Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The New NFL Conduct Policy and You

The biggest news in the NFL world is the suspensions of Pacman Jones and Chris Henry and Commissioner Roger Goodell's new league conduct policy. The policy has two possibly controversial aspects, the first of which pertains to when players can be punished:

"It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime," the new policy says. "Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime."

Some may have a problem with this, and I can't comment on the legality of the policy, seeing as how I'm not a lawyer, but at its core, the policy rests on the fact that no one has a right to play in the NFL. Employers can expect certain conduct from their employees and it is not unreasonable for the league to expect its players to avoid the type of situations that lead to felony charges. And don't expect the NFLPA to help Pacman Jones fight for his right to make it rain:

"The NFL Players Association and the Player Advisory Council have been discussing this issue for several months," Upshaw said. "We believe that these are steps that the commissioner needs to take and we support the policy. It is important that players in violation of the policy will have the opportunity and the support to change their conduct and earn their way back."

The new policy won't just effect the way players conduct themselves either. It will also have an effect on the way teams evaluate players. Aside from the fact that players with a history of behavior problems may end up missing large chunks of their teams' games, making them akin to a player with a history of injury problems, Goodell has added in another incentive for teams to avoid behaviorally challenged players: punishing teams for their players run ins with the law. He didn't expand on what would happen to teams, but most articles seem to think he'll end up taking draft picks away. So not only would a team lose a player to a suspension, they'd also lose the most precious commodity in the NFL.

What will the effect of this policy be on the Vikings? Well, for one, don't expect to see Brandon Meriweather in Purple. Aside from that, it will likely only serve to harden a policy the Vikings have already implemented. Following the Randy Moss trade and the Sex Boat Incident, the team rolled out a pretty strict behavioral policy and rid themselves of many of the players making the wrong kind of headlines, such as Daunte Culpepper, Fred Smoot and Koren Robinson.

That doesn't mean they'll get rid of a player upon the first sign of trouble, however. Bryant "the Giver" McKinnie and Dwight "Wisconsin Women" Smith are still on the roster, with McKinnie receiving an extension and Smith being resigned. What set them apart from the others is that McKinnie and Smith managed to avoid any further trouble after a relatively minor incident: Culpepper had a publicized falling out with Childress, Smoot had problems with making meetings on time and had a drop off in performance and while Robinson's offense was his first with the Vikings, it was a repeat of previous alcohol related issues. What this implies is that from here on out, the Vikings will tolerate a minor incident, but will not tolerate any further mistakes. And if they stick to that policy, they should be able to avoid having the Commissioner step in, something that all Vikings' fans should hope never happens.

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