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Lawbreakers may face penalties

Head of NFL union says he'll weigh players' call for `three strikes' policy in wake of recent arrests.

February 24, 2007|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — The head of the NFL players' union indicated Friday that he would give serious consideration to a three strikes-type program for players who repeatedly run afoul of the law, one that includes penalties similar to those in the league's drug policy.

The idea was proposed a day earlier by a group of players who met at an Indianapolis hotel with Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh and Pat Bowlen of Denver, members of the league's Conduct Advisory Committee. The three-hour meeting was to discuss what the league should do about the rise in off-the-field transgressions by players.

"The one thing that I thought that was surprising to me is the [players] are sort of moving in the direction of having penalties similar to drug policies -- that at some point you're out," said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Assn.

"You can't continue to keep violating policies. You can't be in the wrong place three or four times. One time, two times maybe, but three or four times in the wrong place at the wrong time? They didn't like that."

The league considers its drug policy the toughest in sports. A player who tests positive for a banned substance is suspended for four games, one quarter of the season. A second failed test results in a one-year suspension.

Goodell is considering several options, among them making individual teams more accountable for the actions of their players, and ramping up programs already in place such as the mandatory rookie symposium.

The Cincinnati Bengals had more arrests last season than victories, with nine players locked up in the past nine months, some more than once. Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis attended Thursday's meeting.

"We wanted him there because of what's been going on, but not pointing the fingers at anyone," Upshaw said. "Just saying, 'What can we do that we're not doing? Is there something we're missing? Give us some help.' And that's what those [players] did."

The week began with more bad news for the league: Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones was at the scene Monday morning of a triple shooting at a Las Vegas strip club. The establishment's owner told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Jones grabbed a stripper by the hair and slammed her face into the stage. Rob Susnar, owner of the club Minxx, said Jones threatened to kill a security guard before leaving with his entourage. Outside, a gunman opened fire, shooting three people and leaving one paralyzed below the waist.

Jones has denied any involvement in the shooting.

Titans Coach Jeff Fisher declined to address Jones' situation but said: "Player conduct off the field is an issue.... It's something that we have to get control of."

He added that such incidents "have embarrassed our game."

Upshaw also declined to address Jones' case but said what the players discussed in the meeting Thursday was "an eye-opener" to the league executives and team owners.

"The common denominator was these guys really care," Upshaw said of the players. "They care about the game. They care ... that we're all painted with the same brush. Ninety percent is doing the right thing, and we've got 10% that's not."

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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