On road to recovery, NFL's Goodell tested by delicate 'Deflategate'

Wed May 13, 2015 4:49pm EDT
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By Steve Keating and Mary Milliken

(Reuters) - Back in December, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft crafted the strongest of endorsements for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after his mishandling of punishment in players' domestic abuse cases undermined his authority.

Goodell is "the one person that understands what's important, long-term interests of the game," Kraft said.

"Owners can have specific interests, players can - that's short-term. But the commissioner is always looking for the long-term best interests of the game."

This week, that was put to the test.

Goodell endorsed the National Football League's sanctions against the Patriots on Monday for using under-inflated balls in what is known as the "Deflategate" scandal. They included a four-game ban for star quarterback Tom Brady, a $1 million fine for the team and forfeiture of two draft picks.

Kraft, owner of the reigning Super Bowl champions, publicly seethed about the punishment, saying it "far exceeded any reasonable expectation" and called the NFL's process a "one-sided investigation."

As Goodell, 56, seeks to cement his public rehabilitation from last year's crisis, "Deflategate" is an opportunity to show his resolve to protect the game's integrity.

But it could also be a curse for a commissioner who has earned as much as $44 million a year running America's most popular sports league, testing his relationship with Kraft and other owners.   Continued...

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media before Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix, Arizona January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson