Winston: 'Players are watching' to see how Goodell punishes Irsay

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Will Roger Goodell make an example of Jim Irsay? (USATSI)
Will Roger Goodell make an example of Jim Irsay? (USATSI)

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On Friday, Colts owner Jim Irsay was charged with two counts of impaired driving following a March arrest. The news means that the league, which has yet to officially weigh in on the matter, will likely soon discipline Irsay.

Former offensive lineman Eric Winston, now the new head of the NFL Players Association, said over the weekend that if commissioner Roger Goodell is truly concerned about protecting the league's image, he needs to send a message when punishing Irsay.

“Owners own for decades,” Winston told TheMMQB.com's Peter King. “Players, if we're lucky, might play for a decade. If protecting the shield is the most important thing, and owners are the ones most responsible for the league's future, the owners have to be held to a higher standard. So I don't understand how we can be talking about comparing the punishment of a player to what the league might do to an owner. Owners should be held to the highest of standards. And I can tell you, players are watching. A lot of players are watching. This has been on players' minds for quite a while.”

Goodell, who has a history of punishing players before the legal system runs its course, has said in recent weeks that he would wait for more information on Irsay's situation before making a decision.

But after Irsay's charges were announced, the league released this statement: "The NFL's Personal Conduct Policy applies to all league personnel and holds all of us accountable. We are reviewing the matter and will take appropriate action in accordance with the policy."

King writes that "Goodell has to be considering a large fine and removing Irsay from any involvement with the Colts for months," adding that "any penalty that doesn't included future random testing will be dangerous and wrong-headed."

Shortly after Irsay's arrest two months ago, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White tweeted about Irsay's likely punishment, "I'm guessing a million dollar fine will come which is nothing to a man that makes billions."

And in response to a tweet that noted, "Odd that when players do it people call them stupid for not calling a cab with all their money ... haven't seen it with Irsay," White wrote at the time, "So true," before adding, "I don't think Irsay is a bad guy I actually like him as an owner but it was a bad mistake."

Now it will be up to Goodell to show that owners are held to the same standard -- if not a higher one -- than players.

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