ESPN The Magazine’s Don Van Natta examines NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s power over America’s most popular sport:
BEHIND THE CLOSED doors of a Capitol Hill chamber, Roger Goodell sits on a panel with an Army general before a rapt audience of two dozen lawmakers. The NFL commissioner swaps ideas with four-star Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III about how to better protect the brains of the young people who fight America’s wars and play America’s game. They also discuss changing the “warrior mentality” among soldiers and players, who keep fighting and playing through pain. The parallel is unmistakable: To detect and treat traumatic brain injuries, the U.S. Army and the NFL are partners in survival.
This was on Sept. 12 of 2012. Clad in a navy blue business suit offset by a bright yellow tie, Goodell, 54, jots notes as Austin speaks. Almost 7,000 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan have sensors embedded in their helmets to record concussive events, Austin tells Goodell. Another general muses that it’s easy to imagine that someday the Army’s sensors will be embedded in every NFL player’s helmet.
From Capitol Hill, Goodell races to a luncheon interview at the W Hotel before a crowd of fans. The interview, initiated by the league office, is conducted by a friendly questioner from the Politico website who allows Goodell to combat a swirl of bad news, from the league’s lockout of the referees to a run of negative player-safety studies. On that most important issue, he tells the awed audience, in his methodical manner of speaking: “Player health and safety is an issue that we’ve always been focused on. It’s always been a priority.”
Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports examines the never ending disputes between the NFL and its Players:
ATLANTA – At a time the NFL and the Players Association normally would be enjoying a honeymoon period, their relationship appears to be about as comfortable as the Senate hearings on the Secret Service shenanigans in Cartagena.
A lot of tight lips and no smiles.
In just about every way possible, the league and the union are at odds. That includes a silly flap over whether players should wear knee and thigh pads, and grievances in response to the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal. On Wednesday, the union even filed a collusion claim against the league based on the belief that clubs tacitly agreed to a “secret” cap during the 2010 season.
Adding to the friction is Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against commissioner Roger Goodell. To be clear, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith did not direct Vilma’s course of action in response to the linebacker being suspended for the 2012 campaign for his role in the Saints’ scandal. At the same time, plenty of people believe that if Smith and Goodell had a more productive relationship, this might have been avoided.
ESPN’s Jeff Chadiya examines relationships that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has formed with the league’s players:
“On the Wednesday before the NFL draft, as mid-morning sunshine soaked lower Manhattan, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell strode onto a soccer field cluttered with giddy children, eager reporters and 26 draft prospects. The league had organized a football clinic as part of its “Play 60″ program, and Goodell, wearing a baggy blue sweat suit, ambled to midfield to survey the action. The commissioner was there to help future rookies sell youth fitness, but he didn’t overlook an opportunity to chat with New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who was speaking at the event. The two spoke for at least 10 minutes, talking seriously at times, joking and laughing at others and looking eerily like long-lost pals.
This didn’t seem like the no-nonsense Roger Goodell who just issued suspensions to four players — including a one-year ban for linebacker Jonathan Vilma — for their roles in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty system. It also didn’t appear that Goodell had any problems bonding with a veteran at a time when so many players despise him.