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Fans share concerns with Goodell

4/30/2011

NEW YORK -- On Saturday, Jeremy Southard of Redondo Beach, Calif., was sitting in the second deck at Radio City Music Hall, watching the fourth round of the NFL draft, when he saw a familiar face.

"I was in my seat, and I turned around, and there's the commissioner," he said.

Without the on-stage responsibilities of the first three rounds, Roger Goodell took an opportunity to work the crowd. He was met at first as he was the past two days: With chants of "We want football!" and boos.

The fans quickly became more friendly, blocking the commissioner in the aisle to get an opportunity to express their thoughts.

"I told him not to let the boo birds get him down," Southard said. "It's an impossible situation to be in. It's a no-win situation. The fans, they just want football. But he has to worry about the long-term financial viability of the league."

Bill Reynolds of Barnegat, N.J., got a photo with his son 15-year-old son, Austin, and Goodell.

"He's between a rock and a hard place," Reynolds said. "Of course, the players want more money, the owners want more money. It's all about money. They're blaming him for everything. I don't know why everyone's so down on him. I really don't. Why is it him? He's not paying anybody. He's just running the league. "

On his way back down the famed lobby staircase, after hundreds of photos and autographs, Goodell said he appreciated hearing the feedback.

"The fans just want football. They don't care about the details," Goodell said. "They just want to make sure they continue to get great football, and that's what we share in common. They have a lot of perspective. They tell you how they feel about things, and that's a good thing."

NFL officials said attendance for the first round was 3,329, down 150 from last year. There were empty seats, even for the first round, but Goodell said he was still pleased with the turnout.

"I'm never satisfied, though," he said. "I always like to see it bigger and better, and that's what we're working towards."

Southard, who's 37, said he's patient with the negotiations because he believes getting the right deal is important. He pointed out that his favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, are competitive despite being publicly owned and in a small market.

He contrasted the team's success with the struggles of teams in other sports, like the neighboring Milwaukee Brewers. "Will the NFL get to that point?" he said.

Others had different motivation for concern.

In the mezzanine area, an Eagles fan wearing a DeSean Jackson jersey greeted Goodell. "Don't make me spend Sundays with my wife," he said.