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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Goodell Strengthens NFL Conduct Policy

Goodell Strengthens NFL Conduct Policy
AP Football Writer

NEW YORK -- NFL teams will be disciplined when their employees, including players, violate the league's personal conduct policy.

Moments after announcing the one-year suspension of Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, and an eight-game ban for Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released his strengthened conduct policy Tuesday. Along with longer suspensions and larger fines for individuals who violate the policy, Goodell will hold teams responsible, as well.

He did not say how he would punish those teams, although stripping them of draft choices is considered one of the most effective ways to do so.

"It is important that the NFL be represented consistently by outstanding people as well as great football players, coaches, and staff," Goodell said. "We hold ourselves to higher standards of responsible conduct because of what it means to be part of the National Football League. We have long had policies and programs designed to encourage responsible behavior, and this policy is a further step in ensuring that everyone who is part of the NFL meets that standard. We will continue to review the policy and modify it as warranted."

The strengthened standards apply to all NFL employees: players, coaches, officials, owners, front-office and league personnel. And Goodell emphasized in the new policy that those standards will be considerably tighter than outside the league.

"It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime," the new policy says. "Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

The new policy comes in the wake of a series of off-field issues involving several players, notably Jones, Henry and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson.

There were 10 occasions in which Jones was interviewed by police, the most recent during the NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. Police there recommended felony and misdemeanor charges against Jones after a fight and shooting at a strip club left one man paralyzed.

Henry was arrested four times in a 14-month span, and received a two-game league suspension last year. He was one of nine Bengals arrested in nine months. Johnson currently is in jail, serving four months for violating probation in a 2005 gun case.

Two of Henry's teammates, along with NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw, recognized the need for stronger league guidelines for player conduct.

"You would think it's necessary just because of the negative publicity the NFL is beginning to receive because of what's happening," said Bengals receiver T. J. Houshmandzadeh. "It was going on for an extended period of time. Each day, each week, something was happening."

Added Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer: "I think it will (help). With all of the things that have been happening recently, I think it will be good and hopefully give the league a little better image. I hope that it works and that guys abide by the rules and do what's right."

So does Upshaw, of course. He consulted with Goodell before the commissioner, now in his seventh month on the job, revised the conduct policy. Goodell also established a panel of players to offer advice on such matters.

"The NFL Players Association and the Player Advisory Council have been discussing this issue for several months," Upshaw said. "We believe that these are steps that the commissioner needs to take and we support the policy. It is important that players in violation of the policy will have the opportunity and the support to change their conduct and earn their way back."

Tony Dungy said placing responsibility on the teams for their players and employees makes sense, even if it results in penalties that affect more than the wallet.

"That seems to be the thing that gets everyone's attention," the coach of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts said of potentially lost draft picks and player availability. "We talked about fines at the league meetings, and that may not do the trick. But when you start talking about playing time and draft picks, that seems to get your attention."


AP Sports Writers Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this story.


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