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NFL: Players must follow conduct policy

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The NFL will be keeping an eye on its players.
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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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MARCO ISLAND, Fla.

Even during the current lockout, NFL players will be held accountable for their off-field behavior.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told FOXSports.com Thursday the league plans to enforce its personal conduct policy even with players prohibited from reporting to team headquarters. Enacted by the league in 2007, the policy subjects players to fines and possible suspension at the discretion of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

"While players won't be able to get the benefit of our evaluation and counseling program during the work stoppage, the personal conduct of players and employees is an integrity-of-the-game issue," McCarthy wrote in an e-mail. "Any misconduct that is detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL will certainly be addressed when play resumes."

Such enforcement will be done despite the NFL and NFLPA still not having agreed upon a collective bargaining agreement. Asked for comment, NFLPA executive George Atallah told FOXSports.com, "The best amendment the NFL and the owners can make to any policy at this point is to end the lockout."

The NFL already has one potential violator during the lockout. Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook was charged with brandishing a handgun during an altercation last weekend in Lynchburg, Va.

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With last Friday's expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, NFL players are no longer subject to league testing for recreational or performance-enhancing drugs.

In other business and football news from the NFLPA's annual meeting in Marco Island:

• NFLPA executives George Atallah and Kevin Mawae both stressed they are not urging top draft prospects to spurn invitations to the NFL draft April 28-30 in New York City. But both said they hope those incoming players consider the toxic environment between the league and NFLPA when making a decision.

"The potential draft picks are all men, and we've treated them as men," Mawae said. "They're soon to be equals with us. It's their decision what to do on draft day. But why would you want to stand on a stage with the man (Goodell) who's going to prevent you from making a living and shine yourself all over TV for the (NFL) shield when they're the ones who locked you out in the first place? That's something (the prospects) have to ask themselves."

While there are no official plans for a rival NFLPA draft function, Atallah hinted at what his organization may stage.

"If we do have an event, it will be a celebration of the players and the players' families," Atallah said.

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• The NFLPA continued to take jabs at the NFL for the inability to strike a labor deal before the lockout. Mawae estimates that NFLPA representatives had only eight hours of face-to-face talks with team owners in almost three weeks of negotiations. Numerous players also questioned how much power Goodell had in making a deal because of how frequently he would confer with NFL owners.

"We would end the day with them saying, 'Well, we have to go talk to the decision-makers,'" said Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who attended most of the sessions as one of the 11-member NFLPA executive committee. "We would say to them, 'Our decision-makers are here.'"

The NFL has claimed the NFLPA didn't negotiate in earnest before decertifying. Future negotiating sessions will not be set until after an April 6 court ruling about an antitrust lawsuit filed by 10 players against the NFL.

Goodell sent a letter to NFL players Thursday that was obtained by FOXSports.com spelling out details of the league's final proposal and imploring NFLPA members to urge leadership for more negotiations.

"You know of my respect and admiration for you as men and players," Goodell wrote. "We need to come together and soon. . . . I hope you will encourage (the NFLPA) to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new Collective Bargaining Agreement."

Pittsburgh Steelers safety and team NFLPA representative Ryan Clark offered a level-headed perspective about Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's recent comparison of the NFL's treatment of players to "modern-day slavery."

"No matter how much history we study, we'll never understand slavery because we've never been a part of it," Clark said. "There are people in other parts of the world who are 'modern-day slaves' whether legal or illegal. We don't want to make that comparison. Clearly, slaves don't get paid the way we get paid.

"But neither am I going to condemn Adrian for his feelings, emotions or statement. That's not for me to do. I think he was speaking and emotional. I'm not saying it came out the wrong way because maybe he believes in some ways (the NFL) is a form of it. But those (statements) are going to be scrutinized because he's Adrian Peterson and such a great player."

Cincinnati Bengals left tackle and NFLPA team representative Andrew Whitworth said he has spoken to teammate Carson Palmer but not about the disgruntled quarterback's threat to retire if he isn't traded.

"We keep in touch with each other because he just had a child and my wife just had twins four weeks ago," said Whitworth, who has played with Palmer since 2005. "But we haven't really talked football or X's and O's at all.

"Carson is not the type of guy to speak out. For him to step out in this way, he's obviously very serious about it. I just hope he makes the best decision for him and his family. We'll go on as a team if he's not going to be there with us. We'd love to have him for sure, but if he really chooses to be away, we'll move on and find another way to be successful."

• Coming off a Pro Bowl season for Tennessee in 2009, Mawae said he had the chance to sign with San Francisco last August when center Eric Heitmann suffered a fractured fibula. A combination of personal and monetary reasons prompted Mawae to decline the offer and retire shortly thereafter after 16 seasons.

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"It was a four-hour flight (each way) for a six-month season," said Mawae, who lives in Nashville. "I was going to be the starter, a team leader and coach on the field. All this — and it was for a one-year minimum (salary). Now, minimum for my age ($860,000) was really, really good. But at the end of the day, it wasn't worth leaving my family."

Hoping to make the transition to coaching, Mawae served an internship with Vanderbilt University's strength program. After unsuccessfully interviewing for a Vanderbilt staff position, Mawae was recently hired as the varsity offensive line coach and assistant to a dean at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tenn.

"The understanding before I took the job is that I have commitments to the NFLPA," said Mawae, who is slated to serve as the association's president until March 2012.

• Like all of his former teammates, New York Giants center Shaun O'Hara said he was surprised when running back Tiki Barber announced he is attempting an NFL comeback. The 35-year-old Barber retired in 2006 following 10 seasons with the Giants.

"People have been naysaying him his entire career. He's a very dangerous man when he's got something to prove," O'Hara said. "He was a good teammate while he with us. When he left the Giants, he did his own thing and ruffled some feathers I'm sure (with media criticism of the team). But as a former teammate, I wish him all the best."

Interviews with George Atallah, Kevin Mawae, Domonique Foxworth, Ryan Clark, Andrew Whitworth and Shaun O'Hara were conducted by Alex Marvez and Jim Miller on Sirius NFL Radio. Marvez and Miller will be hosting Friday between 11 A.M. and 3 P.M. EST on Sirius Channel 124.

Tagged: Bengals, Vikings, Giants, Ravens, Steelers, Shaun O'Hara, Ryan Clark, Carson Palmer, Domonique Foxworth, Andrew Whitworth, Adrian Peterson

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