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policy to address off-field problems
NFL commissioner plans to institute a policy to address off-field problems
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Over the years, some critics have dubbed the straight-laced NFL the No Fun League. New commissioner Roger Goodell would like to make it the No Felony League.
In what most observers see as the first major issue to confront Paul Tagliabue's successor, Goodell has tackled the player conduct issue head on.
"It's clearly an area that he has a strong conviction about and wants to put his imprint on," Rams president John Shaw said Wednesday.
Whether it's Tennessee cornerback Pacman Jones, Chicago defensive tackle Tank Johnson, numerous Cincinnati Bengals or Rams tight end Dominique Byrd, off-the-field arrests and legal issues involving players appear to be a growing problem in the NFL.
"It's an issue that clearly needs to be addressed by the league and the (players) union," Shaw said. "I do find that there's been quite a few of these incidents, and that we should probably address it at this point."
Goodell is expected to unveil a revised player-conduct policy on Tuesday, at the annual NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.
"I think it's an incredibly important issue," Goodell said during his state of the NFL address last month at the Super Bowl. "One incident is too many in my book."
According to Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, the commissioner has the power to adopt or change the league's personal conduct policy at his discretion. No vote of approval is necessary by league owners. Nonetheless, Goodell has been seeking input and building consensus on the issue for months.
"The commissioner has the disciplinary authority to deal with these matters," Aiello said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. "But in developing an appropriate policy, he wants to have input from as many different constituencies as possible. He's talked to players. He's spoken to Gene Upshaw extensively. Troy Vincent. Owners. Head coaches. Front office executives. Outside experts."
Upshaw is executive director of the NFL Players Association. Vincent, an NFL defensive back for the past 15 seasons, is the NFLPA president. Feedback from the players and players union has been strongly in support of measures to stem what has the appearance of growing lawlessness in the NFL.
"I think we're all concerned with the things that go on off the field," said Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and co-chair of the league's influential competition committee. "How the actions of a few may affect the many — and we don't like that."
McKay isn't sure what kind of changes to the player conduct Goodell will unveil Tuesday.
"I'm going to be very interested to hear," McKay said.
So will Shaw.
"I think in its simplest form, there will be stiffer penalties for criminal activity and certain conduct," Shaw said. "I don't think we've seen what the penalties are going to be. We just know that it's an issue that (Goodell) wants to address. And I think most of the member clubs feel that it does need to be addressed."
There have been reports that repeat offenders could face a one-year suspension from the league and then would have to petition to be reinstated. Depending on Goodell's report Tuesday, the revised conduct policy could be implemented quickly.
"The policy could be in effect immediately when (Goodell) decides he's comfortable with it," Aiello said. "So yes, it could be as soon as next week. And then we would begin dealing with whatever disciplinary matters are before us under the personal conduct policy."
So if Goodell institutes the program on Tuesday, someone could be suspended by Wednesday?
"That would be doubtful," Aiello said, laughing.
Aeillo stressed that the revised policy wouldn't just emphasize disciplinary action, it would try to improve and strengthen what he called the league's education component.
"Our player programs, rookie symposium, and veteran life skills program," he said.
Re: policy to address off-field problems
Which is why off the field problems are of even bigger concern in this year's draft.