NFL Lockout Watch: Roger Goodell Repeatedly Booed By Fans At NFL Draft
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell upon taking the stage before the start of the NFL Draft Thursday was greeted by "a wave of boos," followed by a chant of "We want football!," according to Dave Wilson of ESPN.com. Goodell "looked up into the balconies" and said, "I hear you. So do I." But the fans "didn't ease up." Goodell later responded on Twitter, saying, "I agree with fans here at Radio City. We want football. I'm with you, I get it." NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the commissioner and the league "expected the fans' frustration" (ESPN.com, 4/28). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes Goodell "bore the brunt of the fan fallout" from the labor situation "as he was repeatedly booed by the capacity crowd during pre-draft introductions and as he went to the podium for the first few picks." However, by the time the Falcons traded up to take WR Julio Jones with the No. 6 pick and the Titans made the "stunning pick" of QB Jake Locker at No. 8, Goodell "had been let off the hook -- a little bit" (N.Y. POST, 4/29). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote he was "surprised by the utter venom directed toward" Goodell by the fans. The commissioner before the draft began "came out to hold a moment of silence for the tornado tragedy in the South," but he "couldn't get to that moment for several minutes ... as fans booed him over and over." Goodell "finally asked them to quiet down, and it didn't work at first" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 4/28). Goodell "tried to put a brave face on the wave of anger directed at him during various points of the evening" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/29). ESPN's Mike Greenberg: "He deserved that last night. ... The fans of pro football deserve to have their moment to have their voice be heard" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 4/29). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tamari writes it was "another rough moment for a commissioner who has come under increasing criticism in recent days as the lockout has grown even more acrimonious and owners have lost a series of court decisions" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/29).
NO HARD FEELINGS: In L.A., Sam Farmer notes after LB Von Miller was selected No. 2 overall by the Broncos, he "walked across the stage and gave Goodell a huge bear hug that lasted several seconds." It was a "somewhat surprising reaction considering Miller is one of the plaintiffs named in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the league." But Miller said, "I've never had anything against Roger Goodell. I just want to make sure football continues to get played. When I walked across the stage, I was meeting the commissioner. That's it" (L.A. TIMES, 4/29). NFL Network's Rich Eisen said of Miller's interaction with Goodell, "For the first time in NFL Draft history, a player suing the league for antitrust is going to shake hands with the man who runs the league and hugs the man who he's suing" ("2011 NFL Draft," NFL Network, 4/28). The AP noted it was "all smiles" as Goodell greeted the selected players, "but not all the current players were happy to see the commissioner getting so much love from the draftees." Packers RB Ryan Grant on Twitter wrote, "It's really baffling for me to see these young guys hugging the commissioner with everyone that has gone on in past months" (AP, 4/28). But ESPN's Cris Carter said the NFL Draft "is the beginning of that dream" to play in the NFL. The drafted players have "earned the right" to shake Goodell's hand, and whatever "excitement you have or however you do it, that's what you should hit him with" ("SportsCenter Special: On the Clock," ESPN, 4/28).
LABOR SITUATION FORCING HAND: In N.Y., Greg Bishop notes four QBs were taken in the first 12 picks of the draft, and that "run of reaching for quarterbacks probably stemmed, in part, from labor uncertainty." Due to the fact that "teams cannot trade players or sign free agents, potential quarterbacks on the move like Kevin Kolb and Matt Hasselbeck remain in limbo." NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said QBs were "going to be elevated because there hasn't been any free agency." Mariucci: "They're the luckiest guys. They're going to get drafted a round higher than they typically would." But Bishop notes "two high-profile quarterbacks," Ryan Mallett and Andy Dalton, were not selected in the first round (N.Y. TIMES, 4/29). One GM said, "In part, it's because we have not had free agency or trades. And you got to have a quarterback. You can't play without them. This just re-emphasizes it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/29). Meanwhile, NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported the fact that the NFL is set to open for business could affect the "signing of undrafted free agents." La Canfora: "People were concerned that those guys, a lot of time could go between the end of the draft and when you get to sign them. Maybe they sign with the Canadian Football League or the UFL. Now you pretty much know that next week those undrafted free agents will probably be hitting the market" ("Total Access Pre-Draft," NFL Network, 4/28).