Commissioner makes surprise appearance at Bucs minicamp in Bradenton
Just as the Bucs were filing onto the practice fields this morning here in Bradenton for the second day of their player-organized minicamp, commissioner Roger Goodell, accompanied by NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith, made a surprise appearance on the field and in the weight room.
It was an awkward moment, to say the least, with Goodell coming into contact with the very players impacted by the NFL's three-months-old lockout. The players were working here at IMG Academies' facilities only because they're unable to use One Buc Place in Tampa as a result of the labor impasse.
Goodell wasn't exactly jeered, but some players made it a point to avoid contact. That was not the case, however, for defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who took a little heat from his teammates after embracing Goodell with a hug, much like he did on draft night in 2010.
When practice began, Goodell stayed on the sidelines while Smith mingled with players, including Josh Freeman, whom he hugged.
Though his presence was quite ironic, Bucs players hoped it solidified the players' position to Goodell.
"Hopefully what this shows to the owners is there’s more to football than money," said center Jeff Faine, the Bucs' union representative. "We’re out here on our own dime out here getting better and hopefully putting on a good product out there for our fans."
The appearance of Goodell and Smith came on the heels of their joint speech to incoming rookies earlier in the day in Sarasota. That's where the NFL Players Association was holding a rookie symposium aimed at introducing them to NFL life. Goodell and Smith flew here together from Minnesota, where they have been hammering out the details of the collective bargaining agreement in an effort to end the lockout.
Faine said he was cautiously optimistic.
" I think we’re getting closer," he said. "I’m hearing reports that we’ve agreed on terms through the media. If we’ve agreed on terms, we wouldn’t be here. So there’s still some room to go and some things that need to be figured out."
In the meantime, Faine said, "We’re out here making sure we have our things together and making sure we’re still united as one, as a team. . . . We’re still together and fighting for what we think is right."