Lack of rookie signings concerns Goodell

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Associated Press

GEORGETOWN, Ky. — Commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday that ‘‘something is wrong’’ with the NFL’s system for signing rookies, noting that the Cincinnati Bengals still don’t have their top draft pick in camp.

Goodell visited the Bengals’ training camp and had lunch with six players before heading north to Canton, Ohio, for the weekend’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The Bengals and the Jacksonville Jaguars have yet to sign their No. 1 draft picks.

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Southern California linebacker Keith Rivers, the ninth overall pick last April, has missed six days of practice and scrimmaging.

‘‘I think it is clear that we have an issue here and something is wrong with the system, flawed with the system, and we have to address it,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘I think it’s better for the players, I think it’s better for the teams and, most important, I think it is (better) for the fans. I think it’s a disservice when players aren’t in camp and being paid properly.’’

Goodell ate lunch with quarterback Carson Palmer, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, offensive guard Andrew Whitworth, linebacker Dhani Jones, cornerback Leon Hall and defensive tackle John Thornton.

Jones had a notepad full of questions, ranging from the player conduct policy to post-football careers. Goodell toughened the league’s conduct policy last year, after the Bengals had 10 players charged with criminal offenses over a 14-month span.

‘‘He wants the best and he wants to relate to us that there are some things that he’s not going to bend on,’’ Jones said. ‘‘There are definitely some rules that he’s just not going to let people slide on because the integrity of the game is bigger than each person that plays the game, and you have to maintain that.’’

Goodell wants the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre to settle their dispute. Favre wants to come out of retirement and play for another team. Goodell has not acted on his reinstatement request, giving him and the team time to work it out.

‘‘I’m not trying to interject myself,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘I was interjected into it because there was a tampering charge initially. I’m not looking for things to interject myself to. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed because of the competing interests. You want to make sure it’s done properly and within our rules. This is an issue that ultimately has to be decided between Brett and the Packers.’’