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Goodell trying to help Bengals players

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to end the Cincinnati Bengals' continuing problems with the law. Goodell called Bengals president Mike Brown on Dec.

NEW YORK (Dec. 12, 2006) -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to end the Cincinnati Bengals' continuing problems with the law.

Goodell called Bengals president Mike Brown on Dec. 11 to offer his help. Eight Bengals players have been arrested this year -- three since the commissioner visited with the team Sept. 20.

"Obviously, when you have incidents that don't reflect well on the National Football League you have to deal with that aggressively," Goodell said during an interview with The Associated Press. "Our players and coaches are seen at a higher level by the public."

The commissioner asked Brown if there was anything he could do but also sent the message that the Bengals had to adjust their actions. It's just what Goodell, who succeeded Paul Tagliabue on Sept. 1, told the players during his visit to Cincinnati nearly three months ago, part of a series of meetings with all 32 teams.

His actions backed up the tough talk.

Five days after meeting with Goodell, linebacker Odell Thurman was arrested on a DUI charge. Goodell responded by changing a four-game suspension Thurman already was serving into a yearlong suspension. Wide receiver Chris Henry, who has been arrested four times in the last 13 months, later was suspended for two games by Goodell for ongoing misconduct.

Last weekend, the Bengals returned to the police blotter when cornerback Deltha O'Neal was arrested on a DUI charge, just days after rookie receiver Reggie McNeal was charged with resisting arrest outside a Houston night club.

"Unfortunately, I can't hold their hands 24/7, but it is embarrassing," said coach Marvin Lewis after the latest arrests. "It's an embarrassment to our organization, to our city and to our fans. These things socially are not right."

Goodell touched on a wide range of topics during his half-hour interview with AP reporters and editors:

-- There's a possibility the league might not have a franchise soon in Los Angeles, a city that's been without one since the Rams and Raiders left after the 1994 season.

"I think there has been a misunderstanding in the past that we have to be in Los Angeles," Goodell said. "I think we've proven that we don't have to be in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a wonderful community. It's got great sports fans. It's got great football fans. It's got great NFL fans. We want to be back there. But only on the basis of being successful for the community and for the NFL."

The league originally had hoped to put an expansion team there in 2002, but the franchise went to Houston after civic leaders and potential ownership groups couldn't agree on a stadium site.

-- The NFL will continue to negotiate with the players union for increased steroids testing. He said drug advisers, league representatives and union officials had met recently "to review changes in technology to make sure we can keep our leadership position on performance-enhancing drugs."

When a reliable human growth hormone test is found, Goodell said he's confident there will be an agreement on how to implement a program.

-- Goodell said he's aware of the criticism that officials are calling roughing the passer too closely and said it would be reviewed in the offseason. But he added players must adapt: "There's always an adjustment period where people have to understand the rules and adjust their techniques."

-- The NFL likely will announce before the Feb. 4 Super Bowl the teams and site for a regular-season game to be played outside the United States next season. Mexico, Canada, Great Britain and Germany are potential sites.

-- Owners still are working out formulas for revenue sharing among teams, pending since the new labor contract was extended last March. "There are a lot of different opinions on it," he said.

-- Though he can't pull for a team as commissioner, Goodell said he was happy about the post-Hurricane Katrina success of the New Orleans Saints, who are 9-4. "It's hard not to have a soft spot not only for the Saints but for the people of New Orleans for what the people of the Gulf Coast region have gone through," he said. "It's great to see the enthusiasm, and it's great that we played a role in giving them hope."

-- Finally, Goodell likes the look of coaches Mike Nolan of San Francisco and Jack Del Rio of Jacksonville, who wear suits on the sideline.

"I love it. I think it's great," he said. "It reflects well on the coaches and reflects well on the National Football League. Our coaches are a very important reflection of the NFL. I think the more impressive they look, the better it reflects on us."

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