NEW YORK - Jon Runyan isn't sure how many times he was fined for bad behavior during his 14 years as an NFL offensive tackle, but suffice to say, it was a lot.

The 6-7, 330-pound Runyan played with an edge, played with a mean streak, that usually is associated more with defensive players than offensive linemen.

You don't get named the league's second dirtiest player in a 2006 poll of your peers (behind only color-blind Rodney Harrison) because you helped opponents up off the ground and asked them how their mom was doing.

"I think I got that mentality from the (University of) Michigan program when I was in high school (in Flint, Mich.)," said Runyan, who later starred at Michigan. "The whole Bo Schembechler mentality. I'm going to beat you up and you're going to quit eventually.

"I was like that in basketball, too. Playing in inner-city Flint in summer leagues, I was playing with guys that were 10 times better than me.

"But you know what? You come into my lane you're not going to get an easy two points. I'm going to foul you and we'll see if you get up off the floor. That was the mentality I had from that upbringing."

Now, in an ironic twist, the outlaw has become the judge. In mid-May, the NFL named the ex-Eagle its duke of discipline - vice president of policy and rules administration, to be exact.

Runyan basically is in charge of enforcing the same type of bad behavior that he specialized in during his playing career. He's the guy who will be fining players for late hits, spearing, launching, punching, chop blocks, eye-gouging, and all of the other nefarious stuff that goes on during the course of an NFL game.

When I first heard about Runyan's new job, I thought it was a hoax. I mean, putting him in charge of on-field discipline seemed kind of like asking an atheist to hear confessions.

But Runyan convinced me that the move makes perfect sense.

"Even when I played, you knew where the line was," he said during a 45-minute interview last week in his office at the NFL's Park Avenue headquarters. "Now, they kept pulling the line back on me. But to know where it's at, that's a huge thing.

"I always joke with my wife that if you want to burn a building down, you call the fire marshal to figure out how to do it."

Or, in this case, an arsonist.

Hiring Runyan was the idea of his former Eagles teammate, Troy Vincent, who is the league's executive vice president of football operations.

After Runyan retired from football, he was elected to Congress in 2010, and served two terms before stepping down in January 2015.

While he was frustrated by what he once described as the "mind-numbing dysfunction" of Washington politics, the main reason he opted not to run again was because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Then Vincent called.

"I had stayed in contact with Troy," he said. "Troy's big on the player engagement and educational kind of stuff. He would always come down to D.C. when I was there. He'd bring a film crew and sit in my office on Capitol Hill and we'd just kind of talk about leadership and what carries over from football and that kind of stuff.

"One day, he asked me if I'd be interested in this position. It wasn't hard convincing me to do it. It was only hard because I had just walked away from D.C. doing that whole living down there during the week and coming home on weekends thing.

"This one is, your weekends are spent doing football and you're up here in New York all week."

Until recently, Runyan had been commuting back and forth between his Moorestown, N.J., home and his Manhattan office, getting up at 5 a.m. and usually not getting home until 7:30 or 8 o'clock.

He is renting a studio apartment up here and probably will be doing less commuting during the season, which means being away from his family again.

Runyan's oldest child, Jon Jr., plays football at Michigan, and his work schedule affords him the flexibility to attend his games.

"Troy is in a similar situation to the one I am," Runyan said. "We both have kids in high school and a kid in college, and we're still seeing (them play) football games.

"That was one of the big things for me (when he took the job). Being able to get back to Ann Arbor and see my son."

Vincent's oldest son, Troy Jr., is at Iowa State. Another son, Taron, attends IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and is being heavily recruited by a slew of Division I schools.

"Weekends in the offseason were great," Runyan said. "Troy also gave me the flexibility so that, in the offseason, I can work half the time from NFL Films (in Mount Laurel, which is just 10 minutes from his house). That makes it a little bit easier."

Runyan is excited about his new job.

"I ended up back where my heart is," he said. "I'm back in the game. It's a cool kind of marriage of the two worlds (his new job and his old one in Congress).

"Implementing rules and trying to create not only rules policy, but also, I had a great meeting with Jocelyn Moore, who is our new senior VP for public policy and government affairs based out of Washington, D.C. I told her to keep me in the loop.

"Troy harps on this a lot. Some people (in the league) are in on it and some people aren't. But there's another dynamic of this game. And it's having people who have been in this game around. The expertise from the outside world is great. But this is still football. And Troy's been one of those guys trying to push bringing football back into this business."

During his playing career, Runyan frequently was critical of the rule changes the NFL instituted in the name of player safety. Shortly before he retired in 2010, he was quoted as saying, "It's turned into a basketball game out there."

He hasn't changed his mind about that, but he said that won't have any effect on his ability to dispense punishment.

"It's not the same game as the one I played, and the one I played wasn't the same one as the game they played 30 years ago," Runyan said.

"It's (about) adapting. Adapting to the environment. Adapting to what the rules are. I get the safety aspect of it. But who tackles anymore? They're launching, they're not tackling. That's part of the evolution of the game that has driven a lot of this type of stuff (player safety rules)."

Runyan said there's not a lot of subjectivity involved in his job. The rules are the rules. Same with the fines for infractions, which are spelled out pretty clearly in the league's collective bargaining agreement.

"These two books here," he said, pointing to the NFL rule book and a copy of the CBA. "I'm basically just implementing those two documents. That's how I look at it.

"If you're putting personal views of what the rules are and how they should be, if someone actually gets hurt, that's on your conscience. If you're applying the documents to it, well, we can change the rule. But the question of whether something was legal or illegal, that's not on me. That was already collectively determined (by the owners and union) that that's how the game is going to be played."

Runyan is hoping to "soften the edges" of his job title. Vice president of policy and rules administration sounds so ominous.

"I've spent some time over at the NHL with my counterpart over there, seeing how they do things," he said. "Their guy in this position is actually called the vice president of player safety. It's not a compliance role. It's more player safety. Which is what this is as well. Because all of our stuff is player-safety geared."

Runyan almost certainly will be a lightning rod for criticism from the players he punishes. They will question how a guy with his sketchy reputation as a dirty player can bring the hammer down on them. Some will call him a hypocrite.

And it will go in one ear and out the other.

"Everybody thought I was an asshole when I played, everybody thought I was an asshole when I was elected a member of Congress and everybody thinks I'm an asshole now," he said. "So I'm very comfortable with it.

"People are going to be critical of you now matter what you do. You've got to be comfortable in your own skin and confident in what you're doing. When people start pecking at you like that and you start thinking twice about it, that's when you start to lose your credibility."

@Pdomo

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