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Goodell impressed with change of attitude in Detroit

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell said he sensed a renewed commitment to winning after visiting the Detroit Lions training camp Thursday morning, when he met with players and coaches.

Goodell sat down with Lions head coach Rod Marinelli for about 15 minutes before meeting with players for the same amount of time. He came out of the two sessions raving about Marinelli and impressed with the change of attitude the second-year coach has brought to Detroit.

"I think you can sense the difference in this franchise and in this building of their expectations to win," Goodell said in a 30-minute interview with local media Thursday morning. "(With the team) I had that same sense, that the players wanted to win and they expected to win. There was an optimism that they were going to win."

While meeting with players, Goodell said he only touched on player conduct after having to deal with recent troubles with Atlanta Falcons' quarterback Michael Vick and Tennessee Titans defensive back Adam "Pacman" Jones. Rather than concentrating on two players who have dominated news away from the field, Goodell said he wanted players to understand what he's about, his history and his philosophy of running the league. He said he also wants to praise players that are doing the right thing in their respective communities.

Players came out of the meeting impressed. "He seems real down to earth, a real smart commissioner," defensive tackle Cory Redding said. "He's looking forward to taking care of the players and keeping the integrity of the game. That's what he's upholding."

While Goodell said that no player questions addressed personal conduct, he said he did cite player responsibility -- not only to the game, but to the fan, their families and to themselves.

Players said that message came across loud and clear.

"We all know right from wrong and we already have plenty of examples of what to do and what not to do," wide receiver Roy Williams said. "So it's pretty much, stay out of trouble and you don't have to see (Goodell)."

Twice in the past year, Lions personnel have had run-ins with the law.

One included an exotic dancer who claimed that defensive tackle Shaun Rogers inappropriately touched her. The 20-year-old dancer claimed that Rogers entered a changing room where she was changing. Detroit police asked the Wayne County prosecutor's office to approve a criminal sexual conduct warrant, but the request was denied and Rogers was not charged.

When asked about the incident Thursday, Goodell said he was aware of the situation, had monitored it and tried to deal with only the facts. Goodell did not speak with Rogers personally during his visit.

"Many times there's a rush to judgment. It depends on the circumstances, frankly, and understanding the charges, if there are charges, and whether there's a history," Goodell said. "We've put a focus on the personal conduct of repeat offenders, and that's what we focus on.

"If an individual makes a mistake, we want to make sure he has a chance to have his day in court and there will be a penalty for that in the criminal justice system, if there is one, and then the league will take their own action."

Goodell also addressed a 2006 incident involving Lions assistant coach Joe Cullen, who was arrested in Dearborn for driving nude and then, a week later, for drunken driving. Cullen was later sentenced to two years probation and must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week.

Goodell said Cullen had "paid his price."

"I think he's recognized that he had some issues he had to deal with and he's dealing with that," Goodell said. "We're not perfect and individuals make mistakes and he's recognized that and he's turned his life around and, frankly, I'm proud to see what he's done."

Marinelli said Thursday afternoon that he believes he is on the same page with the commissioner. He said since arriving in Detroit, he has attempted to make players accountable for their actions. Marinelli said he had been looking forward to Goodell's visit and says he likes Goodell's approach.

"He's done everything they've asked of him and there's a lot more that you know that he's had to do," Marinelli said.

Goodell said player questions varied, but included a common inquiry that came up again Thursday morning: What's it like to have his name on the footballs used by the league?

"It's cool," Goodell said. "That's what I told them -- it's cool."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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