The NFL said Tuesday it will change its player conduct policies following a series of domestic violence incidents. Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, testified to a Senate Commerce Committee panel that he knew firsthand the horrors of domestic abuse.

Vincent, a former NFL player, appeared to tear up as he described how his mother was beaten, calling domestic violence a “way of life” for his family. He said the NFL had “learned a great deal from our mistakes.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s panel on domestic violence, said Vincent’s testimony was a “good beginning,” ESPN reported. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., had earlier criticized the NFL for not sending its commissioners.

The committee hearing was called to address a recent run of domestic violence incidents involving NFL players, including Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Vincent said the NFL was instituting a program to educate players on domestic violence and train its staff on how to handle incidents off the field.

The NFL was represented along with the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told the leagues they must not use criminal prosecution as the only standard for whether to punish a player since victims are often hesitant to speak up about their abuse.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said many leagues seemed more interested in hiding domestic violence cases, rather than address them directly. The safety of victims is more important than whether players were able to perform, he said.

"That is the core of what we're talking about. We have to break the culture of silence," Vincent said.