Roger Goodell: Draft 'a special moment'

Updated: March 16, 2011, 3:22 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks it would be a "shame" if the NFLPA diverts top prospects from this year's NFL draft.

In a Tuesday night interview with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on "SportsCenter," Goodell responded to the recent revelation that the union may be devising an alternate draft day plan for prospects that would normally be invited to Radio City Music Hall, where the draft will be held April 28-30.

Goodell I think it's a shame for young men that are starting their careers in the NFL, that are having that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come across the stage, become an NFL player for the first time [to not be able to attend the draft].

-- Commissioner Roger Goodell on union possibly diverting top prospects from attending NFL draft

"I just think it's a shame for young men that are starting their careers in the NFL, that are having that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come across the stage, become an NFL player for the first time [to not be able to attend the draft]," Goodell told Schefter. "It's a really special moment and I hope they get to experience it."

Goodell called the chance to attend the draft, walk onto the stage and accept a team's jersey after being selected a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

"It's a special moment for them," Goodell told Schefter. "It's a chance for them to realize their hopes and dreams and become an NFL player. ... I hope they'll be able to continue to do that because it's not only enjoyed by the players, it's also enjoyed by the fans."

Multiple league sources told Schefter on Monday that the NFLPA is putting into place a plan that would prevent each top college prospect from attending the draft. According to the sources, the 17 top prospects who ordinarily would have received an invitation to attend the draft have been contacted and it was recommended that they not attend.

One source told Schefter on Monday that the NFLPA plans to give the prospects the "same experience down the street."

Goodell told Schefter that he has not heard anything from the union about the plan officially, but said it wouldn't be the first time draftees were not in attendance.

"The draft in the past we didn't have players there," Goodell said. "It's just part of our effort to make it a fan event, to make it more appealing.

"We had 45 million people ... watching the draft last year," Goodell said. "People love to see the reaction of these players when they're selected and I think that's part of the excitement of this event -- not only the team that gets them, but also the players' reaction."

NFL Players Association executive George Atallah said Tuesday that players and their families will be in New York for the NFL draft next month, but the experience might be "different." Atallah made his comments both on Twitter and in an appearance on ESPN's "NFL Live."

Last Friday, the union decertified, meaning it declared itself out of the business of representing players. In exchange for giving up their rights under labor law, the players are able to take their chances in court under antitrust law.

Although it no longer represents players, the NFLPA still exists "as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players," it said after decertifying.

After the players filed their paperwork, the owners initiated a lockout. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 6 to consider an injunction request filed by the players to end the lockout.

In a separate interview with NFL Network, Goodell said he doesn't expect labor talks to resume until after that hearing.

In both interviews, Goodell said he would be willing to return to negotiation -- and mediation -- immediately, if the union was willing.

"Uncertainty's not good for anybody," Goodell told ESPN's Schefter. "And that's what we're in -- we're in a period of uncertainty. We need to get issues resolved."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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