Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017 | 3 p.m.
One of the first NFL power players to venture out to the Minute Maid Park on Monday night at the Super Bowl Opening Night festivities was DeMaurice Smith.
One of the first questions the executive director of the NFL Players Association fielded was about the Raiders potentially relocating from Oakland to Las Vegas.
“I think you play where there’s a stadium, whether that’s Oakland or somewhere else,” Smith said. “We’re monitoring it. We’re interested in players’ quality of life above all else, and we will look at all the factors.”
That’s representative of the role relocation has played as a topic early in Super Bowl week. It’s on everyone’s minds, but they’re mostly sticking to generalities as the league’s potential move to Las Vegas stays on the fringes of the biggest event of the year.
That should change at 11 a.m. Wednesday when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makes his annual State of the League address and holds a news conference at the Super Bowl media center. NFL Network will air the event, where the Raiders’ future is expected to be among the major topics.
Goodell will have plenty to discuss, especially with Monday’s developments of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson pulling the $650 million he had pledged to the proposed $1.9 billion stadium before rumored backup plan Goldman Sachs also backed out today.
All of the NFL’s owners have started to descend on Houston for the league’s championship game, and there’s no question they’re discussing the effect of Adelson’s exit.
They’re just not doing so publicly. Neither Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who previously questioned whether Las Vegas is viable for the NFL, nor Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has supported the move, spoke about the Raiders during brief media sessions on Monday.
Former Raider great Howie Long, who’s been involved with efforts to move the team to Las Vegas, said he had yet to assess the fallout.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone since the news came out about Adelson,” Long said.
Long rallied for the $750 million in public money earmarked for the new stadium. He just hasn’t had the time to stay up to speed this week while preparing for his role on the Fox broadcast of the Super Bowl, where his son Chris Long will start at defensive end for the Patriots.
Howie Long continues to support the Las Vegas stadium but stopped short of calling it the only option as Oakland tries to put together a proposal to keep the team.
“I haven’t seen anything and I don’t think the Raiders have seen anything to make Oakland a viable option,” Long said. “Maybe something will come up in the next few weeks, but I’m not sure.”
Two former Raiders will suit up for the Falcons on Sunday, backup quarterback Matt Schaub and backup linebacker Philip Wheeler, but both of them said they hadn’t given any thought to their former team’s future. Relocation is on the backburner for now at the Super Bowl.
Goodell’s comments could move the Raiders back to the front as a focus like they were when officially filing relocation papers two weeks ago. The rest of the NFL will be watching.
“If it’s Las Vegas or anywhere else, we’re looking at how much money the players are in for the stadium,” Smith said. “People may not realize it, but the players pay for the stadium, too. The one focal point will always be what’s best for the players.”