Goodell proposes plan making cheating penalties easier to impose

Updated: March 7, 2008, 5:07 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

With confidence in NFL rules oversight at low ebb, commissioner Roger Goddell is proposing enacting easier-to-impose cheating penalties as a deterrent for future SpyGate scandals, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

In an article on its Web site, the newspaper cited a memo sent to the league's competition committee Thursday and said the proposals included a change in rules that would allow league officials to make unannounced inspections of locker rooms, press boxes and in-game communications equipment.

The measure was among a series of stricter rules changes Goodell wants to enact before next season "to preserve the integrity of the game" and "maintain public confidence" in the sport, according to the memo.

"As the Commissioner and Competition Committee, we must take every appropriate step to safeguard the integrity of the NFL," Goodell wrote. "We have already taken some positive and significant actions this past season, but we must go further to ensure fair competition amongst our 32 teams and maintain public confidence in our game."

Goodell pledged stricter penalties for competition-rules violations and proposed a plan requiring team employees to give the league reports of "actual or suspected" violations.

Another measure would place each franchise's main owner, top executive and head coach under the threat of league discipline to stipulate that they have complied with the rules and reported violations.

The commissioner also endorsed a proposal to permit one defensive player per team to be connected to a coach on the sideline during games via a wireless device, and called upon the committee to conduct "a thorough review" of all competitive rules and practices.

"I think there are a number of steps that should be taken in advance of the start of the 2008 season to improve and strengthen the enforcement procedures designed to preserve the competitive integrity of the game," Goodell wrote, adding that "too often, competitive violations have gone unpunished because conclusive proof of the violation was lacking."

Last month, Sen. Arlen Specter questioned the quality of the NFL's investigation of the New England Patriots' videotaping practices and Goodell's decision to destroy video evidence uncovered by the league earlier this season.

Goodell fined New England coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and docked the team $250,000 and a first-round draft pick after the Patriots were accused of videotaping New York Jets defensive coaches as they signaled to players during the Sept. 9 season opener.

Specter, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also cited NFL officials indicating the Patriots taped Pittsburgh Steelers' coaches during AFC championship games at the end of the 2001 and 2004 seasons, and during regular-season games in '02 and '04.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.