Bengals linebackers will be the most exciting group to watch; Prisco ranks the Bengals 13th?!; Roger Goodell Presser on Michael Vick

Reedy examines the team's linebackers in his second-to-last Countdown to Training Camp series. With Dhani Jones (165 tackles in 2008), Brandon Johnson (112 tackles), Rashad Jeanty (97 tackles) and Keith Rivers (7.1 tackles per game in seven games) combining with rookie Rey Maualuga, this unit will be a very exciting group to watch this season.

Speaking of which, this NFL.com articles briefly examines the position battle between Maualuga and Dhani Jones.

Rey Maualuga fell in the draft, and the Bengals took him in the second round. He spent the spring learning the strongside linebacker position, but he has been a middle linebacker his whole life, so it might not take long for him to start competing with Dhani Jones at his natural spot.

Actually, the headline is "Top Position Battle". No, I don't think you missed anything either. Probably a mistake. Right?

Chick Ludwig (via Sporting News) thinks that Rashad Jeanty, with the experience, skill and improvement as a pass defender and physical run-stuffer, will win the job as the starting strong-side outside linebacker.

The Sports Design Blog tries coming up with ways to making the Bengals uniform even more Arena Football League stylish. I like the black idea, but only if you keep the orange.

Just, weird.

Reminder: Carlos Holmes wrote on Sunday that, at the latest, Rey Maualuga and Chase Coffman will be signed today.

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco ranks the Bengals... 13th! in his latest power rankings, saying, "Is this high? Some will say so. I think this is a playoff team in 2009 that will push the Steelers and the Ravens. Watch out for that defense." Prisco is our Media Good Guy of the Week. And yes, because he gave the Bengals props. What other reason is there?

The Baltimore Ravens will have their first practice for "rookies and selected veterans".

The following is Roger Goodell's press conference in regards to Michael Vick. My only thought is, Where was Father Goodell when Odell Thurman was in trouble?

 

Roger Goodell: Good afternoon. As all of youare aware, I’ve made my decision regarding Michael Vick and I would be happy totake your questions. But before we do, Iwould just like to make a couple of points which I hope will be helpful inputting it into context.

First, andmost importantly, we all want to recognize that the conduct that Michael engaged in was not only horrific, but it was cruel. And we all certainly recognize that and Ibelieve after meeting with Michael that he recognizes that also. We engaged in a very thorough process. It was very carefully done and verythoroughly done. Multiple members of ourstaff were engaged as well as me. Wewent through his court records. We went through evaluations. We went through decisions. We know all the terms of his parole. We went through every detail, including abouta four-and-a-half hour meeting with Michael last Wednesday here in the New York area. So we take this as a very serious matter. We’re dealing with a young man’slife. Our process was similarly reflective of the seriousness of that.

As you know, he can sign now with an NFL team. He can practice without delay with an NFL team. He may play in the final two preseason games of this preseason. And once the regular season starts, he can practice if the team so chooses. And I will decide within the first six weeks of the regular season when and whether he will be reinstated to play from there.

He has beenvery open and fully cooperative as well as his advisors and his counselors. I will say that one of the most important things that we talked about is that nobody gets through life alone. That you always have to have a mentor. That you always have to have somebody who will give you guidance and support at critical moments. Michael needs that right now and I have asked Tony Dungy to play a more formal role on my behalf but also on Michael’s behalf to serve as a mentor to Michael to help him and guide him through some very difficult decisions he’s going to have to make going forward. I do not expect he will be his only mentor, but Tony will be a big part in determining who else will serve as advisors to him. But I know Tony and Michael, who I spoke to earlier today on a conference call, both take it very seriously and are committed to making sure that they work closely together to make better decisions going forward.

I do believe that this transitional approach that we have outlined for Michael is the best thing for him, that it has the best opportunities to lead to success for a young man who has his life ahead of him. Whether he makes it on the field in the NFL is something that will be determined on the field. But he has some big decisions off the field to make in the way he conducts himself. I think he is at a point right now where heis prepared to make those decisions and hopefully conduct himself in a more positive way. I have said repeatedly, and many times before, that playing in the NFL is a privilege, we are held to a higher standard and it is not a right to be an NFL player. I think Michael clearly understands that is his responsibility and I think it is his opportunity now to earn that privilege back again. And that is up to Michael.

But one final point before I take your questions. As I’ve said many times before, I am very proud of NFL players. They do incredible things and exceed the standards that we set for them. And they do that both on and off the field. And I am proud of the things they do off the field. Obviously when you are dealing with 2,000 young men, you are going to have mistakes, bad judgments, and people are going to do things that you are not proud of. Obviously this is one case. But I hope something positive can come out ofsomething that has been a very tragic circumstance and hopefully people will understand that the individual here has the right to earn that opportunity back again. He will be held accountable for that. He will be held accountable for his life management plan that he submitted to me, the things he says he is going to do, and I will make sure that he does that in responsible fashion, as will Tony.

Have any teams expressed an interest in signing him yet?

That’s not something that I would get involved with. I work for all 32 teams. As far as what team signs him, that’s an individual club decision and they’ll have to make that individually with him and negotiate.

On Michael lying:

He was not candid with me. In fact, prior to starting the hearing we spent a few minutes together and it was the first thing he raised with me. That he was disappointed in himself. That he was direct in the fact that he lied about his involvement in dog fighting. And I accept his apology. I understand. I don’t like being lied to like anybody else. But this is something that we have to move forward from. Michael understands that I am judging him on his activities going forward, on the words that he said to me, and on the conduct that hopefully will support the words he expressed to me personally.

What needs to happen in the next 12 weeks for him to be reinstated?

A number of things. First he would have to sign a contract with a team. He will have to begin the process of getting re-acclimated into that community and that team. He’ll obviously want to relocate his family. He’s been very clear about that. He will have to get a support system around him. He will continue to go through the programs of his parole and also the programs that the NFL has designed for him. He will work very closely with Tony and me if necessary to make sure that we are providing the support necessary and the guidance. But he has a very difficult transition ahead and we want to support him in that and give him that opportunity. But he recognizes he has to earn that and his actions will have to support that.

Should Vick not sign with any team during the preseason, will the parameters of this reinstatement change? Have you looked into or discussed that possibility, if he doesn’t have the opportunity with a team during preseason?

Well that’s not something I can control. Of course individual clubs and Michael and his team will have to make that decision who he signs with ultimately. Idon’t expect I would modify the terms of what I call the transition plan in any marginal way, but I’ll leave that option open if necessary – but I don’t seethat as being something that I would engage in.

PETA hassaid that they had wanted you to have him undergo a psychiatric evaluation to show that he is truly remorseful and that if not they would consider protesting any team that would sign him. Did you have him undergo any evaluations?

Yes, in fact we worked with animal rights activist groups and we are clear: we worked with their medical professionals about the aspects of our evaluations. Michael fully cooperated with all of those tests. Those tests did not indicate there was any reason he couldn’t make a transition forward, but they also recognized that counseling and other aspects of support will be important for him going forward.

You mentioned there’d be an NFL component to his program as well, things he wouldhave to adhere to. Could you elaborate on what that means beyond obviously the probationary things you have asked him to do legally?

Well the primary one is the role of Tony Dungy. I believe that Tony is a very successful individual, he is somebody that I respect his judgment, I think he is wise and will give good counsel. I think he is committed to helping Michael as a young man – not as a football player. He’ll try to do what he can to help him reestablish his life and help him move forward. That’s the first thing that has to happen here. All of the conditions which we have outlined in the letter – which we will be happy to provide you with – we will hold Michael accountable for. He will be responsible for fulfilling those,and they will be part of my judgment about how long the period of time is before I’ll allow him to play in regular season games.

Did you feel a sense of urgency to make the decision quickly? Obviously it’s only beena week since he completed his federal term. How much of a relief – I don’t know if relief is the right word – but how much of a relief will it be for you to have made this decision quickly?

Relief is not a word I would use here. I believe that it was my responsibility to make a thoughtful, clear decision, and to do it on a very timely basis. I am not here to punish anybody; we’re here to extend player’s careers rather than limit player’s careers. That is important for us to do as long as they recognize the standards by which we are going to hold them accountable and everybody in the NFL. I believe Michael understands that. I believe he deserves the opportunity to earn his way back onto the field – but he will have to earnit. It is up to him now, and we will support him the way we have outlined in my decision. I believe that I had the responsibility to make a decision as quickly as possible, one that was fair, and I hope this one is seen as fair – although I fully recognize that some people won’t agree with it.

About how many people played a role? Obviously this is your decision and your name is attached to it, but I know NFL security, probably owners and coaches, players past and present probably played some role in you formulating your final policy.

Well I believe very much in getting a variety of opinions to get a broad perspective. I reached out to a variety of leaders of ourcountry, our society. I’ve talked to a number of current and former players, I’ve talked to a number of current and former coaches, I’ve talked to former and current executives – but I am very cautious about competitive issues here. I would not involve someone that would be involved potentially in Michael’sinterest as a football player. I was interested in Michael as an individual and what we could do to help reestablish his life and get him involved in a positive way regardless of if he played football. I do believe very much ingetting perspectives, and I believe that has served me very well in making decisions. As you pointed out, ultimately, at the end of the day, I had to go into a room and make a decision. I reached out to a number of people, including DeMaurice Smith, former players, and coaches and I believe I had all the perspectives I needed to make this decision.

Did youtalk with any of the sponsors of the NFL, any companies and what their reactionwould be? Was there anything you would bounce off of them?

I didn’t – I can’t specifically recall contacting people in that context. From time to time I may have spoken to a CEO about how to make decisions like this and what are the important factors even though the circumstances, I presume, would be wildly different. But I never thought about it in the context of the commercial success of the NFL. That’s never been a factor for me from day one. The intent here was to do the right thing with a young man’s life and for the game of football and the NFL, and that’s what I tried to do.

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