Current and former players: Commissioner Goodell works “to make the NFL a better place”… “He cares about players around the league”

In a front-page profile of Commissioner Roger Goodell, USA Today’s Jon Saraceno writes that “Goodell has embraced his job with a forceful yet collaborative management style, aimed at resolving conflicts and tackling controversial issues head-on.”

“Roger tries to make the National Football League a better place,” said retired player John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes diversity in NFL executive and coaching positions. “He also wants the league to be what it should be in terms of character.”

Current players also spoke of the Commissioner as the steward of the game.

“He challenged me to be the best citizen that I can be,” said Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. “I consider him to be a role model. He cares not only about me but about players around the league. It’s nothing (phony). He is real and genuine.”

Added New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who accompanied Goodell on a USO tour of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008, “He is cool, funny and down to earth. He is not what most people would expect. And he is a good man.”

Player health and safety, Saraceno points out, has been a focus. “Goodell, the architect of the NFL’s controversial crackdown on gratuitous on-field violence, hasn’t been intimidated by change, he has embraced it,” he writes.

“I think it has had an impact on the way everyone is playing the game,” Commissioner Goodell said of the stricter enforcement against illegal hits. “(Players) are more conscious of making sure they don’t lead with their head and don’t hit in the head area. That is a good thing for the game. The No. 1 priority for us is player safety.”

Saraceno also discusses the labor negotiations, writing, “Goodell will try to facilitate a peaceful resolution to a labor dispute that threatens the NFL, a $9 billion-a-year business and the nation’s most popular professional league.”

“I have been very clear from the standpoint that we are not where we need to be,” the Commissioner said. “We need to get an agreement. We are not as close as I would like to be. We have a lot more work to be done. I have said it publicly and I will say it again: If everyone gives a little, everyone will get a lot, especially our fans. That is something we have to do.”

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