However it happens, NFL, players must apologize to fans

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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This is how I envision the apology to the fans will go.

Cue the tight shot.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith appear on the screen. Goodell is wearing eye black and Smith is holding a football.

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"We know you've been disappointed in us," Goodell says while looking into the camera. "But we're back and we have a message for you. On behalf of the owners, we're sorry."

The camera goes to Smith.

"From all the players, we apologize for the disruption to the great game America loves."

The camera pans to a wider shot and Drew Brees appears. "We're sorry," he says. Then Peyton Manning appears: We're sorry. Then Tom Brady: We're sorry. Then Michael Vick, holding a puppy: We're sorry. (That last one's a joke.)

Then the camera goes wide and a group of about 50 NFL players, a mix of stars and grunts, all in uniform, as well as a few coaches and owners, say in unison: "On behalf of the NFL, we're sorry, and let's play football."

Fade to black.

Along with the commercial that would play during every preseason game, there would be apologies on every sports website, on radio and in newspapers. It would be an Apology Tour.

If the NFL had any soul, any conscience at all, when the lockout ends, the owners and players would apologize profusely to the fans. They would get on their hands and knees and beg for forgiveness.

It's the only decent thing to do.

When the lockout ends, the league needs to go on an Apology Tour. It needs to be done with the flair and aggression of a Lady Gaga tour, minus the piano and winged leotards. It needs to be loud, intense and sincere.

It would go a long way toward rebuilding the trust of the fans the NFL has lost in large amounts over the past few months. What can't happen is the NFL opening for business and acting like nothing happened. Lockout? What lockout? Just buy your tickets, spend on that merchandise, watch football and shut the hell up.

That can't be the attitude.

One high-ranking player source within the NFLPA told me he would like to do some sort of acknowledgement to the fans, with or without the league's cooperation. His ideal gesture would be players wearing a patch on their uniforms dedicated to their fans.

Or, the player said, the owners and players would combine to give 1,000 fans free tickets for each game, or give a small number of season-ticket holders refunds for one game. No, that will never happen, but hell, what a gesture that would be.

I've also spoken to several team and league officials who also believe some type of apologetic gesture to the fans should be made.

The problem, as one executive said, is the league fears such a gesture might leave the NFL vulnerable to some type of lawsuit. Not sure how in the hell that would happen but since people now sue over McDonald's coffee being too hot, I guess it's possible.

But as we've seen during the lockout, the NFL has plenty of lawyers. Lawyers on top of lawyers on top of lawyers. They can handle any legal issues just fine.

Something is needed because the fans, rightfully so, feel like the players and owners abandoned them. That the NFL collectively didn't give a damn about the fans and any fan who felt that way was right. Is right.

So you make it better by saying I'm sorry. Don't let pride and egos get in the way. Just do it.

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