NFL commissioner Roger Goodell discussed a wide range of topics Wednesday during an appearance at the 12th annual Chicago Bears Business Summit in the PNC Center at Halas Hall.
Participating in an hour-long "fireside chat" with Bears radio play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak, Goodell talked about the franchise's storied history and tradition as well as legendary players Walter Payton and Brian Urlacher.
Goodell said that he's gotten to know Urlacher over the years and lauded the former star middle linebacker as "another guy who just carries the Bears tradition and the pride of being a Chicago Bear." Urlacher will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio, as part of the Class of 2018.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell listens to a question during the Bears Business Summit.
"This is going to be a great opportunity and a great moment for him," Goodell said. "They like to say this is a team that you never get cut from when you get into the Hall of Fame. I don't think [new inductees] understand the significance until they're standing there, they have their jacket, they make that speech. It's really an incredible moment and he deserves it because he played the game with passion and excellence and that's what it takes to be a Hall of Famer."
Goodell also discussed walking past the George S. Halas statue and into the Halas Hall lobby.
"I grew up a huge football fan, so I loved football," Goodell said. "I admired coach Halas from a distance and recognize the role that he played in the NFL all those years. The McCaskey family has carried that on and their love and passion for this community as well as the game of football with the Bears, that's what it's all about. And you feel that when you walk into the building. You feel a sense of pride and frankly the standards that they all set and when they don't hit that, no one is more disappointed than the ownership. But they are always driven to do better and to represent this community in the highest possible way and I think that comes through every time you walk through these halls and every time I see Mrs. (Virginia) McCaskey."
Asked about his favorite Bears player of all time, Goodell didn't hesitate, simply saying: "Sweetness."
"Walter actually became a very good friend," Goodell said. "I was working on the expansion process and Walter was involved with that, trying to get a franchise, and I got to know him very well.
"And since becoming commissioner we've put a lot of emphasis into the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. I've gotten to know his family, his two children and Connie. I find the family remarkable. Walter was a character, a great professional and a really great friend."