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Goodell pushes for personal foul ejections at state of league address

| Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, 9:18 p.m.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media during a news conference Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO — If it was up to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it would be two strikes and you are out.

Problem is that it isn't up to Goodell. It is up to the Competition Committee.

During his state of the league address Friday, Goodell said he has spoken to members of the Competition Committee, members of the league and players pursuing a policy where two personal fouls in a game would result in an automatic ejection.

“We should take that out of the hands of the officials when it gets to that point,” Goodell said. “They'll obviously have to throw the flag, but when they do, we'll look to see if we can reach an agreement on the conditions of which they'll be ejected.”

Goodell's suggestion is on the heels of an ugly incident that involved New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman where Beckham was called for three personal fouls, including one where he blatantly launched himself into Norman. The final two fouls occurred within 25 seconds of each other in the fourth quarter. Beckham was suspended for one game by the league.

Under Goodell's proposed rule, at least two other players would have been ejected this past season. New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner had two personal fouls in a Dec. 6 game against the Panthers that would have forced him to miss the fourth quarter, and Buffalo Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes had a pair in a Sept. 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The rule wouldn't have prevented anything regarding to the Cincinnati Bengals' Vontaze Burfict in the wild-card game against the Steelers. No Bengals or Steelers player would have been ejected this year under the rule.

“We'll discuss it further with the Players Association in February at the combine, as well as the membership in March,” Goodell said. “I've recommended it already to the competition committee to at least consider. I think it's consistent with our goals to try and bring sportsmanship back into the kind of play to keep the focus on the game, keep the focus on the great play that is happening.”

Other topics that came out of Goodell's news conference:

• Goodell was disappointed with the level of play in last week's Pro Bowl and hinted toward changes in the future.

“I think we want to talk with more players about that, we want to talk to our coaches about it, we want to talk to our personnel about it,” he said. “I think it is very important to have a stage in which you celebrate our great players for what they do on and off the field. We may have to think about that differently than we have in the past. I think our biggest standard has to be what we expect from the NFL and what our fans expect from the NFL. If it is not quality, and if it is not real competition that we can be proud of, then we have to do something different.”

Team Irvin beat Team Rice, 49-27, in a game that resembled flag football. Add that to more than 40 players who were originally selected to the Pro Bowl did not participate and it wasn't a good look for the NFL.

“That is my No. 1 priority right now,” Goodell said. “I am open to new ideas. I am open to how we do it. It is not the kind of game that I think we want to continue to have in its current format based on what we saw last week.”

• Steelers owner Art Rooney II hinted toward eventually playing a regular-season game in Mexico, but it won't be this year. Goodell announced the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders will play in Mexico City on Monday, Nov. 21.

“We're very excited about being back,” Goodell said. “As you know, we have a tremendous fan following down in Mexico. We believe it'll be a tremendous success, and we're excited about being there. To all of our fans down there, we're happy to be able to give the right answer this year.”

• Goodell came up with the line of the day when he was asked about the safety of playing football for youths. “There's risks in life,” Goodell said. “There's risks to sitting on the couch.”

• Goodell doesn't think there will be a change in the league's drug rules concerning marijuana even though it is legal in states that house two NFL teams (Washington and Colorado).

“It's an NFL policy and we believe it's the correct policy, for now, in the best interest of our players and the long-term health of our players,” Goodell said. “I don't foresee a change in that clearly in the short term, but we'll continue to be in touch with our medical personnel.”

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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