NFL in crisis: Chief vows to put 'house in order'

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New York (AFP) - Embattled National Football League boss Roger Goodell vowed to put the sport's "house in order" amid a firestorm over the NFL's handling of off-field violence involving players.

In a bid to shore up wavering public trust after allegations of domestic violence and child abuse by players, the commissioner said America's richest sports league plans to set up a new personal conduct committee and draft new rules.

Goodell said he hoped to have those in place by the season-ending Super Bowl, which takes place in early 2015, and insisted "nothing is off the table."

"We will get our house in order," Goodell told a news conference. "The policy was not up to standard. The same mistakes can never be repeated."

Goodell said he would work to restore the integrity of the league, which has come under fire from both fans and sponsors. But he declined to step down, insisting he had the continued support of team owners.

"Mistakes happen. I am sorry for that. We are going to get this right," Godell said.

- Troubling pattern of behaviour -

Current and former NFL players took to social media to criticize Goodell's management.

"What Roger just said is the exact same thing that players say when they make a mistake and plead their case," Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith wrote on Twitter.

Goodell also promised transparency and accountability, but this did little to lessen criticism over his handling of charges swirling around Ray Rice, the running back who helped the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title in the 2012 season.

The comments were Goodell's first in more than a week about the crisis, and come after he was bombarded with criticism over the league's slow response to the abuse cases.

The commissioner initially banned Rice for two games over a February incident in a casino elevator in which Rice knocked Janay Palmer -- then his fiancee and now his wife -- unconscious.

After a video showing the actual punch was posted online last month, Rice was promptly cut by the Ravens and banned from the league indefinitely by Goodell -- a punishment the players' union is appealing.

"I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter," Goodell said. "So we had to go back and fix our policy."

Goodell reiterated Friday that no one from the league had seen the Rice video when he handed out the initial punishment, which was slammed by groups working with victims of domestic violence.

Meanwhile, the firestorm surrounding the ongoing Rice fiasco took another twist after a bomshell report cast doubt on the Ravens' immediate handling of the affair.

ESPN reported that the domestic abuse incident shows a troubling pattern of behaviour by both the Ravens and the league, including a secret campaign by the team to push for leniency for Rice from the NFL and the US justice system.

The report also alleges that coach John Harbaugh wanted to release Rice but the Ravens' top brass nixed the idea.

The Ravens released a statement debunking the report for its "inaccuracies."

- 'Tragic' -

The furor over Rice was followed by similar NFL vacillation in the cases of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy -- convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend and threatening to kill her -- and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who has been charged with child abuse in Texas after allegedly whipping his four-year-old son with a switch.

The cases have put fans of the quintessentially American sport -- and sponsors -- on edge.

Hardy played the first game of the season for the Panthers after launching an appeal of his conviction.

The Vikings had planned to welcome Peterson back to action after he missed one game.

But amid a growing public uproar, both teams negotiated deals with their players to place them on paid leave as their legal cases proceed.

Goodell called the Peterson case "tragic," saying he was "disappointed" in the Vikings star and acknowledging: "Individuals in the league make mistakes."

In the latest case, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on charges he assaulted his wife and was deactivated by the team.

Goodell said he plans to meet with NFL Players Association director DeMaurice Smith next week to discuss the new conduct policy.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller will lead an independent investigation into the NFL's handling of the Rice case, and Goodell previously announced the hiring of three domestic violence experts as senior advisers to the league.