Tackling players' legal woes

The Baltimore Sun

The most anticipated change at this week's NFL owners meetings - the first under new commissioner Roger Goodell - will affect the game off the field rather than on it.

Goodell is expected to announce a stricter personal conduct policy tomorrow in Phoenix that will severely punish players who get into legal trouble, a response to the wave of arrests that has tarnished the image of the league.

"I think we're all concerned with the things that go on off the field and how the actions of a few may affect the many, and I don't like that," said Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, who is co-chair of the NFL's competition committee. "So I do expect something. What it will be, I really don't know. I'm going to be very interested to hear."

Player conduct has become an increasingly hot topic with the NFL.

Since the beginning of 2006, nine players from the Cincinnati Bengals have been arrested.

High-profile players in trouble have included Chicago Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson, who was sentenced to four months in jail for violating his probation in an earlier gun case, and Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, who has had 10 encounters with law enforcement since he was drafted in the first round in 2005.

And just this month, Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter was charged with misdemeanor battery after being accused of punching Bengals offensive lineman Levi Jones outside a Las Vegas casino.

Goodell is "looking to develop an overall comprehensive and more effective program," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "As he puts it, one negative incident is too many for him."

As for issues on the field, owners will vote on a handful of proposed rule changes that include:

Having the team that kicks off first in overtime do so from the 35-yard line instead of the 30 to try to cut down on advantageous field position.

Making instant replay a permanent part of the game (the rule expires in two years) and requiring each stadium to upgrade its replay equipment to high-definition video.

Revising how teams report injuries in an attempt to add more credibility to weekly injury reports.

Adding on-field radio communication between a single defensive player and coaches, which would be similar to the radio receiver that quarterbacks have in their helmets.

Instituting a 5-yard penalty on players who spike the ball after a play (not a touchdown).

Note -- The Ravens will learn this week how many compensatory picks they will receive for the coming draft. It's expected they will get four additional picks from the league - perhaps one as high as a third-rounder - as a result of losing unrestricted free agents Tony Weaver, Maake Kemoeatu, Chester Taylor and Will Demps. "There is a formula [for designating compensatory picks], but it's a very convoluted one," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said.jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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