NFL Suspends Two for Troubles with Police
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell suspended two players today, making a strong statement against bad behavior. They are Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Tennessee Titans and Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both have had repeated run-ins with the law. Jones is out for all of next season without pay, and Henry was suspended without pay for half the season.
NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN: Roger Goodell has been the NFL commissioner for less than a year, and his biggest challenge - some would say headache - was vividly illustrated in today's edition of USA Today. Surrounding the headline, NFL Confronts Discipline Issue, the pictures of 41 players who've been arrested since 2006.
Among the photos, the two young men considered by many to be the poster boys of bad behavior: Adam "Pacman" Jones and Chris Henry. In a recent interview on the NFL Network, Jones said he doesn't appreciate the reference.
Mr. ADAM JONES (Tennessee Titans Football Player): I really don't like it, you know. I'm definitely not the poster boy. What is a poster boy? Is it allegations? Is it when you're proven guilty? Is it when you've got (unintelligible) or you make a couple of mistakes?
GOLDMAN: It is, to be specific, five arrests and five other occasions when he was questioned by police, all since he was drafted in 2005. It's an incident this past February - when Jones was alleged to have started a brawl at a Las Vegas strip club - that ended in gunfire and a security guard paralyzed from a gunshot wound. At the time of the TV interview, Jones had just met with Goodell and was bracing for the commissioner's decision.
Mr. JONES: I know there's going to be a punishment. Whatever the punishment is, I'm going to be a man and I'm - take responsibility and own up to whatever the punishment is. But hopefully, it won't be that long of a punishment or nothing that can jeopardize my career.
GOLDMAN: That, according to Goodell, is up to Jones. He can work his way back to the NFL if he adheres to the particulars of his season-long suspension. Those include no more run-ins with police, willingness to undergo counseling and treatment, agreeing to restrictions on his activities. Goodell laid out similar stipulations for Chris Henry, the talented and troubled wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.
In the past 14 months, Henry has been arrested four times on charges ranging from driving under the influence to aggravated assault with a firearm. His ban is for eight games. While both players - who were teammates at West Virginia University - will be given the chance to come back, the last part of Goodell's statement was the most dramatic.
Speaking directly to Jones and Henry, he said, I must emphasize that this is your last opportunity to salvage your NFL career. The Titans owner and the Bengals head coach gave Goodell their backing on the suspensions. The actions by the NFL were announced in conjunction with the NFL Players Association, which reflected the widespread support for Goodell.
Here's former player Darren Woodson on ESPN.
Mr. DARREN WOODSON (Former NFL Player): Every NFL player knows one thing. If one player goes down, we're all sort of thrown in the same kind of category. So I think it plays to the fact the guys are really tired of the matter. I think, you know, the NFL Players Association's tired of this matter. And the NFL altogether is sort of tired of the incidences, and they want to find something to do about it.
GOLDMAN: Goodell also announced changes to strengthen the league's longstanding personal conduct policy, as well as increase levels of discipline for individual players. Teams also could be penalized.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.