ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Commissioner Roger Goodell isn't so different from the average NFL fan.
When the calendar turns to August, he relishes the same thing as every fan base from the Broncos to the Browns.
"I think it I'd say it in one word: hope," Goodell said. "There's hope for every fan that their team is going to win the Super Bowl."
That early-season mentality is just one of the topics Goodell and a revolving panel covered Thursday at a town hall meeting with nearly 100 Broncos fans. After he began the event with President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and former Broncos great Steve Atwater, he and Dave Logan welcomed Emmanuel Sanders and Von Miller.
The conversation was wide-ranging and touched on subjects including high school development programs, the evolution of the game, safety concerns and dealing with the public spotlight.
The following were just a few of the subjects that piqued our interest:
1. Goodell's first impressions of Von
When Miller was asked about being the face of the franchise, he said that while he understood the importance of his role, he tries not to put too much pressure on himself.
"I try to stick to the same formula that's gotten me to this point now," Miller said.
He was quick to deflect credit and said he learned from role models like DeMarcus Ware, Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey.
But as the Super Bowl 50 MVP wrapped up his answer, the commissioner cut in.
"If I could just add something, one of the great privileges for me is being part the draft. We have probably 25 or so guys come in every year [who are] the first-round draft choices, and I have the chance to meet with them. So I'll never forget [this]. It's usually pretty close to all 25 at one time. And guys stand out. Certain guys stand out.
"This guy stood out from Day 1 as a leader. And you could see that, and it was a very positive thing. So while we're all a product of our mentoring and people who teach us how to do things, he has something that's just inspiring and something that's at the core of his character. You saw that almost immediately."
2. Broncos abroad?
For the second consecutive year, the NFL will hold four regular-season games in London. They'll also put on a game between the Raiders and Patriots in Mexico City.
Though the Broncos haven't played overseas since 2010, there's always a chance Denver could head across the pond as early as 2018. And eventually, an NFL team could move to a city like London, which would require the Broncos to travel there at least every eight seasons under the current format.
If there's a hold-up to a franchise settling in London, it's not the fan support, Goodell said.
"Every time we play a game over there, the fans want more," Goodell said. "It's really quite extraordinary, because they've learned the game. They have a passion for the game and they understand the game. I like to tease. Some of the early games, the officials would throw a flag, and they'd start cheering. They didn't really understand the game. Now … when you're over there and watching a game, they respond the same way they do here in the States. They understand the game, and they want more of it. We're selling those games out. We put the tickets on sale and they're almost immediately gone.
"I think there's no question about the passion over there. The real question for us is: Can we do it and make sure we maintain the integrity and the competitiveness of the game? Can these guys still play at the same level if they have to play in London and travel back to the States on a regular basis, or a team's going over there? Can the teams prepare properly with that kind of travel? If you've got to fill a couple of roster spots, you've got to get people over from the States.
"You don't want to put any team at a competitive disadvantage. [That's] the bottom line. And we haven't convinced ourselves of that, to be honest with you. I don't believe fan passion or fan support is in doubt over there."
3. Brandon Marshall's activism
When asked whether he believed players kneeling during the national anthem contributed to declining ratings, Goodell first pointed out the NFL's viewing remains a success even as the sports and entertainment industries adapt to a changing TV landscape.
He then went on to support the players' right to voice their opinions, and that may ring particularly familiar to Denver fans. Linebacker Brandon Marshall kneeled for several games last season and visited with Denver's police chief before standing for the anthem again.
"I believe our players should be active in their communities, because I believe they are leaders in their communities," Goodell said. "I think they have a voice and they should express it. And I think it's important for them to do it responsibly. These guys understand that. Everyone does that in a way that they think is going to address the issues that they think are important, but our guys came in the community.
"I think there's a great example with Brandon Marshall here, who went and worked with the police department and actually caused a positive change in the community. That was by creating a dialogue and creating a chance. I really admire our guys. Brandon's not the only one.
"Across the league, teams did that. Players did that. I think they created that dialogue and that discussion that has led to really positive change. I admire them and encourage them to do that the right way."