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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Goodell likely won't wait for outcome of Talib trial if he follows NFL conduct policy



Aqib Talib's attorneys and the Bucs hope the indicted cornerback will carry a presumption of innocence when he meets with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Tuesday.

But there is nothing in the league's personal conduct policy that says not being convicted of a crime is enough to avoid discipline.

Quite the contrary. Criminal activity is clearly punishable by the league, but the standard of conduct for persons employed by the NFL is  considerably higher.

Talib is scheduled to stand trial next spring on charges of assault with a deadly weapon stemming from his involvement in a shooting in Garland, Texas. He has vigorously denied the charges through his attorneys. But the possible criminal behavior is not what is being judged by Goodell. That's better left to the legal system.

Talib was suspended the first game last season for assaulting a St. Petersburg cab driver in 2009. In his latest brush with the law, two guns registered to Talib were involved in a potentially dangerous shooting incident in a quiet neighborhood outside Dallas.

Check out how the NFL personal conduct policy is crafted in the collective bargaining agreement.

"While criminal activity is clearly outside the scope of permissible conduct, and persons who engage in criminal activity will be subject to discipline, the standard of conduct for persons employed in the NFL is considerably higher. It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime. Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful. Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime. Discipline may be imposed in any of the following circumstances:

•Criminal offenses including, but not limited to, those involving: the use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse; theft and other property crimes; sex offenses; obstruction or resisting arrest; disorderly conduct; fraud; racketeering; and money laundering;

•Criminal offenses relating to steroids and prohibited substances, or substances of abuse;

•Violent or threatening behavior among employees, whether in or outside the workplace;

•Possession of a gun or other weapon in any workplace setting, including but not limited to stadiums, team facilities, training camp, locker rooms, team planes, buses, parking lots, etc., or unlawful possession of a weapon outside of the workplace;

•Conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person; and

•Conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.

That gives Goodell a broad interpretation to determine whether a player has put at risk the reputation of the NFL. Certainly, multiple off-field incidents that turned violent involving Talib will not help his situation under any circumstance.

Talib's attorneys believe once Goodell has the facts of the case, he will not suspend the Bucs cornerback. But Tuesday's meeting may not be as much about due process and the law as it is about following the league's personal conduct policy. In the end, that's what Goodell has to determine.

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 12:04am]


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