Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Friday, February 3, 2012
Reading between lines on Goodell, Rams

By Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- If Rams owner Stan Kroenke wasn't going to cut the St. Louis stadium authority any slack, neither was NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

They simply aren't going to profess their love for St. Louis while trying to leverage stadium improvements under a lease that could expire following the 2014 season.

Goodell, speaking at his annual Super Bowl news conference Friday, followed the impersonal tack Kroenke set during the news conference to announce Jeff Fisher as head coach last month. Both recited the facts when asked about keeping the Rams in St. Louis.

"We want to keep our franchises where they are, so we'd love to have the St. Louis Rams stay in St. Louis," Goodell said.

Well, then. The NFL wants the Rams to stay in St. Louis not necessarily for St. Louis, but because it wants its teams to stay put in general.

"There are lease issues that are going through the process," Goodell continued. "They were articulated very clearly in the lease. Both parties are engaging in that, and their having that dialogue will allow that process to play out, and at that point in time (it) will be more clear about what the issues are and what we need to do to resolve them."

The stadium authority got itself into this mess, he essentially said, so now it must deal with the consequences. And in the end, we'll find out whether St. Louis can pony up adequately.

This was a sweet deal from the beginning for the Rams, and the price of doing business for the city.

Goodell, asked whether upgrading the Edward Jones Dome to the NFL's standards was realistic in a mid-level market, went back to reciting the facts.

"Well, that’s what they agreed to, both the representatives of St. Louis and the team, when the team relocated back into the St. Louis market in the mid-'90s," he said.

As much as St. Louis-based Rams fans might want their team's ownership and the league to offer more convincing assurances, it's apparently not going to happen as long as leverage is at stake. That doesn't necessarily mean the Rams are bent on leaving town. But they will work for the best deal they can get, wherever it might be.