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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Roger Goodell must feel like punting sometimes

NFL commissioner seemingly is always dealing with one controversy or another.

August 25, 2009|SAM FARMER

Are you ready for some football?

Not as ready as Roger Goodell is, trust me.

You might tire of all the non-football NFL news of the last several weeks, but at least you're not living it. The commissioner must long for the days when "Cable fight" meant trying to get the NFL Network in more households, not trying to pry apart Oakland Raiders coaches.

Goodell is fond of saying the NFL is the "ultimate reality show," and who can argue? Not with every other story having to do with Michael Vick's coming back, Plaxico Burress' going away and Brett Favre's doing a little of both.

I called Goodell on Monday to ask whether this was really the year to take a voluntary $2-million pay cut, what with the job being more demanding now than ever. But he wasn't immediately available. Turns out he had a schedule full of meetings, something I should have known.

It must feel as if he has the world on his shoulders. Or the Dallas Cowboys' video board. Whichever is bigger.

"In some ways it's typical," league spokesman Greg Aiello said of this year's August rush. "We're the most high-profile league with the greatest number of things going on. It's always something."

For some reason, things didn't seem so frenetic last summer. Yes, there was the Favre waffling, but that's to be expected. There was Peyton Manning and Tom Brady sitting out the exhibition season. There was the brief, ill-fated return of "Pacman" Jones, but that didn't compare to the Vick circus. There was the sad and startling death of Gene Upshaw and the void it left in union leadership.

But this summer, Goodell's Blackberry is buzzing even more. Makes you wonder why he even turns it on some mornings.

The craziness started with the conditional reinstatement of Vick in late July. That was heated up two weeks later, when Philadelphia signed him. And today, the Eagles are expected to announce whether the quarterback who spent 18 months behind bars for running a dogfighting ring will make his debut in Thursday's exhibition game against Jacksonville.

The Vick story alone would have made for an eventful summer. But there was also the one-season suspension of Cleveland receiver Donte Stallworth, who killed a pedestrian while driving drunk; and the guilty plea of former New York Giants receiver Burress, who will spend two years in prison for carrying a concealed weapon in a Manhattan nightclub and accidentally shooting himself in the leg.

Meanwhile, police in Napa, Calif., have reopened an investigation into whether one member of the Raiders' staff -- allegedly Coach Tom Cable -- slugged defensive assistant Randy Hanson in the face, breaking his jaw. According to reports about the fight, Cable had Hanson on the ground, hands wrapped around his throat, screaming, "I'm going to kill you!"

Some Green Bay Packers fans might be feeling that way about Favre these days, now that he has done the unthinkable and signed with Minnesota. It's not something that occupies any of Goodell's time, per se, but it's just the type of development you might expect in a wild month like this.

Along the way, the commissioner has had his eye on several business issues, among them a just-announced extension of NBC's TV deal; the formation of the league's version of the Red Zone Channel; and Monday's ruling in federal appeals court that Delaware's sports-betting plan violates the law -- a victory for all major U.S. sports leagues, including the NFL.

Now, on top of everything else, there's the controversy surrounding the enormous video board hanging 90 feet above the field in the Cowboys' dazzling, $1.2-billion stadium. Turns out it's within reach of punters, and if it isn't raised -- which Jerry Jones doesn't want to do -- the league might be forced to make a rules change.

Just add it to Goodell's never-ending to-do list.

All of which makes you cross your arms, tap your foot and wonder . . .

Hey, Roger, why is it taking you so long to put a team in Los Angeles?

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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