The state of the NFL

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Domestic violence scandal, new drug policies, calls for Roger Goodell's resignation, and we're only four weeks into the NFL season. We're just getting to the first round of bye weeks and already it has been one for the record books. This season though, the storylines off the field are getting much more coverage than those on the field.

This is dangerous for the game. And it tells us a lot about Roger Goodell and the NFL's handling of recent issues in and around the league. Maybe we will look back on this as just a bad couple of months for the league. Or maybe, the good 'ole boys club is finally seeing the sunset of its tenure. How did we get here? And what does it mean for the league moving forward?

Among the many horrible and expansive ramifications of Ray Rice's actions in that fateful elevator in Atlantic City, was that it would wind up being a catalyst for one of the biggest scandals in recent football memory. Roger Goodell, his security team, and league and team officials around him would deal with the blowback from that event, video and the decisions thereafter for months and what could possibly be years.

But this is in no way, shape or form the first incident of this kind in the league. The sad truth is that the NFL has been turning a blind eye to domestic issues in the league for years, this one they just couldn't hide from. Perhaps the most haunting act of violence in the league in recent memory is Javon Belcher's murder-suicide. Belcher shot and killed his then-girlfriend, then drove to the Kansas City Chiefs' practice facility where he took his own life in front of his head coach and general manager. The league's response, or lack thereof, was shocking, but about par for the course when you look at its handling of other incidents. Two people were dead and the NFL treated it like a blip on the radar.

If we can glean anything positive from the Ray Rice situation, it would be that it has forced the NFL to be held accountable for how it handles domestic violence, from here on out. No more turning the other cheek or ignoring a serious problem that plagues not only the league, but our society. We can see a trend with teams placing players on the Exempt List now at the first sign of violence, and while it may be in some people's eyes an overreaction, it is a very positive sign that the league is taking these issues more seriously, even if it is just to save face.

And as all of the domestic violence story is playing out, we have a new drug policy that was reached by the NFL and NFL Player's Association. Along with shortening the suspensions of Wes Welker, Josh Gordon and several other past offenders, it will include more serious penalties for DUI's, two games for a first offense, and eight for a second. Perhaps most key moving forward is that it will now incorporate testing for human growth hormone (HGH). Popping positive for PED's could land a player up to a six-game suspension without pay on a first offense, 10 games for a second offense, and a third offense would result in at least two years.

A sticking point for the NFLPA in the past has been the appeals process for test results. This is also remedied in the new policy, which states that neutral third parties will evaluate all appeals. Another intricacy of the policy states that a first offense will result in no suspension, but in the player taking part in the league's substance abuse program. Also, one-year suspensions for substance abuse doesn't come into play until the sixth offense.

So, where does all of this leave the league moving forward? It seems that maybe, just maybe, the NFL is starting to put the Ray Rice fiasco behind them. This of course, all hinges on the assumption that no definitive proof will ever come out that the league had the tape before Sept. 8. After watching the maelstrom that has engulfed the league's handling of everything else in this case, that's not a very safe assumption to make.

But let's say that Roger Goodell and other league officials have held their last indignant and unproductive press conference on this issue. Moving forward, the league now has a new domestic violence policy and a new drug policy. New rules and regulations that will come to shape the future of the NFL as they play out. Let's just hope the next 12 weeks have much more action on the field, for the sake of the game.

Annie Moore is a junior at the University of Louisville majoring in Communications with a Sport Administration minor. She believes Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyMoreSports
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