.
“We have to protect our players,” Kraft said. “The league is very strong in this area and I hope we are prolonging careers” with the NFL’s concussion research.”
Added Colts center Jeff Saturday, a member of the players’ union executive board: “The reality is we don’t know what kind of damage it is doing long term. It’s the biggest problem we face in the NFL now.”
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