NFL Conduct Policy Still Not Set

Tuesday, March 27th 2007, 7:31 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ Even when the NFL takes a major step to help its lower-revenue clubs, it gets overshadowed by the specter of poor player conduct.

When commissioner Roger Goodell announced an expanded program of revenue sharing Monday, his news conference was dominated by questions about the league's upcoming stronger conduct policy. Hours later, Las Vegas police said they could seek felony and misdemeanor charges against Tennessee's Adam ``Pacman'' Jones.

Goodell expects to have in place the stricter plan and hopes to make some disciplinary decisions before the April 28-29 draft. Jones could be his first subject.

The NFL has been reviewing Jones' off-field behavior, which has included 10 incidents where he was interviewed by police, and the cornerback was not welcome to take part in the Titans' offseason conditioning program, which began last week. On Monday, Las Vegas police said they could seek charges against Jones and two others in a February shooting at a strip club.

``It's a complicated issue and there are no simple answers,'' Goodell said, adding he planned to meet with coaches and owners in a day or so to discuss player behavior. ``We want to find out what is working well with the clubs and what is not working, get a set of best practices so they can implement them on a local basis.

``We're going to hold the clubs more accountable. If the clubs are providing the right resources that have a positive impact on personal conduct, we will take that into account.''

Could teams be stripped of draft choices or incur fines if they don't measure up in this area?

``Both,'' Goodell said.

``We're expecting discipline will be stepped up.''

Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson was sentenced last week to four months in jail on weapons charges. Nine Cincinnati Bengals got in trouble off the field, with two of them _ linebacker Odell Thurman and wide receiver Chris Henry _ drawing suspensions from Goodell.

On Sunday, as owners gathered here for their annual meeting, Carolina Panthers reserve guard D'Anthony Batiste was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for carrying a concealed weapon.

NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw has expressed his support of a tougher disciplinary policy. That's encouraged Goodell, just seven months into the job, to aggressively attack the subject.

``I've spoken to over 50 players on this issue, and they all believe leadership in mentoring younger players is important,'' Goodell said. ``That's one of the things we'll be encouraging. I'm supportive of creating a player advisory council that would give me some input, maybe even into individual cases.''

Team owners, general managers and coaches are on board, too.

``You let them know that if they do anything, there will be some consequences and I think that's a deterrent,'' said Tony Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl champion Colts . ``It's not necessary to crack the whip. You are just saying, 'Here's the things we can't accept.'''

The owners accepted a complex arrangement to enhance revenue sharing and help some of the lower income clubs. It requires that a team must be spending 65 percent or more of its revenues on player costs before it qualifies for the separate pool of $430 million being made available, retroactive to 2006.

A franchise also must have gate revenues equal to at least 90 percent of the league average. Then, the franchise could not have been sold in the 2006-09 period, and if it has a new or renovated stadium with an expenditure of at least $150 million, it doesn't qualify for the extra funds.

This plan does not apply to the $3.7 billion annually in TV money from Fox, NBC, CBS and ESPN, or the $700 million from DirecTV, all of which the 32 teams split equally.

Qualifying teams share the extra funds: $100 million for 2006, then $110 million for each of the next three years. Once the added funds bring the team back to 65 percent of revenues on player costs, that team stops collecting.

Goodell said only Cincinnati and Jacksonville of the 32 teams voted against the plan.

``There's been a great partnership in the league as a business and we need to work hard to bring it back together,'' Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. ``Taking this qualifier issue ... is getting our league back together.''

Houston Texans owner Robert McNair warned that this new system might not be a cure-all.

``We have to let the marketplace work,'' he said. ``Will markets change? Yes they will and do.

``Will there be markets that can't support teams over time? Yes, we will see that. So we have to try to prevent that, and we will have adjustments as we go ahead.''