NFL gets tough, suspends players
April 11, 2007 - 9:00 pm
NEW YORK — The punishment was aimed squarely at Adam "Pacman" Jones and Chris Henry. The message went far beyond them, to all NFL players.
In suspending Jones for the 2007 season and Henry for eight games, Commissioner Roger Goodell not only cracked down on two of the league’s most troublesome players on Tuesday, he also sent a warning to everyone:
Mess with the law and your job’s on the line.
"I must emphasize to you that this is your last opportunity to salvage your NFL career," Goodell wrote the two players, emphasizing they must end their wayward behavior to have a chance to play in the league again.
He also hit them where it hurts — their wallets. Jones, who plays for Tennessee, will forfeit his $1,292,500 salary; Henry, who plays for Cincinnati, will lose $217,500.
Jones and Henry, former teammates at West Virginia, were suspended under the old disciplinary policy.
While he was meting out penalties, Goodell also announced the league’s new, tougher personal conduct policy that will allow longer fines and suspensions for players and could penalize teams, perhaps by taking away draft picks.
"It is a privilege to represent the NFL, not a right," Goodell said. "These players and all members of our league have to make the right choices and decisions in their conduct on a consistent basis."
Jones’ off-field conduct has included 10 instances in which he was interviewed by police. The most recent took place during the NBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas.
Police recommended felony and misdemeanor charges against Jones after a fight and shooting at the Minxx strip club that paralyzed one man. Police are still investigating.
Tom Urbanski, a bouncer who was paralyzed from the waist down in the Minxx strip club shooting, felt the suspension was "a good start," said his wife, Kathy Urbanski.
The Urbanskis still want to see Jones arrested and prosecuted for his role in the incident, she said from a spinal injury rehabilitation hospital in Colorado where her husband is being treated.
"We’re confident justice will be served," she said.
Henry, one of nine Bengals arrested last season, was arrested four times in a 14-month span, resulting in two benchings by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and a two-game league suspension.
"The message, I think, is that the league office is very, very serious about conduct in the league, and that it’s important for us," said Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, who spends at least one day a week counseling his players on staying out of trouble.
"I think it’s a good message to send to everyone, not just the players, but everyone around the team."
Jones’ suspension could be longer or shorter, depending on developments in the Las Vegas case, an official with knowledge of the details of the suspension said. The official requested anonymity because the Las Vegas case is pending. It could be as short as 10 games, if Jones meets conditions set by the NFL and is cleared in a pending case in Georgia, as well in Las Vegas, where he hasn’t been charged.
Jones’ attorney, Manny Arora, declined comment.
Jones’ mother, Deborah Jones, said: "I just pray that this can be changed. This is not fair for him. It’s just not fair."
Goodell’s hard line could be trouble for Chicago’s Tank Johnson, currently serving four months in jail for violating probation after police raided his home and found six unregistered firearms. League officials said Goodell plans to meet with Johnson when he’s released from jail.
While stiff, Jones’ punishment is not unprecedented. Approximately two dozen players have been suspended for a year or longer, going back to 1963. That’s when Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended for one season by Pete Rozelle for gambling.
Last season, Miami’s Ricky Williams sat out the year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Cincinnati’s Odell Thurman was suspended for four games for skipping a drug test and then was banned for the entire season after pleading no contest following a drunken driving arrest.
The Titans and Bengals supported the latest suspensions.
"While we regret the circumstances that called for it, it’s good for both Chris and the Bengals to have the matter resolved," Lewis said. "Our team will move forward, and now it is up to Chris to acquire a more mature understanding of his responsibilities as a player for the Bengals and a representative of the NFL."
Goodell and Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, met with a group of players in February and again last week and agreed the league needed a stronger disciplinary policy.
"The NFL Players Association and the Player Advisory Council believe that these are steps that the commissioner needs to take, and we support the policy," Upshaw said. "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."
That includes Jones, the sixth overall pick in the 2005 draft.
Despite his problems off the field during two seasons with the Titans, he could be reinstated before season’s end if he adheres to conditions set by the NFL. They include no further involvement with law enforcement; counseling, education and treatment under league and court-ordered programs; follows restrictions on his activities agreed to with the Titans; and a community-service program submitted to the league for review and approval.
"We respect this decision and are confident this is in the best interest of the league and the team," Titans owner Bud Adams said. "We are hopeful that it will achieve the goals of disciplining the player and eventually enabling him to return to the field of play."
But Jones still has cases pending in Las Vegas and Georgia, as well as a tough commissioner.
Review-Journal writer Brian Haynes contributed to this report.