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Monday, May 20, 2024

Roger Goodell Bravely Fights Through Back Surgery to Hug No. 1 Pick Caleb Williams

  • The Bears made one of the worst-kept secrets in sports official Thursday night.
  • Goodell's recent back surgery called into question his ability to hug draft picks.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL players exhibit nearly superhuman strength and bravery—and more than a little disregard for their own safety—to suit up every Sunday with serious injuries from head to toe.

Roger Goodell is really no different than any of them.

He dapped up and then hugged Caleb Williams on Thursday night after the Chicago Bears selected the Southern Cal phenom with the No. 1 pick, putting to rest any doubts about his ability to perform in pain.

ESPN insider Adam Schefter had reported earlier in the day that Goodell’s availability to hug was in serious doubt due to recent back surgery. It was a classic Schefterian injury scoop on game day.

“Goodell underwent back surgery three weeks ago, has recovered well, but it remains uncertain whether he will be able to offer his patented draft-day hugs,” Schefter wrote on Thursday. “Draft-time decision.”

No coach could keep Goodell on the sidelines.

Goodell confirmed the swirling rumors shortly before kickoff on Thursday night.

“I had it in time to hopefully heal up,” Goodell said of his surgery on the ESPN broadcast half an hour before the Bears were on the clock. Goodell winked at the annual routine of fans booing him in any city in a brief, stilted intro video with rapper and Detroit native Eminem, who told him “You know you’re still going to get booed, right?“

As the No. 1 pick, Williams is slotted to receive a four-year deal worth $38.5 million, plus a fifth-year team option. Williams made the somewhat unusual choice of not hiring an agent before the draft.

The Bears’ selection of Williams cements Chicago going all-in on the 2022 Heisman winner. They had traded away Justin Fields to the Steelers last month, telegraphing weeks out that they knew they wanted Williams with the top pick. 

Williams became a sensation in his first season at Southern Cal in ‘22, throwing for 45 touchdowns and over 4,500 yards in an 11-win campaign that drew comparisons to Patrick Mahomes’ ability to improvise and throw off-platform. A rockier second season with the Trojans ultimately didn’t deter the Bears from putting him in position to get the coveted Goodell squeeze.

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