It’s former Raider Howie Long’s turn with the microphone at the fan forum Thursday in Oakland. Joining him, from left, are NFL commissioner
It's former Raider Howie Long's turn with the microphone at the fan forum Thursday in Oakland. Joining him, from left, are NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Long's fellow Hall of Famers John Madden, John Elway and Ronnie Lott. (Ben Margot, The Associated Press)

OAKLAND, CALIF. —  For a fan forum marking the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, defensive end Howie Long and former San Francisco 49ers safety Ronnie Lott all wore their gold jackets symbolizing membership.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, perhaps on purpose, wore a gray sweater.

John Elway was the only Hall of Famer to don a business suit, with coat matching his gray slacks.

A symbolic wardrobe to represent how he no longer is John Elway, the former quarterback great, but John Elway, the Broncos' football operations executive?

"I actually didn't know I was supposed to bring my gold jacket," Elway said after the 45-minute question-and-answer session with a select group of Raiders fans Thursday. "They just said, 'Show up,' so bringing my Hall of Fame coat didn't register."

The fans asked questions about players' safety. One fan said that because the players make so much money today, the $21,000 or $50,000 fines aren't registering. Goodell indicated that instead of fines, the league will be more liberal in levying suspensions.

"We have found that what really changes behavior is when you take the game away from them," Goodell said. "We're moving toward suspensions. And that causes coaches to coach the game differently."


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The fans also asked about whether they believe the game is better today than it was when Madden was coaching and Elway, Lott and Long were playing.

"What's really impressed me is young players coming in and being ready to play early, especially quarterbacks," Madden said. "It used to be we'd say a young quarterback can't play for five, six, seven, years. You watch RG III (Robert Griffin III), you watch him come in and you go, 'What is all of this?' "

The players and coaches were asked to name their favorite moment during their playing days. Elway knew his audience.

"Just how difficult it was to come play here," said Elway, the Broncos' quarterback from 1983-98. "This is a place that as I'm sitting here, how nice it is knowing that I don't have to play a game tonight and how well I'll feel after this game (physically, compared to how) I normally did after playing the Oakland Raiders.

"The players come in here, and seeing all the outfits and to be able go down to that one end zone, I forget what you call it down there (the Black Hole), but the only time I went there is if we scored a touchdown. Otherwise, I stayed away from that one end."