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New conduct policy incorporates paid leave for “crimes of violence”

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: An NFL logo shield is painted on the field during the game between the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears in the 2011 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

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The next time the NFL uses the Commissioner-Exempt list on a player charged with a crime, it won’t be quite as surprising as it was when the designation made an appearance in the Adrian Peterson case.

The new personal conduct policy incorporates leave with pay via the Commissioner-Exempt list whenever a player is “formally charged with a crime of violence.” The term is defined to encompass players accused “of having used physical force or a weapon to injure or threaten another person, of having engaged in a sexual assault by force or a sexual assault of a person who was incapable of giving consent, of having engaged in other conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety or well-being of another person, or of having engaged in animal abuse.”

An arrest ordinarily isn’t enough to trigger paid leave; the player must be charged with the crime. Charges may come “in the form of an indictment by a grand jury, the filing of charges by a prosecutor, or an arraignment in a criminal court.”

A player also may be placed on paid leave if a preliminary investigation causes the Commissioner to believe that a crime of violence was committed. “This decision will not reflect a finding of guilt or innocence and will not be guided by the same legal standards and considerations that would apply in a criminal trial,” the policy states.

While on paid leave, the player may not attend practices or games, but he may be present (with the team’s permission) at the team’s facility for meetings, individual workouts, therapy, rehab, and other permitted non-football activities. Paid leave will “generally” last “until the league makes a disciplinary decision and any appeal from that discipline is fully resolved.”

As a practical matter, this means that players charged with violent crimes in the future will be treated the same way Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy have been handled. It puts the player in many respects at the mercy of the criminal justice system, keeping them from playing until they have their day in court.