Sun, Feb 04, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Goodell looks for ways to keep NFL players in line


Saying "one incident is too many," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants players to stay out of trouble and will meet with them to figure out how to do that.

Though the league's off-field incidents this season were the main topic of Goodell's first Super Bowl news conference, he also talked about concussions, insisting a player's health takes precedence over playing issues.

Referring to a spate of player arrests and the shooting death of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams, Goodell said: "We have to do something about it. It's a mutually important issue."

"We have to educate our players to the issues out there," he said on Friday. "We are raised to a higher standard in the NFL. We must make sure the players are more accountable and our clubs are more accountable."

Goodell and NFL players' union chief Gene Upshaw will meet with players "to gauge their perspective on what is really happening."

In the past few months, nine Cincinnati Bengals players have been arrested. One player in today's Super Bowl, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson, still faces weapons-related charges and needed permission from a judge just to travel to the title game against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I don't see it happening in droves. I think it's just a few, but that's a few too many," said Goodell, who replaced Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in September. "We recognize some players don't do what we want them to do and when that happens, we have the means to deal with it."

Responding to reports that former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson was forced to practice with a concussion, Goodell praised team trainers and league doctors who deal with concussions and said: "I certainly hope that our coaches always are looking out for the medical well-being of the players."

He commended the players for taking an active role in trying to eliminate use of illegal substances.

Goodell also said that not allowing players who are suspended for doping to garner postseason awards is "a huge priority for us."

San Diego linebacker Shawn Merriman made the All-Pro team, will play in the Pro Bowl and was considered a front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year despite sitting out four games for violating the substance policy.

Several players, including Miami end Jason Taylor, who was voted the top defensive player, criticized Merriman receiving such honors.

Goodell also said the league is conducting its own investigation of urine or blood testing for human growth hormone.

He addressed complaints from retired players about their pensions, saying: "We're very concerned to see one of our former players who made this game great have medical issues. We have to sit down and be creative. We need to address that directly with them."

Goodell also reiterated the league's opposition to gambling, saying: "Keeping a strong line between the NFL and sports betting. I don't think it is in the best interest of the NFL to have any association with sports betting."

Favre to return

Brett Favre will return for his 17th NFL season, undeterred by his injuries and hoping to lead the Green Bay Packers back to the playoffs.

"I am so excited about coming back," the 37-year-old quarterback said on Friday on the Web site of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi. "We have a good nucleus of young players. We were 8-8 last year, and that's encouraging."

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