ATLANTA -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue sees off-field crimes committed by its players as part of a problem in society, not just in pro football.
''Can we separate ourselves from society? Of course not,'' Tagliabue said Friday at his annual Super Bowl news conference.
''We can't predict what NFL players will do any more than we can predict students shooting other students or workers shooting fellow workers.''
But he added:
''On the other hand, we don't tolerate violence. We don't condone it.''
The NFL's well-polished image has been sullied this season by a number of off-field arrests.
The most serious are the charges against Carolina wide receiver Rae Carruth for conspiring the shooting death of Cherica Adams, who was pregnant with their son. Carruth was released by the Panthers after the charges were lodged.
Another NFL player in trouble with the law is Cecil Collins, then of Miami, who was charged in December with burglary. That led Louisiana to revoke his probation on a similar charge there when he was in college, and he is now in a Miami jail awaiting extradition.
Tagliabue noted that the NFL put in counseling programs under former commissioner Pete Rozelle, and there is also counseling during a mandatory rookie orientation program.
Tagliabue addressed a wide range of subjects, ranging from the hiring of minorities as head coaches to the possibility that some late-season games could be shifted to different times or dates to get teams that are unexpectedly successful on national television. For example, neither the St. Louis Rams nor Tennessee Titans, who will meet in Sunday's Super Bowl, were on Monday night television this season.
''We're talking to the networks about it with mixed reaction,'' Tagliabue said. ''I'm not sure it will be used next year, but it's something to think about for the future.''
Tagliabue acknowledge that minorities have not been getting as many head coaching positions as he would like. With the firing of Ray Rhodes in Green Bay, there are only two black head coaches, Dennis Green in Minnesota and Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay.
The commissioner pointed out that the New York Jets have just elevated Maurice Carthon to assistant head coach, and that Ted Cottrell, Buffalo's defensive coordinator, remains well respected around the NFL.
''I think we have people in the pipeline, but in the long run, it's the owner's decision on who to hire,'' he said.
Tagliabue said he was pleased with instant replay after a slow start.
He noted that the call late in the NFC championship game, overruling a catch by Tampa Bay's Bert Emmanuel, was what the system was reinstituted for -- crucial calls in major games.
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