Updated: 5:25 p.m.
HenryPHOENIX, Arix. — The speculation of a Chris Henry suspension ranges from four to eight games, but all that could end by April 13. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, slated to meet with Henry and Titans cornerback Pacman Jones on Tuesday, said he hopes to have a decision within 10 days of the hearings.
As the league's annual meetings broke Wednesday afternoon here at the Arizona Biltmore, Goodell said he hopes to have a revised player conduct policy before the April 28-29 draft.
After discussing the league's crime spree with owners and head coaches Tuesday, Goodell emerged Wednesday in agreement with teams like the Bengals that clubs should have more say in discipline.
"I'm not looking for the sole responsibility. I like the idea of the clubs to take greater control of their clubs and actions of their employees, including their players," said Goodell, acknowledging that NFL Players Association chief Gene Upshaw needs some reassurances.
"The thing that Gene wants to assure is that there is consistency," Goodell said. "That the policies and discipline are applied consistently across all 32 teams, but also within the team so competitive issues may not be influenced."
Upshaw is concerned that star players will be treated differently than backups. Goodell did say there will be some cases that fall under the team's jurisdiction and others under his.
Goodell said the face-to-face meetings with the players facing "potential suspensions" makes it "easier to get their perspective and understanding so that I can look them in the eye, and let them know how important this is to the league."
Goodell has already suspended Henry for two games last season after his first two arrests—possession of marijuana and a felony charge—were resolved in court. He's waiting for Goodell to rule on his last two arrests before the traffic violations—reckless driving and supplying alcohol to minors—after they were resolved in January.
One of the key elements in the new policy is that teams and Goodell won't have to wait on the judicial process to play out.
"Teams feel they need more authority to discipline players," Bengals president Mike Brown said. "The public doesn't understand why we don't do something. They don't know we can't do anything under the collective bargaining agreement. I would like the union to examine (it). We're not asking for Draconian (powers) for punishment. We're asking merely for the right to fine, suspend and not pay a player if he misbehaves.
"That would serve to send the message to the player and public both and give them more understanding than what we're doing now," Brown said. "There is no magic bullet."
As Brown left the final meeting Wednesday, he said he's not sure if the Bengals are going to get money this year from the revenue-sharing plan that the owners adopted Monday. Last season, the Bengals contributed about $2 million from club seats to help fund the NFL's supplemental revenue system, which is about the same amount they got back in revenue-sharing.
"We paid a little bit more than we received," Brown said. "We (were) not a net recipient, but a net payer into the revenue-sharing program."
Brown said he won't know until later in the year if the Bengals will come out on the positive side. But he said he was one of the two votes against revenue-sharing (with Jacksonville's Wayne Weaver) not because it wasn't enough but because it doesn't confront the inequity of the entire system.
"My opinion is we need a system that clears the decks," Brown said. "This is a substantial subsidy ... (but) my view is we should have no subsidies. If we didn't, the cap system would work for everyone. When we pick and choose what subsidies we're going to have, some are going to have advantages and some are going to have disadvantages."
Brown did say he is annoyed that one of the qualifiers in the revenue-sharing plan, playing in a stadium less than 10 years old, has reduced the club's piece of the pie by 44 percent.
"Why?" he asked. "Twenty-five years ago we felt we needed a new stadium and we worked to get one. Thirteen years ago we entered into a commitment to stay in Cincinnati if one was built. Eight years ago we went into the new stadium and having done all that, the reward is that we will receive less than we would have otherwise. It's an ex post facto kind of treatment."
In that same vein, Brown was the only owner to vote against raising the level of debt so five teams can build stadiums. Brown objects to the NFL's G-3 program, a pool to build stadiums in which other teams contrubute and will be used to fund some of the new stadium costs in New York.
The owners tabled the competition committee's recommendation to move the overtime kickoff from the 30 to the 35. Brown voted for the majority to move it because he saw statistics over the recent years that favored the team that wins the coin toss. But with 24 votes needed to pass it, the membership was about seven or eight hands shy.
Rich McKay, the Falcons general manager who is co-chairman of the competition committee, said there is some sentiment for a two-possession rule and others think moving the kickoff impacts special teams too much in the same game. But the reason Brown likes the rule is the same reason why the committee likes it. It gives teams incentive to win the game in regulation.
McKay said the committee did discuss the roughing the quarterback penalty, a call that may have cost the Bengals a playoff berth when defensive end Justin Smith was called for roughing Tampa quarterback Bruce Gradkowski with 2:45 left in a game the Bengals lost, 14-13, in the last minute.
But they only clarified it when a quarterback is shoved to the ground.
"When the quarterback is moving and the defender hits him and the quarterback lets go of the ball and it's bang-bang," McKay said. "The defender extends his arms and shoves the quarterback to the ground. That has been a play consistently called (roughing). Now we've modified that to say it's not a foul unless there is a second act involved. In other words, unless it's not part of the initial tackling process of the defender."
But, "When in doubt, call roughing the passer," McKay said. "We're there to protect the quarterback."
The Bengals are still livid about the call, which appeared to be simply a tackle. McKay acknowledged teams' biggest concerns with the call are about consistency and they are planning more preseason film work with players and coaches so they understand what the officials are looking for.
McKay reiterated that stats don't back up the perception that roughing the quarterback has been an escalating trend the past few years. In 2004 it was called 135 times, 127 in 2005 and 106 last year.