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U.S. Open, Football's New Rules: The Week In Sports


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon, and it's time for Sports.

Only five days until the regular NFL season kicks off, but the news again this week is mostly off the field. Players will have a new amendment to the personal conduct policy that's intended to curb domestic violence. Howard Bryant of espn.com and ESPN the magazine joins us now from New York, where he's covering the U.S. Open. And Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: This new NFL policy calls for six-game suspension on first offense, second time offenders will be banned for at least a year. Now, earlier this year, of course, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens was suspended for just two games after being accused of beating his fiance in an elevator. There is video of that. Several questions occur to me. Does his suspension get increased now and does it count as his first offense?

BRYANT: No, it doesn't look like it, and it seems like that is going to be one of the issues; the retroactive nature of the Ray Rice situation. I think, Scott, the biggest thing - and this is a huge triumph, first and foremost, for the NFL. It's a big triumph, especially for women because the NFL didn't take this seriously, that the only reason that they're doing this is because of the outcry after the two-game suspension. Had there been no outcry, had there not been this sort of response that came from them offering the two-game suspension to Ray Rice, who didn't beat his fiance in an elevator - he knocked her unconscious and dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator - which was caught on security cameras. And they gave him a two-game suspension, which is less than what they would give you if you made an illegal hit on a quarterback, in some cases. And obviously, they gave Josh Gordon a year suspension for failing a drug test, failing several drug tests. So the inequities of it were so severe and so obvious that they had to do something. And this is sort of that - it's an extension of the no longer taking this with a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge. They had to do something, only because the public outcry was so strong.

SIMON: Howard, you - when we speak about concussions on this show, you've often said the problem with football is football. Do too many of the people who play a game of what is, after all, controlled violence, bring that into their personal lives and since you're the author of "Juicing," does drugs enter into it?

BRYANT: Well, sure. I mean, it's a continuum. I think you have to look at all the layers, and that's why this conversation is going to require a great deal of reading comprehension and critical thinking because it's not as though you are condoning what men do because you have concerns about this. And it's also not as if you're not paying attention to the different players. These players are taught to be aggressive. They are marketed to be aggressive. They are compensated for being aggressive. And they are celebrated for their aggressions. And then, we are asking them to put the brakes on when it's time to go home.

SIMON: Well, but they put the - they put the brakes on in the game too. I mean, you know, there are rules...

BRYANT: Exactly - in the game, as well. Absolutely. There are rules. But the one thing that we don't talk about here, is how heavily medicated you have to be to play this game, through legal drugs and through illegal drugs. We've talked about road rage and everything else with these players. And so clearly, there are a lot of layers that have to be paid attention to. And the steroid element of it, when you have these players who are so juiced up on stuff, obviously it can impair them as well. So there's a lot of layers that the NFL is going to have to pay attention to on this and the players especially.

SIMON: Just half a minute left. You're at the U.S. Open. What's happened? What do we look for?

BRYANT: Well, Serena is great, as always. Roger Federer has been terrific and he's the sentimental favorite on the men's side. But the big story so far was 15-year-old CiCi Bellis - 15 years old - ranked 1,200th in the world, who beat the number 12 player, Dominika Cibulkova. She lost the other day to Zarina Diyas in the three set match. However, she was a star. 15 years old from Atherton and really gripped the hearts of everybody here because it was amazing to watch.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much.

BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.