By Tom E. Curran
LOWELL - While federal investigators have indicated they won't pursue criminal charges against athletes that visited with Canadian doctor and HGH slinger Anthony Galea, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated Friday that doesn't mean the NFL won't levy penalties.
Goodell, in Lowell this weekend as his father Charles is posthumously awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters by UMass Lowell, said, "There are often times when (players are disciplined for) a violation of our policy but not a violation of law so if there are people involved with issues that are in conflict with our policy we will pursue it. If there are individuals taking HGH or anything in violation of our policy we'll certainly pursue it."
Speaking on a range of issues in an interview with Comcast Sportsnet New England, Goodell said dealing with highly charged issues whether they be disciplinary, labor-related or otherwise consists of "determining conflict and making these decisions You recognize they will not be unanimously received. And that's OK. But you have to get people to respect the process and the thinking and try to be thoughtful and fair with your decisions and that's what I've tried to do."
One of those would be in relation to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who was given permission by Goodell last week to take part in offseason work with the Steelers. When the regular season starts, Roethlisberger's six-game suspension begins.
"Since the time we issued the suspension and asked him to go through the evaluation Ben's been working hard and cooperating fully with all of our medical experts and with the league program," said Goodell. "I spoke to him earlier and I think he's understanding his responsibilities as an NFL player. He can resume his activities but he still has work to do and he knows that."
Two other nuggets of note: 1. Goodell doesn't think the American Needle ruling by the Supreme Court this week will invite owners to start working their markets aggressively and outside the NFL trust even though the ruling kind of says they can.
"I think there's been far too much significance put into this situation and this decision," said the commissioner. "We've always operated under the guidance of the antitrust laws. ...This idea that this will change the way the NFL operates in some way...I think there's a recognition by the Supreme Court and by other courts that we have special characteristics as a professional league and those are unique circumstances under the antitrtust laws and that was supported by the Supreme Court. We'll continue to operate the way we have."
With labor strife, stadium issues, ever-present disciplinary problems and a challenging economy, the league seems to be at a significant crossroads. But Goodell doesn't believe it's more pivotal than other times.
"In every moment in the NFL we have to step up and do the right thing and make the right decisions because there are a lot of people who have an interest in our game," Goodell noted. "But it also comes with a great responsibility to make smart decisions and make sure we do what we need to do."