NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Chicago. So after carving up the carcass of a turkey, he carved out some time from his schedule to sit down with members of the Bears.
Per Brag Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, it was the first visit by an NFL Commissioner to the team since 1998.
“Collective bargaining is obviously on their minds and the owners’ minds, but they have representatives and they have to be informed by those representatives,” Goodell told the team’s official web site, via Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. “But I did share some perspective with them on that.”
Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, the team’s elected representative to the NFLPA, liked what he heard.
“I think he’s doing a good job trying to hear from all parties,” Hillenmeyer said, per the Tribune. “To get more people talking and stressing what their interests are, the better the chances are we can get something figured out.”
The visit apparently wasn’t part of the league’s new Player Advisory Forum, which will be conducting meetings with players regarding a wide variety of issues and concerns.
The NFLPA quietly has raised concerns regarding these face-to-face sessions at a time when the league and the union are dealing with labor discussions that could result in a work stoppage. During a November 21 interview on NBC’s Football Night In America, Dan Patrick inquired regarding rumblings that the NFLPA “wondered about the timing of this,” given the possibility that “you’re aligning yourself with some players as maybe a backdoor way of currying favor with them.”
Goodell responded by explaining that he’s the Commissioner for all constituencies, and Goodell said he wasn’t aware of any concerns from the union regarding this effort to reach out to players.
That said, the timing is curious — and this series of face-to-face meetings between the Commissioner and players throughout the league will make it difficult for the union to sell at the bargaining table specific things that the players want (such as “no change to the way rookies currently are paid”), if the specific players are saying something else (such as “change the way rookies are currently paid”).