Updated: 7:30 p.m.
PALM BEACH, Fla. - On a day the Bengals received a league-high four compensatory draft picks, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said here Monday that he remains encouraged by the progress of Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman and that he's operating on the same timetable for reinstatement.
According to Bengals president Mike Brown, that timetable is mid-April.
The Bengals and AFC North rival Ravens received four extra picks, including a late third-rounder courtesy of left guard Eric Steinbach's move to the Browns. The Bengals, hoping to also get a fifth-rounder, ended up getting a sixth-rounder and two seventh-rounders, giving them 10 total selections in the draft.
But don't look for a trade. Brown said the club is inclined to keep the picks barring a blockbuster offer.
"Until somebody presents us with some overwhelmingly attractive deal, we're just content to have the picks," Brown said. "We'll bring in some young guys. I don't know that they'll step in right away but check in a year or so and you'll find they are contributors, I'm sure."
The last time the Bengals had a comensatory pick so high, they got it when Takeo Spikes went to the Bills and it turned out to be linebacker Landon Johnson at No. 96, a guy that ended up making 53 starts and playing in every game until he went to Carolina a few weeks ago.
Addressing the media on the first day of the NFL annual meetings, Goodell's concern for the nation's economic picture and how it affects the impending negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement dominated his news conference.
"The economics of operating a team is on the thin margins," Goodell said.
Goodell's words came two years after Brown and Bills owner Ralph Wilson were the only two owners to vote against the current CBA because of a deal they thought was too rich for the players. On Monday, Goodell vindicated them.
But Goodell has forbidden the owners to talk about the CBA publicly and he declined comment.
"When you shrink the margins, at some point in time the agreement becomes untenable. We have to be very cautous here and the players need to recognize those risks and the tremendous costs," Goodell said. " We knew when we entered this CBA that the pendulum would swing the way of the players."
The specter of a season without a salary cap in 2010 looms if a new CBA can't be reached. Asked to respond to NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw's challenge that the players will never play under a cap again if there isn't one in '10, Goodell didn't and said, "I'm looking for solutions."
"I think owners in pro sports are starting to understand you can't buy championships," Goodell said. "Particularly in the NFL where it is so important to build through the draft with a team concept. It's a concern, but not something I think is realistic in the NFL."
He also addressed player conduct and while the issue doesn't headline the week like last year, he said the league still has a way to go.
The Bengals have had just one player arrested since Goodell unleashed his tougher policy last April, and linebacker A.J. Nicholson was released hours after the domestic violence charge back in May.
"As far as we know he's adhering to the (requirements) and if he keeps on it he'll be restored to the roster and that's what our goal is," Brown said. "My understanding is that one way or another it will be determined in the middle of April."
In stark contrast to Thurman is Titans cornerback Pacman Jones. Jones, who has had several more brushes with the law than Thurman, is the subject of intense trade rumors to Dallas even though Goodell has yet to reinstate him.
"Dallas knows the consquences and the status of the player. I don't feel any obligation to do more than I said, to reconsider his status," Goodell said. "Clubs that have contacted me, I have made no commitment. I said I will make an evalation or decision by start of training camp."
Brown defends Goodell when it comes to Thurman.
"The comissioner has to assert discipline and I'm not going to second guess that," Brown said. "When you look at the league as a whole the league is doing better in its behavior with players than before the commissioner stepped up like he did a year ago with more discipline."
Goodell hinted that the Chiefs proposal to ban hair that obscures numbers and names could be tabled. He said he made a pledge to Upshaw that he would discuss the matter with him after the meetings in order to get the players' perspective.
That proposal and other competition committee matters are going to be proposed Tuesday morning. Committee co-chairmen Rich McKay and Jeff Fisher said if the hair ban is tabled, it may still be voted on before the season.
With a proposal for a defensive radio helmet looking like it's going to pass, Fisher said the expectation is it will be worn by a three-down player who only comes off the field because of injury. Same with the backup player and they can't be on the field at the same time or else it's a five-yard illegal substitution penalty.
"That's why the backup has to report to the umpire each time he comes into the game," McKay said. "If you get into it with situational players, you're going to have problems."
The Bengals won't go prime time for the second straight year on Opening Weekend. The Super Bowl champion Giants host the Redskins on Thursday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m on NBC, followed by Chicago at Indianapolis on Sunday at 8:15 p.m. on NBC, and Minnesota at Green Bay and Denver at Oakland, an ESPN doubleheader on Monday at 7 and 10:15 p.m., respectively.
The agent for Chad Johnson was also keeping an eye out for Brown, as well as executive vice president Katie Blackburn, director of business development Troy Blackburn, and head coach Marvin Lewis. Drew Rosenhaus said he would continue to tell them of Johnson's desire to be traded.
"I have a good dialogue with those guys," said Rosenhaus, who has no doubt heard plenty that they don't plan to trade Johnson.
The compensatory picks are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and post-season honors. The Redskins, who lost four free agents and signed one, got the 96th pick this time. The Falcons, at 98, and the Ravens, at 99 after losing Adalius Thomas and three others, pick behind the Bengals.
Along with Steinbach, the Bengals lost backups in safety Kevin Kaesviharn, tight end Tony Stewart, wide receiver Kelley Washington and quarterback Anthony Wright. The only free-agent signing that counted was defensive tackle Michael Myers.
The Bengals had just one compensatory pick in 2004, when they had 11 total. The extras came with the trade of running back Corey Dillon to New England (second-rounder Madieu Williams), the trade for cornerback Deltha O'Neal (fourth-rounder Robert Geathers), and the trade with St. Louis for another fourth-rounder in Stacy Andrews.
Another proposal that looks headed to a tabling is the re-seeding of the playoffs. The present system, which automatically gives a home game to division winners, came under fire last season when some teams that had locked up home games rested many of their players against teams still in the playoff chase.
But the proposal, which seeds No. 3 through No. 6 on purely record (the division winners with the two best records get byes), is taking heat for trespassing on the sanctity of the division title.
Colts president Bill Polian, a member of the competition committee, admitted he voted for the proposal in committee but doesn't feel strongly about it.
"It's an owners' issue. There are strong reasons both ways," Polian said. "There are people who feel strongly both ways."
Polian is in the tough AFC South but he says, "We don't make rules for given years. Hopefully we make rules that stand a good long time."
Polian and Fisher, the Titans head coach, were involved in the major play that spurred the proposal, the Titans victory in the season finale over the Colts. With the Colts, division in hand, putting many of their starters on the bench, Tennessee won and made the playoffs.
"Other than Peyton (Manning), I don't think we rested anyone," Polian said. "If recall correctly, we had eight or nine players that couldn't play no matter what."
Fisher said there is really no solution because it is up to each individual team to handle it the way they see it.