Goodell: Davis’ gay message ‘important’

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Former NFL player Wade Davis’ speech to the owners, coaches and general managers delivered a significant message about sexual orientation in sports, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.


Goodell had previously met with Davis, who is gay, “and I found his message to be very important for all of us to hear.”


“He was talking about (how) he’s professional, he’s part of the family that we all are in the NFL and he just wants to make sure that he provides that kind of workplace where people can go and play football, and be comfortable playing football,” Goodell said. “He wants to work to help us do that. He recognizes everyone’s not an advocate or someone who’s going to carry the flag, but these young men who want to play in the NFL, they want an opportunity. Our job is to make sure we provide the opportunity.”


Missouri defensive end Michael Sam could become the first openly gay player in the NFL if he is drafted next month. He is expected to be a mid-round choice.


What knowledge did Goodell want NFL teams to take from Smith’s appearance at the owners meetings?


“Just a better understanding of what these young men are thinking about, going through,” he said, “and what they can do to provide them the right opportunity and the right environment. That’s the key.”


Goodell on Vick: New York Jets owner Woody Johnson spoke with Goodell before the team signed quarterback Michael Vick as a free agent. Goodell wouldn’t discuss specifics of his conversation with Johnson, but he gave Vick a ringing endorsement at a news conference Wednesday.


“I think Michael is a young man who made a tragic mistake. He paid a very high price for it,” Goodell said of Vick’s involvement in a dog fighting ring that led to Vick spending 18 months in a federal prison before returning to the NFL in 2009. “But I’ve seen him, in everything he’s done, exceed expectations. He’s worked very hard to be a positive force in a lot different areas. That’s something I admire about him.


“When we went through the process of reviewing whether he would enter back into the league, he demonstrated he was someone committed to ‘I’m going to do this the right way. I’m going to be a positive force.’ And he has. I’m proud of what he’s done.”


Staying on top: Winning a Super Bowl was great. Doing it again would be even better to Pete Carroll.


The Seahawks coach, who won two national championships at Southern California, sees plenty of similarities in trying to defend a title.


“I hope it is,” he said with a smile about getting to experience a repeat championship in the NFL. “This is the challenge I cherish most, to stay up there.


“It’s the same language, same intent, how you focus and what you can maintain. Develop that mentality it takes to get back. I take it seriously and I’m eager to see how we do it.”


Asked if a coach’s philosophy remains the same after reaching the pinnacle, Carroll related a story about when he asked John Wooden that question.


“I looked at coach Wooden and immediately said to myself, ‘Why did I ask that question?’ ‘’ Carroll said, chuckling at the memory. “You stay with what you believe and keep the message as much the same as you can. Hopefully the philosophy we have in place is one we ride next year and the next and the next.”


Hall of Fame coach Coughlin? Two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Coughlin was asked if he ever thinks about being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Several coaches, including George Allen, Marv Levy and Bud Grant, never won an NFL title, but are in the Canton, Ohio shrine.


“If the highest point of recognition is the Hall of Fame, why not think about it,” said Coughlin, who has a 158-130 record in 18 pro seasons as a head coach: eight with the Jaguars, an expansion team he helped build, and the last 10 with the Giants.


Coughlin helped engineer one of the biggest upsets in sports history when New York beat the undefeated New England Patriots for the 2007 championship. He led the Giants past the Patriots in for the 2011 title, too.


No dunks: Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith appreciated the timing of the NFL’s ban on goal-post dunks. Had it come one year sooner, with recently retired tight end Tony Gonzalez still in the league, it would have created an uncomfortable issue for Smith.


Gonzalez gets credit for popularizing the goal-post dunk during his days with the Kansas City and Atlanta.


“I know the guy that we had the last five years, Tony Gonzalez, he was the pioneer of many things,” Smith said Wednesday. “I’m glad that Tony’s not here, because that’s a conversation that you wouldn’t want to have, but you’d have to have.”


Atlanta was playing New Orleans last year when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham dunked the goal post, knocked it out of alignment and caused a 20-minute delay.


“It did take a significant amount of time to get the goal post level,” Smith said. “But they have clarified that now. The goal posts are considered props. So not only is the dunk illegal, but you won’t be allowed to use it as a punching bag, either.”


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