NASHVILLE – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell again acknowledged that he is "concerned" with growing speculation about Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's involvement in a dogfighting ring in Virginia.
That concern quickly could change to all-out anger if Vick is directly linked to the case, a source said Tuesday.
Goodell and Vick met in late April after news surfaced of a raid on a home Vick owned in Virginia. At the time of the raid, material for training dogs to fight and an actual fighting ring were seized, leading to an investigation that has turned up other materials, such as pedigree papers, Internet messages and accusations by investigators that there is eyewitness proof Vick was at matches.
During the meeting with Goodell, Vick denied any knowledge of the dogfighting at his property and said he was not involved in any way. At the time, Vick said his family and friends were participating without his knowledge and that he never went to the home. Reports out of Virginia since have contradicted Vick's assertion that he never was there.
That has led to growing concern by the commissioner.
"If (Vick) is lying to (Goodell), it's going to be a big problem," a source said.
The NFL has been in contact with Surry County Commonwealth Attorney Gerald Poindexter about the case. As he has publicly, Poindexter cautioned the NFL against moving too fast in assessing any blame.
On Monday, Poindexter and the Surry County Sheriff's office issued a statement that no indictments had been filed yet and that the investigation into the matter was ongoing. The statement came despite comments last week from Kathy Strouse, an investigator with Animal Control in the city of Chesapeake, indicating that Poindexter had enough evidence to issue indictments.
Federal authorities have become involved in the case as well and the investigation could be passed on to a state grand jury, which then would decide whether to issue indictments.
MORE ON CRIME
Among the materials NFL owners viewed Tuesday during one-day meetings at the Loews Hotel were reports indicating incidents of arrests of players had doubled over a three-year period from 2004 to 2006. According to one owner, there were 24 arrests in 2004 and the number jumped to 48 last year.
That information has strengthened the backing for Goodell's upgraded personal conduct policy, which went into effect earlier this offseason.
"The only way the players are going to react is if they are taken off the field," Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said. "That's what happens with the drug policies. They don't get in as much trouble with that stuff because they can't play if they do. With the conduct, if we just fine them, it doesn't affect them as much."
The information also seemingly has strengthened the resolve of some teams to rid themselves of problem players, even if it means that players will file grievances.
On Monday, the Cincinnati Bengals cut linebacker A.J. Nicholson after he pleaded not guilty to charges that he hit his girlfriend on Friday. She since has tried to recant the story, but the Bengals still cut Nicholson, who was in trouble multiple times while at Florida State.
Nicholson's agent is expected to file a grievance stating that he was not cut for performance-related issues, which is what's allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said Tuesday that the league and the NFL Players Association should look into loosening the restrictions as to why a player can be cut.
"The union has already listened to a lot of what we're talking about when it comes to conduct, so I think they'll be willing to listen to this as well," McNair said.
Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney acknowledged a report by Profootballtalk.com that a member of the team's coaching staff inadvertently had sent an email message to other NFL front office employees featuring pornographic images.
"I don't go for that," Rooney said in a subdued tone. He said that he planned to deal with the matter when he returned to Pittsburgh and that his son Art already had spoken with offensive line coach Larry Zierlein. Zierlein reportedly relayed the message around the NFL after receiving it from Steelers pro personnel director Doug Whaley.
"It just came up before the (past weekend)," said Rooney, who was not aware that Whaley was involved. "I don't know exactly what we're going to do about it at this point."
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday that neither man was expected to be punished by the team.
NFL DRAFT TALK
Goodell said he spoke with members of the league's competition committee and received a recommendation that the 15-minute time between draft picks in the first round and the 10 minutes between picks in the second round be reduced.
Goodell, who wearily noted that the NFL set a record for the longest-lasting first round and overall draft in league history this year, has authority to make those changes and discussed them with owners Tuesday. The time reduction also could be part of an eventual effort to move part of the draft to prime time.
"The draft has become a spectacular offseason event," Goodell said. "We had 40 million viewers for the draft, and we feel like we have a chance to grow that audience even more."
PACMAN, TANK DECISIONS DUE
Goodell said he has yet to make any final decisions on whether to uphold the year-long suspension for Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones or how long to suspend Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson.
Goodell said the decision on Jones likely will take longer because he is awaiting paperwork in the case. As for Johnson, Goodell said he should be able to make a decision relatively soon. There has been speculation that Johnson, who served a 60-day jail term, will receive anywhere from a two- to eight-game suspension.
NFL, UNION TO AID RETIRED PLAYERS
The NFL announced that it would be coordinating efforts with the NFL Players Association, the NFL Retired Players Association and other agencies with ties to the league to aid retired players in need of medical assistance.
"All of us in the NFL want to help former players that now find themselves in need of medical care through no fault of their own," Goodell said.
During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, numerous former players, including Mike Ditka, were critical of the NFL and NFLPA for not helping players in dire need of care.
Goodell said the alliance was not in response to those complaints but is an attempt to make sure all efforts are coordinated.
Goodell spoke with owners to outline policies regarding concussion injuries, including the effort to establish baseline testing for all players at the beginning of each season to help monitor subsequent injuries and recovery.
Goodell said the policy also would include a "whistle blower" system so that anyone could report if a doctor is pressured into returning a player to the field before the player is ready.