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Goodell: Steelers LB Harrison won't be punished for comments

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told NFL Network on Wednesday that he doesn't plan to punish James Harrison for derogatory comments the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker leveled at him in a recent magazine interview.

But the final decision on any action taken against Harrison might not be Goodell's to make. Among the issues still being negotiated by the NFL and its players Wednesday was the power Goodell holds over player discipline and the appeals process. Currently, the commissioner has final say on the length and severity of all fines and suspensions levied under the league's personal-conduct policy.

Steelers safety Ryan Clark, Harrison's teammate, told The Associated Press that he believes Goodell is too involved in the process.

"How often did you hear (former commissioner) Paul Tagliabue's name throughout the season?" Clark said. "I think (Goodell has) decided to make himself a major part of this game. I don't know if he had some type of high school dreams or Pop Warner dreams of being an NFL football player, but he's made himself the NFL. He is the most popular -- or infamous -- commissioner in sports right now, you know? Maybe that's what he wanted to be. We know he doesn't work for us, he doesn't work with us."

Clark added that Steelers players likely will not vote to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement unless Goodell's power is limited when it comes to fines or suspensions.

"He wants to do it his way -- the same way that he has taken over most of this game," Clark said of Goodell.

Clark took issue when asked if he had spoken to Steelers president Art Rooney II about lobbying Goodell on the players' behalf.

"I'm talking about the commissioner -- not my owner," Clark said. "Our owner is a good owner."

The line of questioning ultimately led to Clark becoming agitated with the reporter who asked it, a Pittsburgh radio talk-show host. The two exchanged words and stood chest-to-chest before team personnel and players broke it up.

The Steelers have been one of the most-fined teams in the league, particularly Harrison, who accrued $100,000 in fines last season. Steelers players have been vocal about what they perceive as unfair treatment by the NFL.

"We feel like someone else should be on there; there should be some ... type of way -- actually someone who's not on the NFL payroll," Clark said. "A big issue, for us, especially, as a team, is Roger Goodell ... being judge, jury and appeals system."

Goodell doesn't see it that way.

"We have a personal-conduct policy that's developed with the players that's part of our negotiations. It's important to the players in the league as well as the clubs," Goodell told NFL Network's Scott Hanson during a stop at Carolina Panthers training camp. "I think it's one of the reasons why we continue to have the reputation that we have, which we're going to conduct ourselves the right way and reflect well on what we do and the people who play this game and the fans who deserve that respect. So we're going to continue to make sure we do things the right way on and off the field."

Goodell took questions from fans for about 45 minutes, ranging from whether or not the new rules on safety make the game too soft. One fan asked if Goodell was open to surrendering his disciplinary power to a committee, as Clark and some other players have suggested.

"I'm not going to hand off the brand the reputation of the NFL to somebody who is not associated with the NFL," Goodell said. "I promise you that."

Goodell also said the league began negotiating with Time-Warner Cable to include the NFL Network as part of its system's programing. Goodell said the league had reached a new deal with Charter Communications and hoped to broaden the network's distribution beyond its current 62 million homes.

"You'll be happy to know that we're in negotiations today with Time Warner," Goodell said. "We're trying to get that done. We believe it's good for fans and it's good for Time Warner."

As for the ongoing CBA negotiations, Goodell said he doesn't see any reason for fans to worry.

"They don't need to be concerned about it," he said. "We'll get it done."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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