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NFL fines teams with multiple troublemakers

>Question: Why doesn't the NFL punish owners for taking chances on star-crossed or petulant players such as Pacman Jones?

-- Michael Tramposch, Chevy Chase, Md.

Answer: The NFL instituted a new rule in August by which teams get fined a portion of a player's salary if they have two or more players suspended by the league for off-field conduct.

The Dallas Cowboys were the first such team hit with this fine last week due to the fact Jones was hit with at least a four-game suspension for his most recent violation of the conduct policy. Jones was involved in an alcohol-related scuffle at a Dallas hotel Oct. 8. The new discipline plan kicked in because Cowboys receiver Mike Jefferson was suspended for a violation of the steroids policy in September.

It has been widely reported that the Cowboys will pay the league office $20,588 for each game Jones remains suspended, up to a maximum of $200,000 for this current suspension. That total represents 50 percent of Jones' per-game salary. The formula for determining the fine amount states that for the first fine a team receives, it gets hit 25 percent of a player's base salary for the length of the suspension. However, the fine is doubled for repeat offenders, which accounts for Jones' total. (His per-game average is $41,176.) ESPN quoted Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as saying the fine Dallas will pay is closer to 40 percent of the $20,588 figure. So maybe the Cowboys somehow avoided the doubling of the fine.

Regardless, is this kind of fine enough to discourage a win-at-any-cost owner to take a chance on a troubled player? Probably not.

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>Q: The Bills have a rushing touchdown in each of the first six games to start the season. When was the last time that happened? Heck, when was the last time they did it six straight games, period?

-- Herb Kauderer, Lancaster.

A: This is the fourth time in team history the team opened with a rushing TD in each of the first six games. The last time was 1980, when the Bills scored a rushing touchdown in the first 13 games of the season. Joe Cribbs had 11 rushing TDs that year. The next longest was in 1966 -- the first nine games. The Bills also did it the first six games in 1975. The last time the Bills did it in any six-game stretch was 12 years ago, in 1996.

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>Q: At least two NFL teams that have consecutive games scheduled that involve cross-country trips stayed on that coast for the week between games (Arizona and New England). Is the NFL now trying to schedule games that involve cross-country trips together?

-- Dennis Priore, Clarence.

A: No. I don't think it's a policy change. I think it's just a function of the way the schedule system breaks down this year. This year, just like in 2004, the AFC East teams have crossover games with both the AFC West and the NFC West. That's the way the schedule was laid out back in 2002 when the league realigned. So it's tougher to squeeze in those cross-country trips. Six teams have three or more long-distance trips. The Jets, Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland all have three to four cross-country trips but none are back to back.

Bills beat reporter Mark Gaughan answers your football questions every Friday. Send your e-mails to mgaughan@buffnews.com or mail to Question Mark, The Buffalo News Sports Department, One News Plaza, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240. Please include name and hometown.

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