Goodell cracking the whip
Commissioner holds teams responsible for bad behavior of their players
BY MARK CURNUTTE | [email="MCURNUTTE@ENQUIRER.COM"]MCURNUTTE@ENQUIRER.COM[/email]
Lost this past week amid news that NFL owners had voted unanimously to opt out of their labor contract was word from Roger Goodell that teams now face fines for their players' off-field transgressions.
The commissioner said during a league meeting in Atlanta that he would fine teams whose players were suspended for violating league rules.
"We want to continue to emphasize personal conduct and personal responsibility," Goodell said at a meeting-end news conference. "One way to do it is to hold teams responsible for the conduct of their players."
At a league meeting in Phoenix in March 2007, Goodell instituted a tougher personal conduct policy and the next month suspended former Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry for the first eight games of the 2007 season. The Bengals released Henry and linebacker Odell Thurman - who had been suspended for two years by Goodell for violating the substance abuse policy - within the past two months.
The Enquirer asked Bengals president Mike Brown for comment through the team's public relations department, and Brown declined, saying he doesn't make it his policy to comment on everything the commissioner declares.
The Bengals became the national focus of the issue of bad off-field behavior by NFL players when they had nine of their players arrested in a 13-month period from January 2006 through January 2007.
The Bengals have made character a higher priority in their drafts, especially in 2007. But they selected Fresno State defensive tackle Jason Shirley in the fifth round this year and signed Nebraska wide receiver Maurice Purify as a free agent. Both players have histories of off-field issues.
Purify was arrested in May 2007 and charged by Lincoln, Neb., police with two counts of assault and one count of resisting arrest.
Shirley is expected to be in Fresno County Superior Court this week, when he will miss three more Bengals' offseason practices, for a jury trial that stems from a series of misdemeanor charges last fall.
Jury selection is expected Tuesday, followed by opening arguments Wednesday and possible closing arguments Friday, according to The Fresno Bee.
Shirley was charged for driving under the influence, driving with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher, hit-and-run driving and driving with a suspended license and expired registration for two separate incidents last fall.
Of those nine Bengals players arrested in the 13-month span ending in January 2007, six - linebacker Thurman and A.J. Nicholson, wide receivers Henry and Reggie McNeal, offensive lineman Eric Steinbach and defensive tackle Matthias Askew - are no longer with the team. Still on the roster are defensive backs Johnathan Joseph and Deltha O'Neal and defensive end Frostee Rucker.