Pro Football

Policy Might Allow Goodell To Issue Lifetime Bans

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told representatives of the players' association yesterday that he is leaving open the possibility that the new player conduct policy will include a provision allowing him to ban for life a player involved in serious criminal incidents.

Such a ban is not being considered in the cases of Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam " Pacman " Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry, but Goodell is poised to suspend both players and might rule on their cases this week, union chief Gene Upshaw said after participating in yesterday's meeting in New York.

"None of these cases we're talking about will be a permanent ban," Upshaw said in a telephone interview. "I don't think we're at that point yet with these cases. We understand there will be some type of suspension, but not that."

Upshaw and six players, including defensive back and union president Troy Vincent, met with Goodell. The panel was consulted on a variety of issues, including concussions and pensions for retired players as well as the conduct policy. Upshaw said that he and the players did not discuss details of the Jones or Henry cases with Goodell. The players and Upshaw left before Goodell's hearings for Jones and Henry.

Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, declined to comment on the hearings for Jones and Henry, each of whom has been involved in a series of legal troubles.

Goodell said at the annual league meeting last week that he planned to rule in the Jones and Henry cases within 10 days of yesterday's hearings. He also said then that he intended to announce his new player conduct policy before this month's NFL draft. Both Goodell and Upshaw previously said the policy would include a provision empowering Goodell to suspend a player with repeat criminal offenses for up to one year, after which the player would have to apply for reinstatement. According to Upshaw, Goodell indicated the policy could be even more stringent.

"I don't want to get too much into that," Upshaw said. "That sounds too much like 'three strikes and you're out.' But from what was said, I would say a permanent ban could be in there."

No player has been suspended for more than four games under the current policy, which leaves discipline at the commissioner's discretion. Upshaw said that under the new policy, a first-time offender would be ordered to undergo counseling and placed on probation, and might be fined. A second-time offender could be suspended if the infraction is severe enough.

"One thing was clear: Once a player has gotten himself into this fix, it's going to be up to him to get himself out," Upshaw said.

-- Mark Maske

© 2007 The Washington Post Company