Commissioner Goodell talks discipline, Jahvid Best and replacement referees at Lions training camp

Posted Aug 2, 2012

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited the Lions training camp in Allen Park today and spoke on a number of issues, including the team’s offseason troubles, running back Jahvid Best's concussions and replacement referees.

When asked about any pending discipline for Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the commissioner said he wouldn’t necessarily wait for the legal system to play out before deciding on a suspension.

Fairley was arrested twice in two months in Alabama this off-season for possession of marijuana and driving under the influence of alcohol and attempting to elude police.

A hearing on the marijuana charge scheduled for July 31 was delayed until November and there are reports that the DUI hearing could also be delayed.

“I met with Nick earlier this spring and we talked an awful lot about where he is,” Goodell said. “We don’t, by policy, (have to wait for the legal system to run it’s course), particularly if there is a pattern of behavior. If there is not a pattern, we certainly do acknowledge the legal process and want to be respectful of that.”

The commissioner has already suspended running back Mikel Leshoure two games and fined him an additional two game checks after he was cited twice for marijuana possession this off-season. Leshoure plead guilty in both cases.

If the NFL waits to let the legal process run its course, the Lions could be looking at a potential suspension for Fairley late in the season while on a possible playoff push.

“You really just have to go through the process and you can’t let that be involved,” Goodell said. “You have to say, ‘Listen, what is the process we have to go through?’ and you stick to that process and make the decision that’s necessary. I think anytime you’re dealing with discipline, particularly a suspension, it’s a serious issue and you want to be very careful and thoughtful.”

Here’s what Goodell had to say on some other topics:

On how much his visit is about the Lions’ players’ offseason problems: “Well, I think that’s true whenever we’re going to training camps we take the time to talk to the players, the coaches, front office, and ownership to try to understand what’s going on, what are the trends, what are the important issues? Obviously the Lions have made it very clear what they’re all about, their standards and what they expect their players and other people in the organization to be held to and they’re backing that up.”

On what his message to players is: “The same message that it’s been all along: that you’re an NFL player and you have to conduct yourself in a certain way and hold yourself to that standard. We’re going to expect that and the club is going to expect that.”

On if he was disappointed to hear of the multiple Lions offseason arrests: “I think you’re disappointed any time you hear any of that because, again, it reflects poorly on themselves first, all players, and the NFL in general. Our fans don’t want to see that. So, we all have an obligation to our fans to hold up that standard and we were very clear to our players, our coaches, and our executives that that’s all part of being a part of the NFL. We say that being a part of the NFL is a privilege, not a right.”

On the safety of the game, considering RB Jahvid Best’s concussion status: “Well, first off, in Jahvid’s case, I think the medical personnel and the Lions are taking a very cautious approach which is the correct one. It’s a medical decision and the medical people will make those decisions. That’s true throughout the league. We’ve got greater awareness. We have a better understanding. But there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to head injuries and being able to determine when someone’s going to recover or how they recover – that’s one of the challenges we have in medical science right now. We’re not waiting. We’re trying to be proactive and make sure we’re making changes to our game so that we can make the game safer.”

On how closely the NFL monitors a player like Best: “Very closely. The medical care that our players get is extraordinary. Jahvid in particular has seen a number of doctors outside of the Detroit Lions organization, mutual doctors. They are all focused on his case and make sure that we can make the best decisions for Jahvid Best.”

On if he worries about the replacement referees: “We’ve been training these officials for the last couple of months. They come with experience. I was with some players yesterday and they were talking about that. I don’t think they have that concern. I think the issue for us is do we want to get it resolved? We have great respect for our officials. We’d like to see them on the field but we also want to do things to improve officiating. We have economic issues but we also have issues that we might want to expand the number of crews so that we can continue to improve officiating. Those things need to be resolved as part of this. In the meantime we’re going to put officials out there that we feel confident in.”

On the feeling about the Lions from walking around camp: “Well you can just see. I think there’s a great deal of optimism and confidence that this organization is moving in the right direction. I don’t make predictions but you can see it and you can feel it. I think it goes from the fans right throughout the organization and that’s a good sign.”