JAMESTOWN, NY— NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in a press conference yesterday that the NFL Code of Conduct would be tightened further after several NFL players blatantly disobeyed the league's long-standing policy of not playing ball in Goodell's house and broke his priceless flower-print Chinese porcelain vase—a family heirloom that had been passed down from generation to generation of Goodells and which Goodell counted among his most prized possessions.
"The fact that they defied me is rather annoying. Now, boys will be boys—I understand that," Goodell told reporters outside his home Monday morning. "What disappointed me the most, and what ultimately led to their punishment, was the fact that they tried to cover it up instead of just being honest and up front about what happened to my vase."
"I can't believe they thought I wouldn't even notice," he added, displaying the sloppily re-glued and duct-taped vase to reporters. "I'm just going to have to be stricter with them until they realize they're just hurting themselves with this behavior."
According to sources in the NFL Players Association, a casual game of catch started when Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick, all present at Goodells' residence to meet with the commissioner concerning their recent behavior, innocently ran down the stairs into Goodell's living room. All three players say that, just before they were about to turn on the television, Jones asked Vick to pass him the football. Though Vick later claimed he was hesitant to do so in light of Goodell's strict household rule, he eventually acquiesced to Jones's request after being told to "not be such a girl."
After several successful catches, Jones reportedly let a pass rebound off his fingertips towards the corner of the room, where it struck the vase, knocked it off the side table next to the couch where Goodell displayed it, and sent it crashing to the floor.
When the vase broke, Jones said, all three players stood in shocked silence with their mouths agape, knowing full well that they had not only broken one of their commissioner's strictest household rules, but also his most cherished possession.
"We knew we were in for it," Vick said, "but most of all we felt bad for Pacman, who was all set to go on a camping trip the next day. If Mr. Goodell found out it was Pacman who broke the vase, there was no way he would let him go, so we had to step up."
Though their attempts to foil the commissioner would ultimately prove futile, Vick and Jones sprung into action, found some superglue in Goodell's kitchen, and began gluing the vase back together. Tank Johnson reportedly rushed into town to see if he could find a replacement vase in case the glue didn't set properly before Goodell returned from a meeting that was to end in less than two hours.
At this point, Vick said, other NFL players including Joey Porter, Peyton Manning, Troy Polamalu, Steve McNair, Michael Strahan, and Clinton Portis had returned from practice, and were stunned when they found Goodell's vase in disrepair.
"See, this is exactly why he told us never to play ball in the house," said Manning, who was repeatedly informed by the other players that if he told on Jones he would be beaten up. "I feel bad for lying to commissioner Goodell, and I hope he forgives me. But I can understand if he decides to hate me forever."
"Tank came back with a vase, and we thought we were home free, but it looked nothing like commissioner's," Straham said. "Sure, it was blue and white and Chinese-looking, but there were all these flowers on it, the trim didn't look right, and the blue color was all fucked up."
According to Vick, everyone actually assumed the glue idea might work until they saw car lights coming from outside the kitchen window and heard the garage door open, forcing them to conclude the hasty repairs with several feet of duct tape in the hopes the taped side could be turned towards the wall.
"The commissioner came home a whole damn hour early," Vick said. "Turned out his meeting, or whatever, ran short. We were thinking that maybe if we put the vase back where it was, turned off the table lamp it sits next to, and positioned it so the crack wasn't showing, the commissioner wouldn't notice. By morning, hopefully, the glue would set and we would all be in the clear. Boy, were we wrong."
According to Vick, the vase sprung a leak through one of its cracks during dinner, which angered Goodell as he realized that of the 15 NFL players who were present for the meal, several of them had indeed been playing ball in the house while he was away.
"I didn't want Pacman to get in trouble so I took the blame," Joey Porter said, unaware that Johnson, Polamalu, Vick, McNair, Straham, Portis, and Manning had themselves also taken the blame in separate closed-door interviews in an attempt to cover for Jones. "He'd been looking forward to going on that camping trip all week."
According to Goodell, when Jones was the only one not to confess, he realized Jones was the main culprit, and cleverly assigned Jones to punish the other players present. When Jones found he couldn't bear to penalize his colleagues and friends for a crime they didn't commit, Jones eventually confessed to breaking the vase.
"Commissioner Goodell taught all of us an important lesson here today," said Jones, whose two-month "grounded" status still allows him limited access to the press. "I realize now that it's better if you are honest right away instead of telling more lies and digging yourself into a deeper and deeper hole. I apologize—and I appreciate Mr. Goodell showing leniency and allowing me to go on the camping trip, even though I am grounded the second I get back and will have to take the garbage out for three months straight."
In addition to the one- to two-month groundings and extra chores handed out by Goodell, all players involved will be suspended for the entire 2007 season.