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THE WASHINGTON TIMES Roger Goodell wasn’t born to be NFL commissioner. It just seems that way.

Since taking over for Paul Tagliabue in September, Goodell used a nurturing experience that began when he interned in the league office in 1981, a gregarious nature and a tough approach to player discipline to produce a remarkable first nine months on the job.

Goodell, the 48-year-old son of the late Sen. Charles Goodell, a New York Republican, introduced a personal conduct policy for players in an effort to stem misbehavior off the field and said teams would be held accountable for the actions of their players. Under that policy, he imposed heavy suspensions on players convicted of crimes.

Goodell also banned alcohol from team functions, buses and flights. He promoted both lengthening the schedule and playing games overseas on a regular basis.

“The commissioner has definitely turned some heads,” Washington Redskins player representative Renaldo Wynn said. “He’s making a big statement. As a player, you have to realize that you’re under a microscope and that there are consequences behind your decisions.”

Goodell, of course, was fortunate Tagliabue recently had extended the collective-bargaining agreement with the players association and the contracts with the television networks, freeing him to spend time on other issues.

At Goodell’s direction, for example, the NFL will study former players to attempt to learn whether there are long-term effects on brain function from playing football. For the first time, all players this year will be given brain-function tests to establish a baseline in the event of concussions, and the league yesterday convened a meeting on the subject and required doctors and trainers from every team to attend.

Roger has definitely been out there publicly, no doubt about that,” NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw said. “It seems that every day he’s announcing something else. He has already made his own mark.”

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said it’s easy to see Goodell had been Tagliabue’s right-hand man as the league’s chief operating officer since 2001. Goodell, who spent two years with the New York Jets after his internship before returning to the league offices, dealt with everything from public relations to stadium financing and construction as part of his grooming for perhaps the most powerful job in sports.

Roger was prepared for this position, but he’s jumped in with both feet and done very, very well,” Peterson said. “It serves him well that he has a great history with an awful lot of people in the NFL. Probably the best compliment that you can give him is that I haven’t heard anyone have a negative word for Roger at this point.”

Indeed, it’s Upshaw, not Goodell, who has been feeling the wrath of the retired players. The new commissioner has been handling the controversy much more smoothly than the veteran union boss.

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said one reason the owners chose Goodell last summer was that he understood the complications of the job far better than any of the outside candidates could have.

“No other business runs the way the NFL does with 32 bosses [the owners],” Upshaw said. “Roger knew the job before he had it.”

Goodell likes to talk about how he started at the bottom, but it was soon apparent he wasn’t going to stay there long.

“There’s no lack of respect for Roger just because some of us knew him when he was in the mailroom,” Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said. “I don’t agree with everything Roger does, but he always tries to be fair. I don’t think Roger is making these decisions to flex his muscles. He’s doing what he thinks is right. He’s his own person.”

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