GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the lockout fading from memory, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did a little more heavy lifting Thursday before the season got under way.
Shoveling dirt and carting cement in a wheelbarrow, Goodell didn't break a sweat as he helped dozens of volunteers build a playground and greenhouse at a Green Bay elementary school.
"That was a workout? C'mon!" Goodell quipped after he put down his shovel.
Goodell and a handful of retired players attended the league-sponsored event before the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints kicked off the season at nearby Lambeau Field.
Goodell's visit to Green Bay was the first of four stops he will make during the first week of the season.
Goodell plans to be at games at Baltimore, Washington and New York on Sunday, which is the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the East Coast. The NFL will hold tributes at the games being played that day.
"It's an important date for our country and to recognize the people who were tragically lost, their families, their first responders and so many of the people who have kept us safe," Goodell said. "The NFL will do its part to respectfully pay tribute to them. It's an important day, and we'll be a part of it. We're proud to do that."
Starting the season as scheduled was in doubt until NFL owners and players ended a lockout that lasted 4½ months.
"Well, that's in the past," Goodell said. "We're here (to start the season), and obviously being in Green Bay makes it all the more special, the great history and tradition of this town and what it's meant to the NFL. It's a special thing to be here to celebrate the Packers' championship and the start of a new season."
The Packers and their fans didn't have much time to bask in the team's Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers as the lockout began soon after. Goodell offered an apology Thursday for the disruption caused by the lockout, and he sent an email to fans saying the same thing.
"We know that it was a difficult offseason for our fans, and we're sorry about that," Goodell said. "But we have a 10-year agreement that is going to provide stability to be able to invest in stadiums and expand our presence in communities. That's going to be good for the Packer fans and this community over the long term."
The Packers broke ground last week on an expansion project at Lambeau Field. The team plans to add more than 6,500 seats in the south end zone and a rooftop viewing platform on the opposite end to increase seating capacity to almost 80,000.
Construction is expected to be completed before the 2013 season.
Goodell is aware of a proposal by the Packers -- the league's only publicly owned team -- to sell shares of stock to help defray the estimated expansion cost of more than $130 million. The team must receive approval from the league for the stock plan.
"The way the Packers continue to invest back in not only the stadium but the community and the development that will come out of this, I think it's a great opportunity for the league and the Packers," Goodell said.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press