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Goodell's leadership could be main key in avoiding job action in 2011

LOWELL, Mass. -- I've been thinking there's a strong likelihood the 2011 NFL season will be interrupted because the players and owners won't reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. And I'm not sure I've changed my mind. But two things happened in the past week that made me feel like there might not be a job action.

One: Commissioner Roger Goodell, who could have gotten the modified overtime proposal for the 2010 regular season passed by the owners last Tuesday at the league meeting in Dallas, chose not to call for a vote. The union leadership opposes the new overtime policy. It has the potential to add plays to the season; more plays, more risk of injury. The players may not see this as an olive branch. I do. Had the measure passed, the union would have seen it as another divisive they-don't-care-what-we-think brick in the wall.

Two: Goodell's commencement speech at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Saturday left me thinking -- and there's a certain optimistic naivete to this, perhaps -- that Goodell will find a way to bridge the gap with the union, somehow. He harped on this in his address to the 2,308 grads, at one point telling them his advice on how to make tough decisions. "Listen,'' he said. "And listen to many different viewpoints, especially with those of whom you disagree. Resist the temptation to make premature decisions and be open to find a better solution. And if it's a better solution, it doesn't matter who it came from. The world needs a lot less finger-pointing and a lot more solutions.''

I may be reaching, but Goodell's four-year tenure has been marked by the ability to make tough calls and have all sides of a dispute walk away not happy with the decision necessarily, but at least understanding why the decision was made. Spygate. The revised, and much tougher, Personal Conduct Policy. Reinstating Donte' Stallworth after a year's suspension for DUI vehicular homicide. Suspending Ben Roethlisberger six weeks for,basically being the worst kind of cad. I doubt Bill Belichick and Goodell will ever be pals, but there's an understanding the league office did what it had to do for the honor of the game with Spygate. And if you saw the collegial respect Goodell and Patriots owners Bob Kraft showed each other when the Pats' owner introduced Goodell for the commencement here, you'd see the heavy-handed sanction for Spygate is a distant memory in Kraft's mind. He's one of Goodell's staunchest allies.

I remember sitting at an off-the-record dinner one night at the 2009 league meetings with Goodell and some club executives and owners. One of the owners, a staunch Goodell ally, was unhappy with how the league had disciplined one of his players, and Goodell, good-naturedly but firmly, told him basically to get over it. Sometimes you're not going to agree with your boss, but the impression I've gotten from multiple owners is they believe he's making decisions with 32 teams in mind. No favoritism.

***

Before his commencement speech here, Goodell was in a room offstage with three of his four brothers, plus the university chancellor, former Congressman Marty Meehan, and George Mitrovich, the former press secretary for the commissioner's father, the late Charles Goodell, who succeeded Robert Kennedy as senator in New York when Kennedy was felled by an assassin's bullet in June 1968 while campaigning for the presidency.

Meehan's a huge football fan -- he attended his 16th straight draft in April and has Patriots season tickets -- and asked Goodell if he'd speak here. But he had a hook: Meehan wanted to give Charles Goodell a posthumous honorary degree for showing the kind of political courage we'd never see today. A staunch Republican, Charles Goodell earned the enmity of President Richard Nixon and VP Spiro Agnew for co-sponsoring a bill that would have cut funding for the Vietnam War. "It was a profile in courage,'' Meehan said. "People are cynical about politics today, and rightfully so. But Sen. Goodell risked his career because of what was morally right. There are people in this world willing to risk everything they have for a principle, and that's a great lesson for our students to learn.''

"My dad,'' said Bill Goodell, one of Roger's four brothers "actually had a higher percentage of voting with Nixon than [arch-conservative] Barry Goldwater. He just picked his spots. It wasn't just the Vietnam vote -- he also was the first Republican to oppose the nomination of [Clement] Haynesworth and the first senator to come out against [G. Harrold] Carswell, the two Supreme Court nominees.''

That helped land Goodell on Nixon's Enemies List. The four Goodell boys spoke of their father's conscience, and his willingness to stand up for what he felt was right despite the personal consequences, as being major factors in how they live their lives today. And when Roger Goodell spoke to the students, he told them the impact of his father's political decisions.

"He lost so very much,'' a cap-and-gowned Goodell said in his 15-minute address to the graduates and their families. "He lost his re-election. He lost his political career he loved so very dearly. But what did he retain? Something much bigger. His principles. His integrity. His character. He established an important legacy.''

Speaking to the grads, he said: "As you build your legacy, it will be determined not by what you do, but by how you do it. Have the courage to do what you believe in. Do it with everything you've got.''

***

What should every commencement speaker do at this time of year? Simple: Tell kids how to get jobs. Goodell's advice began when he graduated from Washington & Jefferson College just outside of Pittsburgh in 1981 and wanted to work in football. Anything in football.

"I wrote more than 40 letters to the NFL,'' he said. "Everybody. The results: a big pile of rejections. Some plan, huh? But I was determined and persistent and kept writing. Finally, there was a polite but somewhat dismissive reply from a weary executive at the NFL to, quote, 'Stop by if you're in the area.' So I told him, 'I'm in the area.' ''

Sort of.

"I got in my car,'' Goodell said, "and drove all night from Pittsburgh to New York, and I was on his doorstep the next morning. Six months later, 12 or 13 more letters later, they offered me a three-month internship. So it doesn't matter how you get in that door. Just get in that door. The lesson: Seize every opportunity.''

A little while after his speech, I caught up with one of the graduates, 23-year-old history major Thomas Screnci of Milton, Mass. I asked him what he thought of the speech.

"Very inspirational,'' Screnci said. "He knew what we wanted to hear. We all wanted to know how he got from college to here. He told us what we needed to hear -- there are no shortcuts, no magic formula. He got dozens of rejection letters, but he was determined to show his boss what he was made of. Same thing with us now. Now it's our shot to show the world what we're made of.''

In front of a civic center of strangers Saturday, Roger Goodell did his father proud.

"It is definitely frustrating because I don't know how much time Jim has spent in California. I love the state of California. Obviously, I am pretty biased towards where I grew up in, but it is a little bit naïve that he makes comments like that. It is frustrating because I feel like there are a ton of great quarterbacks out there that have played in the league for an extended amount of time. He unfortunately said some things that aren't always the best things to say but I guess that is kind of the way that he is."-- Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards, on Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly's statement that Buffalo needs a new quarterback, and that that quarterback shouldn't be from California, in an interview with XX Sports Radio in San Diego, via sportsradiointerviews.com.

Edwards is in a three-way race for the starting quarterback job in Buffalo, and he, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm will begin training camp with a real chance to win the job. Sounds like Kelly hopes Edwards finishes third.

"The players will raise their level of play in the cold. Cold makes you concentrate even more.''-- ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, who says the quality of play in a Super Bowl with freezing temperatures will improve.

I mean, please. I like Bruschi, but does anyone believe you'll see a higher level of play on a typical February night at the Meadowlands -- 28 degrees, say, with 15 mph winds -- than we'd see if it were a 60-degree night with mild winds, or a dome game? Absurd.

"He is the poster image for the adage, 'Be nice to your interns. You may be working for them some day.' ''-- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, introducing commissioner Roger Goodell before his commencement speech at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Saturday morning. Goodell entered the league office as a lowly intern and worked his way up to the biggest job in the game.

"I slept with a football starting at age 6 -- a practice that my wife broke me of in the last few years.''-- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in his commencement speech at UMass-Lowell Saturday.

Bob Papa and I will be discussing the Pro Football Hall of Fame (snubs, prospects for the 2011 Class, and anything else that comes to mind) this morning from 8 to 11 on Sirius NFL Radio Channel 124 and I'm sure the vexing wide receiver subject will come up early and often. Six receivers have caught 1,000 balls or more, with only one in the Hall of Fame (Three aren't eligible yet.) In the next five years, five or six more could swell the ranks of 1,000-catch wideouts. So which ones do the 44 selectors put in? As one of the 44, I think the receiver dilemma is the biggest one facing us. The number of candidates is going to be so big that it's going to be difficult to get 80 percent of the voters to agree on any one wideout.

Here's a look at the likely top 15 wideouts in career receptions by the end of the 2015 season (listed in descending order by their current total catches). Of course, the catch projections for active players are highly subjective, but this chart gives you an idea of the logjam of wideout prospects the electors will be considering in the next decade or so.

Of course, one or two of the active receivers, at least, will be hurt and miss some time if the law of averages holds. Some might fall in with a bad passing game. But the fact is, six seasons down the road, the 1,000-catch club won't be nearly as exclusive. And numbers will be ridiculous. Lynn Swann's a Hall of Famer; he caught 336 balls in his career. Larry Fitzgerald's similarly acrobatic, only 27, and already has 187 more catches than Swann. So we'll have quite a few dilemmas on our hands as the years go by.

(Editor's Note: An oversight on this chart is addressed in Peter King's Tuesday mailbag column.)

Lots of you have asked about my schedule (writing and otherwise) while I'm in South Africa covering the World Cup. Here goes: I'll travel there this weekend and will take a few days off to visit Cape Town before the games begin. I'll be in Johannesburg, ready to go, on June 10, and I plan to cover the first game of the tournament, Mexico-South Africa, on June 11 in Johannesburg. South Africa is six hours ahead of New York, so the first match, in the middle of the afternoon there, will begin at 9:30 a.m. ET on that Friday.

I'll be part of team coverage for Sports Illustrated and SI.com at the USA-England game on June 12 at 2 p.m. ET, as well as for the other U.S. games -- against Slovenia on Friday the 18th at 9:30 a.m. ET in Johannesburg, and against Algeria in Pretoria on Wednesday the 23rd, also at 9:30 a.m. ET.

My job over there is going to be a mix of covering the U.S. team and writing mini-MMQB columns after the three games in the first round of the tournament, and then covering some other games and stories of interest. For instance, I hope to be at Brazil-Ivory Coast on June 20 for what should be a colorful game with great players and an African upstart. I'm currently in line to cover nine games, but that could change depending on the stories that develop.

I'll be filing a Monday Morning Quarterback column primarily on football next Monday, and again on June 28, upon my return. On June 14 and 21, we'll feature replacement MMQB columnists, a practice we started last year (Sean Payton and Trent Green, among others), and that will continue while I'm on vacation July 5, 12 and 19. The column will be back for the season beginning July 26, right around the time I leave on my training-camp tour.

My last mailbag column until late July will be tomorrow. But while I'm at the World Cup, please e-mail (si.peterking@gmail.com) or Tweet (@WorldCupKing or @SI_PeterKing) your comments or coverage suggestions. Looking forward to a different experience.

Sort of a travel note.

I was on a dog walk Sunday morning on Clarendon Street, on the back side of the Back Bay train station on the Back Bay/South End border of Boston, and a guy in a car with Jersey plates yelled out the window, "Hey, where do I pick up somebody arriving on a train here?'' I told him he had to go around the block, take a right on Dartmouth and pull up in front of the front door of the train station.

The guy said, "Hey, I'm from New York. I'm confused. It's really clean here.''

OK. I see.

"Got to teach my 3rd meditation class tonight! It was GREAT!! I'm glad I've been asked to sub in for this instructor.''--@dolphinsrb34, Miami running back and new world man Ricky Williams, after an apparently delightful experience last Wednesday night.

I asked last week for your opinion on whether I should Tweet from the World Cup, and you overwhelmingly said yes. But probably 15 or 20 percent urged me to set up an alternate account for it, so those of you who wanted to follow me on Twitter could do so easily, while those of you who don't care about soccer won't have to. So I set up another account:

@WorldCupKing

As of last night, the alternate account had 7,508 followers. Thanks for your support. I hope that number grows, and I'd like to hear from you whether you'd like to have pure soccer Tweets or soccer plus life-on-the-ground coverage, which appeals to me a little more than just the sport itself, since I'm hardly Joe Futbol.

I'll be Tweeting from June 10 through June 26. Many of you have asked if I'll be providing "spoilers'' during games. Well, probably. ESPN will be showing all 64 games of the tournament live. I'll be there for the first 48 of them, and if I have an observation, I'll be Tweeting it in real time.

1. I think the problem with LenDale White is pretty simple: In order to have a chance to walk into Seattle as a tarnished running back and win a job, he had to do everything perfectly. And he didn't, whether it was because he was on the verge of a four-game suspension to start the season because of failing a test for a banned substance or because he came in thinking he had a job won. "It became apparent that LenDale was not ready to be a member of the Seattle Seahawks,'' GM John Schneider said. That means a lot of things -- one of them that he needed to be a worker bee and he decidedly was not.

2. I think the die is being cast in Miami. In the Dolphins' first full-squad minicamp over the weekend, Koa Misi, the second-round draft pick (and my choice for Rookie With the Most Pressure on Him in 2010) from Utah, was working with the first unit at outside linebacker. Interesting decision with Misi, a tireless effort guy.

Miami had the 12th overall pick in the first round and spent lots of time in the film room studying Derrick Morgan, the Georgia Tech edge rusher. But Bill Parcells was determined to get back the second-round pick he lost in the Brandon Marshall trade with Denver, and so passed on Morgan (who might not have been the pick anyway; DeMaryius Thomas was a strong candidate for the choice). The Dolphins, in essence, traded that 12th pick for two starting defensive players -- Jared Odrick, a run-playing defensive end, and Misi, possibly the edge-rusher they've been missing.

3. I think the one thing that really bugged me about the NFL putting the Super Bowl in New Jersey in 2014 was this drumbeat late in the campaign that the NFL wanted to recognize and contribute to the post-9/11 recovery of the region. Puh-leeze. This was about doing a favor for the Jets and Giants owners, who went out on a limb and built a $1.6-billion stadium, and to a lesser degree about the novelty and marketing buzz of holding the game in the New York metropolitan area. It's not about helping the diner in lower Manhattan who's been struggling since the towers were felled. Awarding a game that won't be played for 13-and-a-half years after 9/11 and drawing any sort of connection to such a grave national tragedy cheapens and is not appropriate.

4. I think, just to be sure you know exactly where I stand, I'm opposed to New Jersey getting the game. For many reasons -- playing Russian Roulette with the quality of play due to weather risks most notably -- but one that no one seems to care about is this: Thousands of people will pay the ridiculous prices people pay for Super Bowls (my guess is scalpers and brokers will be getting $5,000 and more) for unprotected seats at the Meadowlands). How'd you like to settle into your seat for the pregame ceremonies at 5:30 p.m. and be there 'til the trophy's presented at 10:45 ... with the chance of either sleet, snow, bitter winds or 23-degree wind chill, or more than one of the above?

5. I think it might be a while before south Florida gets another Super Bowl after South Florida Super Host Committee chairman Rodney Barreto told Tim Graham of ESPN.com, "The fix was in for New York.'' (New Jersey, Mr. Barreto, by the way.) I don't doubt the fix was in, but more than a few owners in the NFL, particularly those who didn't vote for New Jersey, will remember that the next time Miami/Fort Lauderdale is up for the big one.

6. I think we'll miss Mike Lombardi's columns on nationalfootballpost.com. Lombardi's going to NFL.com and NFL Network, and I hope they let him be as insightful there as he was on his own site.

7. I think one of the surprises of training camps come August will be the readiness of Brady Quinn. Denver coach Josh McDaniels likes what he sees in Quinn, has tinkered with his drop and delivery (slowing him down, which was vital, since Quinn's drop always looked like someone just pulled a fire alarm), and will let the quarterback drama play out there. I still think Kyle Orton wins the starting job, but Quinn has a shot to unseat him, and Tim Tebow a very outside shot.

8. I think the open-air-stadium cities with the best chance of getting the second cold-weather Super Bowl are 1. Washington, 2. Denver and 3. Seattle. But I don't think either will get one until the league sees how the New Jersey game works.

9. I think I'm hearing good things about the life of the "NFL Matchup'' show. Looks like it'll return to TV in some form, at some time, with the same enlightenment as it's always given us.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Congrats, Roy Halladay. There haven't been many pitchers better than you over the last 10 years.

b. Don't come back until you're 103 percent, Jacoby Ellsbury. Please. For the sake of my rotisserie team and my baseball team.

c. What an opening game of the Stanley Cup Final. Six more, please. I only wish I could see the rest of them.

d. Same with the NBA Final. Rooting for a seven-game series there, and the teams seem so even that I bet we get it.

e. I don't see how I can ever go to a BP gas station again, unless I'm on fumes, for the rest of my life.

f. We shouldn't drill one more well at sea until such time that we have foolproof methods of capping wells in the event of disasters like the one ruining the Gulf of Mexico right now.

g. Coffeenerdness: Like your coffee as dark as I do? I recommend Vermont Organic Coffee's Dark Star dark roast. Now that'll wake you up. No bitterness either.

h. On this Memorial Day, thanks to the veterans who served, and the men and women who still serve. Mike McGuire, you've got a ton of people back here thinking of you as you make final preparations for your third tour as an IED-wrangler in the most dangerous place in the world. Be safe. Everyone, be safe.

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