|A person joked that Roger Goodell has had a food taster while he's been in New Orleans. (Getty Images)|
NEW ORLEANS -- During one of the media sessions this week, a Baltimore Ravens player I've known for some time had a question for me. “Where's your boy Goodell?” he asked. “Is he hiding out?”
Yes, I like Roger Goodell and, yes, it does seem this week he has been lower key than normal compared to other Super Bowl weeks. The NFL denies this, but it's accurate. He's normally out and about much more. But I don't blame Goodell for going Ralph Ellison.
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This week was one of the most interesting and perhaps awkward for an NFL commissioner maybe in the sport's history. It's exceedingly rare for any commissioner to have the sports championship in a city where a significant segment of the population despises him.
I'm told the NFL enacted some special security considerations this week and, as part of those moves, Goodell cut back somewhat on his weekly activities (the NFL won't comment). If true, again, I don't blame Goodell.
There is a great deal of anger here at him. Pulling back slightly was smart.
Goodell was asked at his news conference if he felt like he was behind enemy lines. Goodell chuckled and pointed out this week he had a dinner with some of the critical figures who helped make sure the Saints stayed in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. One of those people was believed to be Kathleen Blanco, the former governor of Louisiana.
“My picture is in every restaurant,” Goodell joked.
There are restaurants saying they wouldn't serve Goodell and using his photo to make this point. There was also a Goodell voodoo doll of some sort.
Despite the shows of hostility, Goodell said: “I couldn't feel more welcome here.”
“I understand the fans' loyalty is to the team,” Goodell said. “So I appreciate the passion. I saw that myself when we were down here with Katrina.”
Goodell downplays any contention between him and Saints fans. However, I'm told he has been challenged in the few instances when he's been in contact with Saints fans and was asked for his reasoning behind his Bountygate punishments. Goodell would respond he's always challenged by fans everywhere he goes.
One person close to the situation joked that Goodell has had a food taster when he's eaten out in public.
It's unfair to say Goodell has disappeared while in New Orleans. He's been out. Goodell was his normally interesting self when he spoke for about 20 minutes at the Pro Football Writers of America meeting this week.
And during Goodell's news conference, he was as confident as ever. He can be a highly-intelligent and enthralling speaker.
He's also used to tough crowds. He's been heavily booed at times when announcing picks for the NFL Draft in New York.
Though this crowd is almost an entire city and this crowd can be much more vicious.
What surely has had to be an interesting week for Goodell is almost over. There's basically just one high-visibility thing left for him to do. And that's hand over the Lombardi Trophy.
There might be a boo or two.