Time to get tough (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday March 20, 2007 12:40PM; Updated: Monday March 26, 2007 2:05PM
Jones' attorneys has asked a judge in Georgia to delay his client's court appearance until at least May in order to give them time to inquire how the level of any potential NFL punishment might differ based on a plea agreement struck by Jones.
But Goodell isn't likely to wait for Jones' legal situation to sort itself out before handing down a suspension. It is the commissioner's intention, the source said, to have the league's new harsher personal conduct penalties in place "immediately'' after the owners meeting in Arizona.
When asked if Goodell has made addressing the player conduct issue his top priority in 2007, the source said: "Absolutely. As it should be. It's his first three priorities these days. It speaks to the integrity and the image of the league, and it includes ensuring the protection of our players and the protection of the league itself.''
Goodell, in recent weeks, has worked closely with NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw to craft a tougher set of guidelines for suspension and fines to players who are repeat criminal offenders, with the commissioner determined to implement up to a one-year suspension that would require a player to petition the league for reinstatement. Under the league's current personal conduct policy, the commissioner has the authority to mete out discipline for player misconduct, but no suspension longer than four games has ever been administered.
"Roger is looking to really make his stand and differentiate himself from [former NFL commissioner] Paul Tagliabue on this one,'' said a source who has ties to the NFLPA. "He's really pushing to get something done on this front. This is his baby, his thing. It's his issue, and he's eager to make a mark in this area at the beginning of his tenure.''
Goodell's efforts have such strong support from the Players Association, the NFLPA source said, because the majority of players are as eager as the commissioner to see the league weed out its worst elements from an off-field conduct perspective.
"It's more than just the public's perception of the league that concerns players,'' the source said. "From a player's perspective, they don't want guys like that on their team. Not just that those guys might embarrass everyone with their behavior, it's that those guys are just not reliable teammates, on or off the field. And that impacts everyone, and everyone's chances of winning.
"Players say these guys coming into the league now are completely different. There's a knucklehead factor. They don't give a [crap] how many years you've got in the league or what you've done as a veteran player. They're just very disrespectful of the game and its players. It's important that this is coming from the players as much as the league, because guys see it as a team and player-level problem. These kind of guys can destroy a whole team, and players are realizing that now and that it hurts everyone's chances for success.''