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Roger Goodell, NFL owners discuss conduct policy changes

Roger Goodell, NFL owners discuss conduct policy changes
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a press conference in New York City. (Andrew Burton, Getty Images)

NEW YORK -- Football seemed to be a secondary issue when the NFL held its annual fall meeting of team owners.

Instead, most of the focus was on player conduct and finding a solution to the issue that recently cast the league in an ugly light.

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After approximately 9 1/2 hours of meetings Wednesday at Manhattan's Conrad Hotel, commissioner Roger Goodell took the podium and estimated that about half the meeting focused on domestic violence and future changes to the player-conduct policy.

Goodell did not announce any major changes, but he reiterated that all league personnel with continue with education on domestic violence and personal conduct.

"We had a tremendous focus today on our approach to social responsibility," Goodell said in his opening statement. "We educated the owners and other executives in the room today. That education will continue with all personnel starting this month. I think the direction was very good, I found it informative, obviously educational, which is the intent of this meeting, and we also spent a great deal of time talking about our policies, what would potential changes to our policies (be) and how would we make them more effective, how would we make decisions on a more timely basis."

The meeting began with the league approving Terry and Kim Pegula as the owners of the Buffalo Bills, then shifted to domestic violence and personal conduct. During that portion of the meeting, Goodell and the owners listened to a presentation on domestic violence and then began discussions on potential changes to the policy, including how to apply discipline.

With the help of advisers including former Manhattan prosecutor Lisa Friel, Goodell and the owners watched a 40-minute video presentation given by Joe Ehrmann. A former linebacker, Ehrmann played from 1973-82 with the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions before becoming a motivational speaker. In the video, he encouraged intervention to prevent abuse.

"Think about the role you have to raise up a generation of men that are going to have the clarity, have the moral courage to call out other men," Ehrmann said in the video.

Wednesday was the first time Goodell spoke at a press conference since Sept. 19. He discussed at length plans to overhaul the personal-conduct policy in the wake of off-field incidents involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald.

The session included passionate reaction among owners about whether to remove a player from the field after an arrest or wait until the legal process plays out.

"I think there were strong feelings," Goodell said. "Obviously they understand the balance between due process and protecting the integrity of the game. Sometimes that puts you in a difficult position when there is strong evidence to the fact that a violation occurred. The question is whether there should be some type of internal step like a paid leave, allowing the individual to focus on the legal issues, the legal challenges, their family and whatever the issue may be and allow the team to continue to focus on football.

"There was a lot of discussion about that, and a lot of it was how based on the time that it takes to do that, how long would it take to get that information."

Goodell's handling of the Rice case drew strong criticism, but an Associated Press-GfK Poll released Wednesday showed that 66 percent of fans think he should he should keep his job. Many owners have expressed support for Goodell, who admitted his mistakes and recently circulated a memo about re-examining player conduct.

"I was very honest and open with them," Goodell said. "We went immediately into other aspects of what we're trying to do to make sure we have the right policy in place to do the right kind of things to make sure we come to the right conclusion. It's my job to admit mistakes, but more importantly, it's my job to go and figure out and how we're never going to have those mistakes never occur again."

As for a timeline, Goodell originally said that he hoped to get the changes in place by the Super Bowl but that it could happen sooner following further meetings that also would include input from the NFL Players Association.

"We're working consistently on this, non-stop on this," Goodell said. "We continued our meetings with outside experts who we hope can give us perspective, whether it's the military or law enforcement, former players. So we're continuing our work with the intention to do this as quickly as possible but most important, we want to make sure it's thorough, it's right."

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The topic of a team relocating to Los Angeles also was discussed. The league has not had a team there since 1994, and possible candidates include the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers, but Goodell did not get into any specifics.

"I've always been reluctant until we have a solution," Goodell said. "There are reasons for optimism, but that can change quickly also. Until we have a solution that we're all comfortable with, I'm not going to make any comment."

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