Johnson suspended for eight games; can be reduced to six
NEW YORK -- Tank Johnson is the latest NFL player to feel the impact of commissioner Roger Goodell's crackdown on off-field misbehavior.
The Chicago Bears' defensive tackle was suspended Monday for the first eight games of the 2007 NFL season, the third player sidelined this offseason under Goodell's toughened personal-conduct policy.
Johnson, who recently spent two months in the Cook County jail for violating probation on a gun charge, joins Tennessee's Pacman Jones, suspended for the entire season, and Cincinnati's Chris Henry, out eight games. Jones, who's appealing his suspension, has been arrested five times and had 10 interviews with police since being drafted in April 2005. Henry is one of nine Bengals arrested last year -- one of the reasons Goodell, with the approval of the players union and newly established players' council, established his "get tough" policy.
Johnson, who will be allowed to attend training camp and play in the preseason, seemed to accept his punishment.
"I think it's an opportunity for me to move forward," he said in Lake Forest, Ill., where the Bears are conducting offseason workouts.
"It's not my call to say whether it's fair or unfair. But Roger Goodell's a fair man; I know that. He took everything into consideration that he and I talked about, and what he came up with is what he came up with it. If it's in the best interest of the NFL, then I'm all for it, too."
Goodell said the suspension could be reduced to six games if Johnson has no further involvement with law enforcement and undergoes counseling.
"I am looking at it like a six-game suspension, because I definitely am very confident that I'm capable of doing everything that he's asked me to do and more," Johnson said.
If the suspension lasts the entire eight games, Johnson stands to lose $255,000, based on his salary for next season of $510,000.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he expects Johnson to abide by the conditions that could shorten his suspension.
"I have faith in Tank," Smith said. "Tank has been a different guy for a long time. I think he's demonstrated that, and this is just another step toward getting him back on the field and getting this past behind him."
After a May 16 meeting with Goodell, Johnson said he wants to become the NFL's "Man of the Year," the player honored for being its best citizen.
Last December, police raided the 300-pound defensive tackle's suburban Chicago home and found six unregistered firearms -- a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge.
That charge stemmed from Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Two days after last December's raid, Willie B. Posey, Johnson's bodyguard, was shot and killed in an early-morning fight while he and Johnson were at a Chicago nightclub.
Johnson was suspended by the Bears for one game for being at the club. He played in the Super Bowl as the Bears lost to Indianapolis.
In March, Johnson began his two-month jail stint for violating his probation. Last month, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge stemming from the December raid as part of a deal with prosecutors that kept him from serving more time in jail. He was ordered to serve 45 days, which he served concurrently with the sentence for violating his probation.
He said Monday he bears no ill will toward the league officials who decided to suspend him.
"I feel like if this is what they feel is the sanction that is correct, then it's in the best interest of the National Football League," Johnson said. "I'm a proud member of the National Football League, and I want to be that for a long time."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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NFL'S ZERO TOLERANCE
Roger Goodell is cracking down on the player misconduct that's plagued his term as NFL commissioner, suspending Tennessee's Adam "Pacman" Jones (right) for the 2007 season and Cincinnati's Chris Henry and Tank Johnson (left) for eight games. Henry and Johnson have since been reinstated after serving their penalties.
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