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NFL notes: Roger Goodell encouraged by players’ anthem protests

The 49ers' Eric Reid (left) and Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem Sunday at Carolina.
The 49ers' Eric Reid (left) and Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem Sunday at Carolina.(Mike McCarn/Associated Press)

Speaking prior to Sunday night’s game in Minnesota, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he is encouraged by the direction players are taking with demonstrations related to the national anthem.

‘‘I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change their community,” Goodell said. “We don’t live in a perfect society. We want them to use their voice. And they’re moving from protest to progress and trying to make things happen in communities.’’

Goodell said he admires the players’ willingness to stand up for perceived injustices and believes they understand that it is important to respect differences of opinion for ‘‘our flag and our country.’’ But he said he has yet to speak with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who sparked the demonstrations across the league.

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‘‘I think where they’re moving and how they’re moving there is very productive and we’re going to encourage that,’’ Goodell said.

Kaepernick continued his protest Sunday by kneeling for the national anthem before San Francisco’s game at Carolina. Safety Eric Reid kneeled next to Kaepernick.

Before the game, as Kaepernick stopped to take selfies with fans and sign autographs, one fan in the distance began yelling, ‘‘USA! USA!’’

Kaepernick’s protest continued amid critics speaking out last week against him, including Iowa GOP congressman Steven King, who said a player kneeling during the national anthem is akin to ‘‘activism that is sympathetic to ISIS.’’

A college teammate of Kaepernick’s, Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, took a knee again Sunday for the national anthem. Marshall has lost some endorsements for his protest, but said he would continue to support the cause.

Marshall also met with Denver police chief Robert White last week to discuss his call for better police training and treatment of minorities.

Many players around the league Sunday made protest gestures during or after the national anthem, including the Seahawks, who linked arms for the second straight game.

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There was also a malfunction with a giant American flag at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego as it was being unfurled on the field by Marines and US Navy sailors. The flag appeared to have a big twist in the middle and couldn’t be fully opened.

Slowing their roll

Goodell also said there is ‘‘still a lot of work to be done’’ before the NFL considers Las Vegas as a possible destination for a franchise.

Goodell was asked if the league was open to Las Vegas as an NFL market, three days after a Nevada oversight committee voted to recommend spending $750 million in public money on an NFL stadium. The project is being discussed to lure the Raiders away from Oakland.

Goodell said the decision ultimately would come down to getting the approval of 24 team owners, but he stressed that they are a long way from getting to that point and also expressed hope that the Raiders could find a stadium solution to remain in Oakland.

‘‘There’s still a lot that has to happen before we would get to that stage,’’ Goodell said of the owners approving Las Vegas as an NFL city. ‘‘Recognizing that they came out of committee with a bill, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to improve that recommendation.’’

He said he is still evaluating whether having a team play in a casino-filled city is a good idea.

Stars out in LA

The NFL returned to Los Angeles with a bang.

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The Rams and the Seahawks played the first regular-season game in LA since Dec. 24, 1994.

The football was only part of the action on a sweltering day at the sold-out Coliseum, where LeBron James hobnobbed with Rams owner Stan Kroenke and a litany of entertainment celebrities on the sideline.

The Rams hadn’t played a real game in the Coliseum since Dec. 16, 1979, when they lost to New Orleans in their regular-season finale. That Rams team still rallied for two road playoff wins to make the franchise’s only Super Bowl during its Southern California era.

They spent the next 15 seasons playing in Anaheim before steadily diminishing crowds, then moved to St. Louis.

Eric Dickerson, the Rams’ greatest star of their Anaheim era, was surrounded by a crowd of bubbling fans as he walked the ground-floor concourse of the Coliseum two hours before the game. The Hall of Fame running back still lives nearby, and he was an early advocate of the Rams’ return.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers put on a lively pregame show, and six Hall of Famers with Rams ties — Dickerson, Jack Youngblood, Orlando Pace, Marshall Faulk, Jackie Slater, and Tom Mack — gathered on the famed peristyle end of the Coliseum for a ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch.

CeeLo Green sang the national anthem.

The Rams shared the Hollywood spotlight Sunday with the Emmy Awards, which were being held up the street from the Coliseum.

So close, yet so far

Only three teams in NFL history have recovered from an 0-2 start and gone on to win a Super Bowl — the 1993 Cowboys, the 2001 Patriots, and the 2007 Giants.

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New Orleans might not be a Super Bowl team. But the Saints aren’t exactly a typical 0-2 team, either.

The Saints lost, 16-13, to the Giants on Sunday, a week after dropping their opener to Oakland, 35-34. That’s two losses by a combined 4 points.

While the Giants are 2-0, they’ve outscored their opponents by a total of 4 points.

Quarterback Drew Brees pointed to a blocked field goal being returned for a touchdown — a 10-point swing, he correctly pointed out — as a big reason Sunday didn’t go the Saints’ way.

But Brees also said the Saints were one play away from winning both games. ‘‘It’s a long season . . . a lot can happen,’’ he said.

Romo gets a checkup

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said injured quarterback Tony Romo ‘‘looked good’’ during an examination by team doctors before Sunday’s 27-23 victory at Washington.

Romo, 36, is sidelined after breaking a bone in his back when he was tackled awkwardly during an exhibition game — his fourth back injury in less than four years.

Jones called Sunday’s check ‘‘medical protocol’’ and Romo’s progress will depend on the QB’s ‘‘own ability to heal.’’

‘‘Hopefully, soon he'll be out of the dangerous stage,’’ Jones said, noting that could be in about 2-3 weeks.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has led the Cowboys to a 1-1 record in Romo’s absence.

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Distinguished in Denver

The Broncos unveiled signs in the south end zone before the game honoring the players with retired numbers: Hall of Famers John Elway (7) and Floyd Little (44), and the No. 18 for Frank Tripucka, the first QB in franchise history. Tripucka’s sign included a mention of Peyton Manning. Tripucka, who played from 1960-63, gave his blessing for Manning to wear the number when he was with the Broncos from 2012-15.