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Originally published Friday, May 13, 2011 at 6:07 PM

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell feels Seahawks fans' pain

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell answered questions from Seahawks season-ticket holders during a 30-minute conference call on Friday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The conference call was billed as a fan forum, a chance for Seahawks season-ticket holders to ask questions of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

And for 30 minutes Friday, Goodell answered everything that was asked of him. He was courteous, he was sympathetic and he made it clear he was as frustrated as any fans, if not moreso, by the uncertainty caused by the league's first work stoppage since 1987.

"There's no one here that wants to play football more than I do," he said, "other than our 32 clubs."

The call was moderated by Steve Raible, former Seahawks player and the team's radio play-by-play announcer. Goodell said the league policy will require a refund for all tickets to any games that are not played, and he said there have been no discussions about the possibility of using replacement players if the work stoppage continues.

As for a date when the work stoppage would affect the NFL schedule of four exhibition and 16 regular-season games?

"We do not have a drop-dead date on that," he said. "We do not have a specific timetable. We will only do that as necessary."

Goodell answered 18 questions, making it clear the league's belief that the percentage of money that goes to incoming rookies is too large and he also disagreed with one caller who bemoaned the effect of the league's enforcement against legal hits.

But mostly, it was like a therapy session for the consumer base that makes the league's success possible.

"We understand the frustration and the difficulties (with what) we're going through right now," Goodell said.

There are a lot of criticisms that have been leveled at Goodell this year, both by players and fans. The one thing that cannot be criticized is his availability.

He stood on stage and took the boos from fans attending the NFL draft in New York, and even in the later rounds, when someone else was announcing the picks, he was in the crowd.

Goodell has made himself available via conference call to about half of the league's 32 teams. Raible said there were thousands of Seahawks season-ticket holders on the conference call, and while only a small portion had a chance to ask a question, everyone had the opportunity to leave a voice mail at the end of the call.

But ultimately, the conference call couldn't answer the one question that hangs over everything in the NFL: When will the league and its players resume the business of professional football?

"I think the sooner we get back to the negotiating table, the better for everybody," Goodell said. "Most particularly our fans."

That has been the thrust of the league's argument since March 11 when the NFL Players Association decertified and chose to pursue an antitrust lawsuit instead of continuing negotiations.

Since then, Goodell has urged a return to negotiations, focusing on the potential damage a lawsuit could do to the league without pointing out it was the owners who chose to opt out of the collective-bargaining agreement early in the first place.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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