Roger Goodell briefed all 255 members of this year’s draft class Monday on the NFL’s stricter conduct rules. Hours later, the Chicago Bears released troubled defensive tackle Tank Johnson in a move that most likely underscored the commissioner’s message.
“We’re concerned about them as men,” Goodell said at the league’s rookie symposium in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., shortly before Johnson’s release was announced. “How do they become not only great NFL players, but how do they become great men? How do they conduct themselves appropriately for the remainder of their life, not just when they’re in the National Football League?”
Goodell spent about 20 minutes with this season’s draftees on that topic, mostly in a question-and-answer session.
Goodell released his stricter policy in April, an attempt to quell a rash of off-the-field episodes involving NFL players, notably cases involving three suspended players — Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry and Johnson.
Johnson spent time in jail this offseason after violating probation and was stopped in Arizona last week when police said he was speeding. He had blood drawn to determine if he was driving while impaired.
“He compromised the credibility of our organization,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. “We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn’t, and we have decided to move on.”
It’s a situation the NFL clearly doesn’t like, which is where the emphasis on educating players comes in.
The rookie symposium teaches incoming NFL players about how to handle finances and relationships and how to prepare for life after football. But the conduct issue is one of Goodell’s priorities, and it’s taking center stage this year.
“You could see the players were engaged,” Goodell said. “They asked very good questions, very responsive questions to things that I said.”
This offseason has been dominated by news of players getting into trouble, including Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick’s alleged involvement with dogfighting and this past weekend’s arrest of Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Fred Evans on South Beach after he allegedly fought with police officers when he refused to leave a taxi.
Then there is the ongoing Jones saga. He faces two charges in a Las Vegas strip club melee that preceded a triple shooting, and was sought by Atlanta-area police last week for questioning in a shooting after a fight at another strip club.
Goodell said fans have been “quite supportive, quite positive” about the tougher policies, and he still believes most players understand, and abide, by the rules.
“The vast majority of our players do,” Goodell said. “There’s a select few that don’t. And they get a lot of focus ... and have a negative impact on the other players in our league and the NFL in general.”
MU FOOTBALL: Tigers quarterback Chase Daniel has been named as one of 65 college football players on the preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award. The award is presented to the most outstanding college football player as voted on by head coaches, members of the Maxwell Football Club, sportswriters and sportscasters from across the country. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn won the award in 2006.
After breaking school records for passing yards and total touchdowns, Daniel earned second-team All-Big 12 Conference selection in 2006.
MU WRESTLING: Tigers wrestler and two-time national champion Ben Askren has been nominated for a 2007 ESPY Award in the category of Best Male Collegiate Athlete. The award will be presented at 8 p.m. on July 15 on ESPN.
Askren, Missouri’s first wrestling national champion, finished his senior year with a 42-0 record, including a school single-season record 29 wins by fall. Askren was 153-8 with a school career record of 91 falls.