Said Bowlen: “Roger has a very strong personality and is very strong in his convictions. You know what you’ve got with Roger. He lets you know how he feels about things. That’s important to me and I’m sure to the other owners.”
Goodell particularly has been forceful on matters related to player misbehavior in a league that seemed to have chronic, high-profile problems.
Running back Quincy Wilson, for example, was arrested over the weekend for refusing a police request to leave a bar, making him the 10th member of the Cincinnati Bengals to be arrested in the past 14 months.
Goodell has come down hard on chief offenders. In May, he suspended both Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Tennessee Titans for all of the 2007 season and Chris Henry of the Bengals for eight games for numerous violations of the personal conduct policy. Goodell this month suspended Tank Johnson of the Chicago Bears for eight games.
The lengthy suspensions could have been a contentious issue among the league, franchise owners and the players union. The suspensions, after all, carry a heavy financial penalty. Jones, for example, will forfeit all of his $1.29 million base salary this season.
However, the union has been supportive, in part because players and union leaders saw action as necessary and because of the efforts of Goodell to get the NFLPA on board.
“This isn’t something that just sprung up,” Upshaw said. “We’ve been talking about these issues for 14 years. Talking to the players last season, they agreed that something had to be done.”
The owners, club executives and coaches also were on board.
“I’m glad that Roger has been so aggressive about player conduct, on and off the field,” Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. “It was something that had to be addressed.”
Goodell also established a six-man Player Advisory Council, giving him direct input from those on the field and perhaps making the pronouncements from Park Avenue seem less like they’re being handed down from Mount Olympus without input from those affected.
“I had never met Paul Tagliabue, but there I was sitting down with Roger Goodell,” said Redskins receiver James Thrash, a 10-year veteran and a member of the council. “Everyone who was in that initial meeting pretty much anticipated what he was going to do about the off-the-field problems that we have been having. I believe that the vast majority of the players are supportive of the commissioner on this.”
Indeed. Jones dropped his appeal of the yearlong suspension last week, while Henry was chastened by his eight-game banishment and Johnson said he agreed with Goodell’s decision to suspend him for eight games.
Despite the high-profile moves on player conduct, Goodell’s major challenge will be the CBA extension talks that figure to occur next year, three years before the pact’s expiration.