NFL Draft: Commissioner Roger Goodell recovering from back surgery, draft hugs reportedly in question

Roger Goodell will be at the NFL Draft on Thursday, but it might not be business as usual for the commissioner.

Goodell underwent back surgery earlier this month, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Specifics of the procedure aren’t known, but Goodell is apparently recovering well. As of Thursday afternoon, however, it’s unclear if he will be able to greet first-round draft picks with a hug like he normally does.

According to Schefter, that’s being considered a “draft-time decision.”

While that might seem minor, it’s easy to see how a hug from an excited NFL rookie could end up injuring the 65-year-old commissioner’s back further. If Goodell is hit by the hug in just the wrong way, it could easily set him back.

Goodell took over as the league’s commissioner in 2006. He reached a deal to extend his term through the 2027 season last fall, which will bring his time leading the NFL to more than two decades by his contract’s end. It’s unclear how much his contract is worth, though he reportedly earned just shy of $64 million for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. The extension was Goodell’s fourth since taking the job.

Goodell customarily announces picks for the first round of the draft. The second and third rounds of this year’s event on Friday will be announced by team players and former legends, the league announced Thursday. Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson will announce Lions picks, for example. Goodell’s front-facing role in the draft largely ends Thursday night, which should significantly help his back.

Even if the hugs aren’t available Thursday, it’s a safe bet that fans will still greet Goodell like they always do when he takes the stage in Detroit.