NFL teams will be held accountable for draft-day gambles

05:38 PM CDT on Monday, April 28, 2008

NEW YORK Wide receiver Mario Manningham admitted to NFL teams during the 2008 draft process that he failed drug tests at the University of Michigan.

Manningham projected as a first-round pick when he decided to skip his senior year at Michigan but his admitted marijuana use raised a character flag that triggered his draft-day slide over the weekend. The New York Giants finally selected him late in the third round.

Draft prospects with suspensions, arrests and failed drug tests have tumbled down the board the last two drafts following NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's crackdown on player misconduct in 2007. They may tumble farther and faster in 2009.

Goodell informed NFL teams at the league's annual meeting in March that he would begin holding the clubs accountable when their players stray.

"If you have an individual player that has discipline from the personal conduct policy, a portion of that salary is going to be withheld as a fine," Goodell said Monday. "And that's going to escalate."

In the past, if a player was earning $500,000 and was suspended by the league, he would not be paid his salary and his team could just pocket that money.

"Now I may say pay $250,000 of that to us 50 percent of it," Goodell said. "If it's his second incident, it might be $300,000. If it's his fourth incident, it might be $500,000."

That's how you get the attention of teams hit them where they feel it most. In the pocketbook.

Right now, there is little risk for the club. A team can draft a player with first-round value but character concerns in the fifth round and view him as tremendous bargain.

If the player doesn't work out, he doesn't work out. There's no real damage to the team. He's just another fifth-round pick who didn't make it. Except that now the clubs will be held accountable for those draft-day gambles.

"At a certain point, we can have all these policies and resources available," Goodell said. "But if you start picking the wrong people, there's nothing I can do about that. I'm not ever going to make the choices of who you can have but you're going to have to make better choices of the people you do [bring in]. That's the only way I can get to that [point].

"And I haven't ruled out competitive consequences, by the way draft choices and such."

But Goodell said those details are still being worked out.

In 2007, Goodell took the first step toward cleaning up the league's image by cracking down on the players, suspending Pacman Jones, Odell Thurman and Chris Henry.

The second step by Goodell in 2008 will be the crackdown on teams.

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