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Goodell promises to do what it takes to keep Bills in Buffalo

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WBFO News file photo
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Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY

By Eileen Buckley

Orchard Park, NY – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made an appearance in Western New York Sunday.

Goodell appeared at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park as the Buffalo Bills played against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Prior to the start of the game, Goodell held a news conference. Goodell address several issues important to the future of Buffalo Bills football during his news briefing. That included what the new collective bargaining agreement means to the Buffalo market.

Goodell said the League will do everything it can to keep the Bills in this region.

"I promise you I'll do everything I can to make sure [a move away from Buffalo] doesn't happen," said Goodell.

Goodell was also asked what steps would be taken if the Bills were to lose owner Ralph Wilson as owner.

"I think the point of the question from fans is will we have a process and ability to keep the Bills here and be successful. I think that's the hope of Mr. Wilson and that the team will continue to be successful here in Western New York," said Goodell.

And on the topic of the future of Ralph Wilson Stadium, Goodell called it a "great stadium to watch a game".

"One of the reasons I picked this game to sit out in the stands is because I think it's a great experience to be here with the Bills fans and the sidelines are great. Second, I think the Bills owner, the state, and the county has done a great job of continuing to make improvements to the stadium to keep it competitive, but you have to continue to do that. We've had success with old stadiums, Lambeau Field is an old stadium, Chicago's an old stadium, had a significant renovation going back so you have to continually improve facilities to keep them competitive with what's going on in other markets. But again, it has to be done with an eye towards that market. There are certain things that may not be necessary or desired by the fans here in Western New York that are very popular in other markets. The stadium has to fit the community and the community has to have input in that, which they have," said Goodell.

Goodell told reporters he is interested in adding a second regular-season game in London, England and build on the success it has had in playing in London. Goodell said the move will be discussed at the owners meetings this week. The NFL will be hosting its firth regular-season game in the British capital when the Chicago Bears play at Wembley Stadium on October 23.

Commissioner Goodell also noted that the NFL was happy with the game it played in Mexico City in2005, but he said he is focusing on adding a regular-season game in England. Goodell said he plans to address the issue at NFL meetings in Houston that begin Tuesday.

The following is a transcript provided by the Buffalo Bills that outlines his news conference in Orchard Park Sunday:

Goodell on what the collective bargaining agreement means to the Buffalo market: What it means most to fans is competitive balance. That we'll continue to have the competitive balance that has made the league so successful and so popular with fans. Teams like Buffalo will have the same ability to be competitive as they are in New York, Chicago or San Francisco. Part of that is that we now have a 10-year agreement. Second, is that we have a sharing of our revenue that has been expanded from where it was prior to the CBA. Third, is that we've been able to address a number of things in the CBA that I think are going to make the game better and allow us to continue to grow.

On if small market teams can generate enough revenue to meet that floor: Yes, no question. I have every bit of confidence that small market teams are going to continue to be successful. As long as we continue to have the proper stadiums and proper fan support, and that's what we have to do. We've got the structure in place now; we've got to continue to create the excitement and passion in the communities. Clearly, here in Buffalo I know that first hand, they have that here.

On what steps will be taken should the Bills ownership become vacated: No, I think the point of the question from fans is will we have a process and ability to keep the Bills here and be successful. I think that's the hope of Mr. Wilson and that the team will continue to be successful here in Western New York.

On what assurances he can provide other than confidence: I don't think there are assurances in anything other than if we continue to do our part, meaning we - this community. If we continue to keep this facility competitive with others and we continue to support the team, I'm confident that we're going to continue to be successful here in Western New York. I know the team is already beginning negotiations on a longer-term lease, which is something we need to get done.

On where the NFL stands on the HGH issue: You'll have to talk to the NFLPA. I know where we are, which is we want to implement it as soon as possible and get it in place. We're disappointed that we don't have it with the start of the regular season. We still want to get it done.

On the Toronto series: I think we can do it better, and so do the Bills and so do the Rogers people. We want to try and improve the experience that we're providing up in Toronto and we're working and focused on trying to do that. We want to try and make that better for the fans that go from Buffalo up to the series, and also for the fans there in Toronto.

On Ralph Wilson Stadium: First off, it's a great stadium to watch a game. One of the reasons I picked this game to sit out in the stands is because I think it's a great experience to be here with the Bills fans and the sidelines are great. Second, I think the Bills owner, the state, and the county has done a great job of continuing to make improvements to the stadium to keep it competitive, but you have to continue to do that. We've had success with old stadiums, Lambeau Field is an old stadium, Chicago's an old stadium, had a significant renovation going back so you have to continually improve facilities to keep them competitive with what's going on in other markets. But again, it has to be done with an eye towards that market. There are certain things that may not be necessary or desired by the fans here in Western New York that are very popular in other markets. The stadium has to fit the community and the community has to have input in that, which they have.

On the Bills being "Canada's Team": What I think it does, is it regionalizes the team. We had an effort to do that in the 90's as you know, which I was involved with prior to becoming commissioner which is to reach out to the whole Western New York region, and encourage people to come to the stadium and support the Bills, both from a fan standpoint and a business standpoint and that was very successful. I see the Toronto series as expanding now into southern Ontario where I think the Bills are selling 15 percent of their tickets into southern Ontario, again that's helping make the team here be more successful and more stable here in Western New York.

On the future of the NFL in Europe: Well, we're playing in London a week from Sunday we'll be over there and it's been tremendously successful. We have sold that game out in the matter of hours. This year, because of the lockout, we didn't start selling tickets until mid-August so we still have some tickets but fan reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and we want to build on that and we're going to talk about it at our league meeting on Tuesday with maybe the potential of expanding it to two games in London.

On any lingering effects from the lockout: Not at all, matter of fact the fans have come back in record numbers. Businesses have come back in record numbers as indicated by some of our business arrangements. The excitement is there, the game is terrific and you're seeing it by the quality of play on the field and by the unpredictable nature of our season. It's already been a great season and we're four weeks into it.

On the NFL's future plans for international play: Mexico is clearly something that we've been focused on. We actually had our first regular season international game in Mexico several years ago, with the Cardinals and the 49ers. So we will continue to focus on that, but the expansion of the regular season series is focused on the UK.