Dan Rooney, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, yesterday questioned the extent of commissioner Pete Rozelle's concern about: "unnecessary violence" in the National Football League.
In a memorandum and accompanying statement dated Sept. 14, Rozelle threatened serious discipline for acts of violence, up to and including multi-game suspensions.
Rooney commented, "I think the commissioner is doing his job, but he may have a different opinion about violence than I do. I don't think there is that much dirty-type play. It's a contact sport.
"I made a statement under oath at the trial (a $2 million slader suit by George Atkinson of Oakland against Steelers coach Chuck Noll for terming Atkinson part of the "criminal element in pro football") that there was not that much violence in the NFL . . . uncontrollable violence . . . violence that is extreme; intended to do harm. Not as much as had been indicated in the trial.
"I believe we have a good game and we (the Steelers) went into the trial with the idea of keeping it the way it is."
Al LoCasale, executive assistant to Al Davis, managing general partner of the Raiders, said of the memorandum and statement, "Football is a contact sport. It involves heavy contact and collisions. However, certainly no one condones violence."
Mike Brown, assistant to his father, Paul Brown, general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals, said "I think it is the trend to police more closely rules violations and unnecessary violence, and that's for the good of the sport.
"We all feel that way - players, coaches and management. No one wants people hurt. I don't think anyone wants to hurt our game and drag it through the courts."
Bengal running back Boobie Clark was exonerated in a federal court of "outrageous conduct" in a $1 million injury suit brought by Dale Hackbart of the Denver Broncos. Following the verdict, Brown said, "When federal courts get involved, they're getting into something they're not physically equipped to handle."
Judge Richard Matsch had concluded, "Civil courts cannot be expected to control the violence in pro football."
A highly placed source said the warning by the commissioner was "highly unusual" because of the method used to make club presidents personally responsible for alerting players and coaches and because of the timing, shortly before the rematch between the Steelers and Raiders, on Sept. 25.
Rozelle sent his usual league policy review to the clubs a few weeks ago and treated the violence in the later, separate statement.