Former NFL executive Bill Polian was brought onto SportsCenter this morning to give some insight into the NFL's bungling of the Ray Rice situation. He was specifically asked if he, as someone who has worked in the NFL office, thought it was possible for an NFL executive to have obtained a copy of the tape showing Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée in an elevator, as was reported by the AP yesterday, and not have shown that tape to Roger Goodell or any other NFL execs.
The video above is Polian's answer to that question, which aired on SportsCenter at 10:47 a.m. Here is a transcription of what he said:
It is very puzzling to me. As a matter of fact, I worked as a vice president in the NFL office in 1993, with respect to football operations. I know how the office works, I've physically been there—it was a different building, not the one they're in now—but it's very difficult for me to understand how that could happen. Especially when you're in a situation that is as high-profile as that particular incident is. It's puzzling, and I have as many questions as everyone else. It's outside my area of expertise. For all the years that I was in the NFL, NFL security, and the NFL's ability to protect its integrity, the so-called "protection of the shield," was unmatched in American business. Forget about sports—in American business. I mean, you did not step out of line in the NFL, and if you did, there was an unwritten rule that when you were called into the office—and met with someone who was the commissioner or there at the behest of the commissioner—that you better come clean, that you better tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And if you work in the office, you better be on top of the details. The office was there to make sure that the clubs, the players, the reputation of the NFL reamined unsullied. That goes back to the 1960's with the administration of Pete Rozelle. So this is totally, totally out of character for what I know of the NFL office.
That segment ended up getting cut short, perhaps due to a technical mishap, and so Polian was brought back on the air at 11:08 a.m., at which point he was asked the exact same question by Chris McKendry.
And here is a transcription:
Well it can happen. It's a very large organization, much larger than when I served in the league office, maybe much larger by a factor of 10. When you have a large, bureaucratic organization, which that is, and there are some that think it is too large, very honestly. Things can slip through the cracks. Someone can make a value judgement who has no right to make that judgement. The CEO, who is in effect Roger Goodell, doesn't get all the information he needs all the time. That's a fact of life in bureaucracies. In this case, we'll find out what happened, and they'll absolutely, they being the NFL and Roger, will have to take steps to make sure it never happens again.
So, what the hell happened here? In the first segment, Polian makes the NFL out to be the East German Stasi, where a low-level executive wouldn't dare hide pertinent information from his or her superiors for fear of swift and merciless retribution. But then here comes Polian 20 minutes later, describing the NFL offices as a run-of-the-mill bureaucracy where of course vital pieces of information could fall through the cracks.
Bill Polian either has a hard time maintaining consistent opinions for longer than 20 minutes at a time, or something spooked him into softening his answer during that second go-round. If we assume the first answer to be the truest one, you can probably guess what that something might have been.
Big h/t to reader Matt