FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded Thursday night to criticisms by NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, who contended a double standard exists when it comes to the league doling out punishments.
In comments to ESPN earlier Thursday, Smith specifically addressed the delayed discipline of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has yet to be punished by Goodell after being arrested in March for allegedly operating a vehicle while intoxicated and while in the possession of prescription drugs and $29,000 in cash. Irsay was formally charged Friday.
"The personal conduct policy applies to commissioners, owners, players, coaches," Goodell told reporters at the New England Patriots' team facility. "It applies to all of us. We all have a responsibility to do things the right way. There are several players that we haven't taken any action on, either.
"We like to get the facts, we like to be thorough and we like to understand them. Charges were just filed last week. I don't believe there's a credibility gap." Goodell was at Foxborough to speak at a football safety clinic for mothers, a program aimed at furthering safer play at all levels of the game.
Smith pointed toward Goodell's swift and sometimes harsh action when dealing with troubled players in the past. "The commissioner understands that there is a significant credibility gap that exists in the National Football League," Smith said. "What troubles our players is the speed and the deliberateness of the punishment that they have seen in the past when it comes to a player.
"There isn't the same speed or deliberate action when it comes to an owner, and that's a problem." Goodell said the league has yet to collect all the facts on Irsay's case. "You can judge us when we make our final determinations, which you undoubtedly will, and so will everybody else," he said. "That's fair. But don't make judgments until we've had an opportunity to do what's in the best interest of everyone, which is getting the facts. Everybody wants process. DeMaurice Smith talks about process all the time.
"The process is important." The safety program organized by the Patriots comes more than a week after a group of retired players filed another lawsuit against the league, accusing team doctors and trainers of supplying them with powerful painkillers and other drugs that allowed them to keep playing despite injuries, but led to serious complications later in life.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of more than 500 former players, charges the NFL with placing profits ahead of players' health. Goodell addressed the league's continued role in the education and pursuit of safer play.
"We want you to learn the right techniques from the moment you play, regardless if you play one year, two years, or if you play flag football," he said. "I think our popularity, the platform we have, gives us an opportunity and it's part of our responsibility to make the game safer, not only at the NFL level to protect our players, but also at every other level of football, and frankly, sports in general."
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said the health and safety of his players have never been greater in his 20-plus years of owning the team. "I know I'm a better human being from having played the game, and when I played, it wasn't as safe as it is now," he said. "So, I'm a big believer in the lessons you learn in football."
Kraft also was asked about the arraignment Wednesday of former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez, who pleaded not guilty to two more counts of first-degree murder stemming from a 2012 double homicide. Hernandez already is facing charges for the 2013 slaying of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez was released by the team following his arrest last summer.
"A year ago when he was arrested, we cut him from the team, I made a statement," said Kraft, who at the time said the organization was "duped" if the accusations were true. "I was very clear about it, and you can go back and read what I said then, and that's the way that I continuously feel."
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