Monday Morning QB (cont.)
Posted: Monday July 30, 2007 9:30AM; Updated: Monday July 30, 2007 1:23PM
Where Tagliabue was often aloof, Goodell, according to Dallas owner Jerry Jones, "is about as inclusive as a CEO can be. Sometimes a business leader can ask you your opinion when the decision's already been made, just to give you the impression he cares what you think. With Roger, he talks to you before the decision is too far cooked. You have definite input.''
When Goodell talks to players, he often mentions how it's a privilege to play in the league, not a right. He says that stance "has resounded more with fans than anything else because I think that's how the fans look at it. I met a TSA screener at Reagan Airport and he said, 'I like what you're doing. I think I like the fact that you're asking people to meet a higher standard.' It's a privilege for me to be in this office, too.''
"When [Goodell] talked to us at the rookie symposium,'' Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas said Sunday, "he told us to respect the NFL shield. A lot of the guys thought he was saying respect the league, but he was really saying respect everything about the league -- the teams, the players, everything -- because if the league as a whole prospers, the players prosper. It's sort of like something your mom or dad would say.''
Goodell's biggest looming test: The re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement. Both players and owners have the right to ask for the deal to be renegotiated as early as November 2008, and it's very likely the small-market owners, who want more revenue-sharing with the big-city clubs, will push for the deal to be scrapped and reworked.
"My objective is to try and resolve the differences,'' Goodell said. "People don't want to hear about work stoppages. They want to know that football is going to be there on Sunday afternoon. That's my job.''
Selected chunks of my Q & A with Goodell last Thursday:
SI.com: A year ago, I would say that retired players' benefits and dogfighting might have been Nos. 29 and 2,029 on your list of priorities to address as commissioner, and now they're one and two. What does that say about this job?
Goodell: You can never anticipate all the issues. We have to make sure the integrity of the game stays at the highest possible level. You know, I could not anticipate that there was going to be a player alleged to be involved with dogfighting. But that goes to the broader issue of making sure the game has a high level of integrity, which is, to me, player conduct.
I think what it demonstrates is the complexity of the job and the fact that you're in a highly public business. You're not running a public company; but in many ways, it's more public because you have a tremendous responsibility to the fans. And that is an awesome responsibility that keeps you up at night, quite frankly, making sure that we continue to do right by the game of football, right by the NFL, right by our fans.
SI.com: Have you talked to Michael Vick?
Goodell: No. Not since this happened.'
SI.com: You talked to him in April, obviously?
Goodell: I talked to him at the draft, and he called me in late June.
SI.com: I want to be on the record. Has Michael ever, at any point, said to you he's been involved in dogfighting?
Goodell: No ... His comments to me were very consistent with what he said publicly: That he does not have any involvement in dogfighting, that he loves dogs, that he would not have any interest in that, that it wasn't happening at his property, and that was his discussion ... And I was very clear with him that if it's happening on your property, it's your responsibility.
SI.com: How about your other conversation with him this year?
Goodell: "He called me just to tell me how he was doing. He was focused on the offseason, that he was making changes in his life consistent with the discussion we had. He believed he needed to change the people that were around him, to make better decisions, and that he was taking that very seriously. It was having an impact, that he was very focused on football.