Three-strikes rule would clean up the NFL


In this installment of Third and Short, our experts play commissioner. Should the NFL ban repeat offenders of its player conduct laws? Should every league employee be held accountable for conduct? And should Adam "Pacman" Jones be allowed to play in the NFL again?

Jeffri Chadiha: Should the NFL have a "three-strikes-and-you're-out" policy when it comes to player conduct?

Yes. When a small group of players broached this possibility with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last spring, they clearly realized the importance of creating a less tolerant atmosphere for repeat screwups in the league. They understood that you have to draw a line so definitive that even perpetual problem children like suspended Tennessee Titans cornerback Pacman Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry get the point.

And if the league had such a rule, it would have far fewer headline-grabbing headaches.

The reality is that the NFL that Goodell inherited when he succeeded Paul Tagliabue in 2006 is becoming a vastly different product. Players still don't have guaranteed salaries like those enjoyed by their counterparts in the NBA and Major League Baseball, but they do make substantially more than they once did. That means there is a greater likelihood for more knuckleheads showing up on NFL rosters. I'm specifically alluding to younger players who think that fat bank accounts and plenty of spare time give them the right to do whatever they please.

If we've learned anything from the problems of Jones, Henry and former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael
Vick -- who currently is incarcerated in federal prison for running a dog-fighting operation with a trio of long-time pals -- it's that bad judgment often can lead to even worse judgment. So the best way to get the attention of athletes who can't walk the straight and narrow is by alerting them to the consequences of their actions. If they can't become better citizens after one or two run-ins with the law, that's immaturity. But if they can't turn their lives around after that point, then they simply need a new line of work.

Bill Williamson: Should owners, coaches and front-office types be held to the same conduct standards as players?

They should be and they are.

When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell unveiled his player conduct policy last year, it was duly noted in the 32 facilities around the league. It wasn't all about the players. It was about everyone in the league. Goodell's policy must be abided by all employees of every franchise. If the college scouting director gets clipped for driving under the influence, he gets the same type of punishment levied to the star cornerback who gets busted for DUI.

In today's NFL, everyone is in the spotlight, and thus everyone has a responsibility to the league. A team employee being arrested is bad for business no matter what that person's role might be. On the day Goodell introduced the policy, a high-ranking AFC team official said his entire office was surprised and on edge because they expected the contents to be directed only at players. Yet, the same official said that he thought the policy's blanket coverage provided an excellent reminder to team employees that no one is above the expectations of Goodell's goal for a clean, well-behaved league.

Thus far, there have been few publicized enforcements of the policy concerning nonplayers. The highest-profile cases have involved assistant coaches. Dallas quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson was suspended last September for five games and fined $100,000 for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Last December, Detroit defensive line coach Joe Cullen was suspended for one game and fined $20,000 after being caught driving naked at a fast food restaurant drive-thru and then being arrested for driving under the influence the next week.

Wilson and Cullen's suspensions had to be eye-openers to nonplayers around the league. While the media spotlight is and always will be on offending players, any person with the NFL shield or a team logo on his or her pay check is subject to the same scrutiny. It's only fair. If the players have to live by Goodell's rules so should their coaches and everyone else who works under the same roof.

Matt Mosley: Why is Jerry Jones the only owner pursuing Pacman Jones?

Jones can't help himself when it comes to taking a shot on a player on whom everyone else has given up. The example he always brings up is defensive end Charles Haley, who helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in the 1990s. The 49ers didn't find many takers when they were looking to unload the talented but troubled player in August 1992. The stories about his anger were infamous, and the 49ers didn't exactly try to prevent them from leaking to the press.

Former Cowboys director of scouting Larry Lacewell once told me that a note from the 49ers regarding Haley sat on his desk for four days before he took it back to Jones' office. Realizing that Haley had played a large role in the 49ers' success under Bill Walsh, Jones offered second and third-round draft picks for the former James Madison player.

Haley thrived in Dallas, and Jones has always kept that in mind when deciding whether to take chances on players with checkered pasts. Like several other owners, he passed on Randy Moss in the 1998 draft. When he signed Terrell Owens in 2006, he had Moss in mind.

In Pacman, the Cowboys owner sees a supremely talented player who can be obtained for a relatively low cost. It's unlikely the Cowboys would find a starting cornerback with rare return skills in the fifth or sixth round, which is the likely compensation in the trade.

Jones has a great deal of faith in his player development program, which is headed up by former NFL running back Calvin Hill. Last season the Cowboys signed another player with a well-documented rap sheet, defensive tackle Tank Johnson.

Johnson hasn't made it through a full season yet, but he sort of faded into the background of a team that includes tabloid magnets like T.O. and Tony Romo. The bottom line is that Jerry has never been afraid to take a risk -- especially when the price tag is so cheap.

He knows that Pacman needs the Cowboys a lot more than they need him. And that's not a bad position to be in.