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Goodell advises players to stay out of harm's way

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a simple mantra when it comes to players feeling the need to carry a gun: Avoid those situations.

"The real issue, to me, is when the players feel they're unsafe, they shouldn't be there," Goodell said. "So get out, don't be there. If you feel the need to have a firearm to be someplace, you're in the wrong place."

Speaking before Monday night's game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Goodell said the NFL has a strict gun policy but also must manage it against the constitutional right to bear arms. The questions arose in the aftermath of New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress' accidental shooting in a New York City nightclub.

Burress was injured in the early morning hours of Nov. 29 when a .40-caliber Glock he was carrying in his waistband slipped down his leg, and as he grabbed at it, he accidentally pulled the trigger and shot himself in the thigh.

Giants teammate Antonio Pierce drove Burress to the hospital and spoke with police last Friday about the incident.

The Giants suspended Burress for the final four games of the regular season and placed him on the non-football injury list; Pierce remains active.

Goodell said the NFL is allowing the Manhattan district attorney's office to finish its investigation.

"It's a police matter, so we're supportive of the police, and we'll do whatever they need to cooperate," he said. "I expressed that to the mayor and to the chief of police. We're held accountable to the laws of the land, and so are our players."

Although the police said last week that the information they were provided came from media reports, not the NFL, police commissioner Raymond Kelly has said the league has since been more forthcoming. And Goodell disagreed with the idea the NFL ever slowed or stalled the investigation.

"I don't agree with that. We have security directors who are former law enforcement people, or worked with law enforcement, and were fully cooperative," Goodell said. "I spoke to the chief of police myself and he said we've been perfectly cooperative and we appreciate that.

"We're not going to hide anything from anybody. We're very direct about it."

In other topics:

»Goodell, who has made it his mission to rid the league of player misconduct, said his tough policies are clear to players. "I think they understand they have a certain code of conduct for players, coaches, commissioner, everyone involved with the game. I do think it's getting through, but you always are going to have people who make mistakes."

»He said the league would keep an eye on the developing situation with Panthers reserve offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges, who was arrested late Sunday night and charged with two misdemeanor counts of simple assault and battery and one count of communicating threats. He was released on bond, but inactive for Monday night's game. It was Bridges' second arrest in 16 months.

»Goodell spent about an hour Monday visiting Carolina owner Jerry Richardson in the hospital, where he was readmitted for tests relating to a pacemaker he recently had installed. He said he expected Richardson to remain active in negotiations with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

»He is confident the suspensions of five players for violating the league's anti-doping policy would be upheld. The five were suspended for using a banned diuretic, but a federal judge on Friday blocked the action until he has more time to consider the case. "The players understand that you are held responsible for anything that's in your body," Goodell said. "We have been very clear that if you take something, which is unregulated, there's a danger."

»He's not ready to comment on Michael Vick's potential future in the league until after the former quarterback has concluded the legal process pertaining to his conviction for running a dog-fighting ring.

»Tampa Bay is on track to successfully host February's Super Bowl, and Goodell isn't concerned the economic crisis will spoil the event. "We're pouring the normal amount of resources into the event," he said. "I think we changed one event Saturday night because we thought it would be more effective to put our focus somewhere else. But for the most part, we're going 100 miles per hour on that, and we think it will be a great event."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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