NFL Draft Goes Prime Time, Latest Goodell Bold Gamble

When Roger Goodell's legacy is written, two items may occupy the first paragraph: avid discipliner of players, and willing to take gambles to make the NFL on TV even more popular. The first has been well-chronicled this week with the suspension of Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger. The second takes center stage tonight with the NFL Draft on ESPN and the NFL Network going against CBS drama hits and more ratings winners.

Last year, Goodell -- the NFL commissioner since 2006 -- made the striking decision to move the increasingly popular Draft to the most coveted real estate in television: Thursday night prime time. It will go head-to-head tonight with CBS’s “CSI:� and “The Mentalist�; NBC’s “The Office�; and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in playoff basketball on TNT.

But perhaps the most intriguing character this evening is Tim Tebow, the popular Florida quarterback. Questions abound where he’ll be picked. The Draft’s first round will be carried on ESPN and the NFL Network from 7:30 to 11 p.m. The Draft has traditionally started on Saturday afternoons.

Other Goodell TV-oriented moves … earlier this year he tried to resuscitate interest in the Pro Bowl by moving it to the week before the Super Bowl and off Hawaii. He created a “RedZone� channel to placate cable operators frustrated they can’t air DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket.� And he overhauled the overtime policy for playoff games.

Goodell started in the NFL in public relations. Even so, he’s reserved and circumspect, but apparently isn’t afraid to roll the dice.

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