- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

National Football League teams could be penalized for the off-the-field misbehavior of their players under a tougher personal conduct policy announced by the league yesterday.

Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones for the 2007 season and Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry for half the season after a series of off-field problems.

Goodell also announced a revised personal conduct policy that includes longer suspensions and larger fines for team members who violate the rules and will hold teams accountable.

Jones, 23, has been arrested five times since the Titans chose him with the sixth pick in the 2005 draft. Most recently, police recommended felony and misdemeanor charges against him after a shooting at a strip club left a man paralyzed over the National Basketball Association All-Star weekend in Las Vegas in February.

Henry, 23, has been arrested four times in the past 14 months for offenses ranging from aggravated assault with a firearm to providing alcohol to minors. He was suspended two games last season for violating the personal conduct policy.

The league declined to say how teams would be penalized or whether that punishment would be automatic. Fines and the forfeiture of draft choices are considered to be the most likely options.

“Clubs will be subject to discipline in cases involving violations of the Personal Conduct Policy by club employees,” an NFL statement read in part. “In determining potential club discipline going forward, the commissioner will consider all relevant factors, including the history of conduct-related violations by that club’s employees and the extent to which the club’s support programs are consistent with best practices.”

In addition to the increased fines and suspensions, the league’s revised policy calls for aggressive discipline for repeat offenders, even without a criminal conviction; year-round rookie orientation; and mandatory briefings by local law-enforcement officials.

The policy was strengthened after a number of high-profile, off-the-field problems.

Jones and Henry, teammates at West Virginia, met with Goodell on April 3 and received letters from him.

“Your conduct has brought embarrassment and ridicule upon yourself, your club, and the NFL and has damaged the reputation of players throughout the league,” Goodell wrote. “You have put in jeopardy an otherwise promising NFL career, and have risked both your own safety and the safety of others through your off-field actions.

“You have engaged in conduct detrimental to the NFL and failed to live up to the standards expected of NFL players. … I must emphasize to you that this is your last opportunity to salvage your NFL career.”

Jones’ suspension could be reduced to 10 games if he meets conditions set by the league and is cleared in a pending case in Georgia and the case in Las Vegas.

The tougher policy was approved by the NFL Players Association. Gene Upshaw, the union’s executive director, consulted with Goodell on it, and the league also created a panel of players to consult on such disciplinary issues.

“The NFL Players Association and the Player Advisory Council have been discussing this issue for several months,” Upshaw said. “We believe that these are steps that the commissioner needs to take, and we support the policy. It is important that players in violation of the policy will have the opportunity and the support to change their conduct and earn their way back.”

The policy marked a big departure for the league, still in its first year under Goodell.

“We must protect the integrity of the NFL,” Goodell said. “The highest standards of conduct must be met by everyone in the NFL because it is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right. These players, and all members of our league, have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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