PHOENIX – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is not quite ready to drop the hammer on some of the league's problem players, but it won't be long.
On Monday, Goodell talked about the stronger personal conduct policy he will discuss with NFL owners and coaches Tuesday at the league meetings. The policy is expected to include provisions for a suspension of up to one year, Goodell said.
The policy is also supposed to allow Goodell and the league to act upon repeat offenders without having to wait for the judicial system to run its course. That is a vital difference between what Goodell wants and how predecessor Paul Tagliabue handled the conduct policy.
Moreover, Goodell said he expects to make decisions on several players, including Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones before the NFL draft on April 28-29. Jones, who could face three criminal charges in connection with a melee and subsequent shooting in Las Vegas following the NBA All-Star Game last month, will reportedly be suspended for one year by the league.
It was clear from Goodell's tone that the issue of conduct was front and center for him at this meeting. The strengthened policy is expected to include provisions to deal with not only players, but also include a team element to the discipline. Even more, Goodell said the policy would apply to all employees of the league – even him.
"I assure you, it will be stronger," Goodell said.
Several owners were glad to hear it, saying it was necessary for the league to take a central role in creating penalties and standards.
"There needs to be more accountability among the players and there are standards that need to be set," Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. "I don't think the problem is out of control, but you have to act before it gets to that point. I think we have a small minority of the players who are having problems and we need to nip it in the bud before it gets worse."
Goodell, who sees improving the education and guidance programs the league has for young players as a possible solution to the misconduct, agreed with that assessment.
"I don't like it," Goodell said. "It's a bad reflection on the National Football League … It's not what the National Football League represents. I don't believe it represents our players. It's a very few numbers of players. They are tainting the league and tainting other players.
"It's a complicated issue. People understand the age group of the young men we have in our league. I think people understand it, but I probably understand it less than most."
That was tough talk for the commissioner, who figures to face a number of obstacles. One of the first hurdles is disciplining players before the judicial system runs its course, Goodell said.
"It is an issue we have to be careful with. We are sensitive to it. To some extent, what we're looking at is if there are a number of players that repeat offenses. That will be something that our clubs and players feel at some point we need to act before the judicial system acts," Goodell said.
Goodell said he would have a hard time controlling whether teams took chances on problem players, other than through peer pressure.
"That's one thing I can't control," Goodell said. "The [NFL] shield is the most important thing for me and everyone in that room [of owners]. When they select players, coaches and owners, they should do that in the best possible fashion."