Arbitrator in Greg Hardy suspension appeal backed NFL in Adrian Peterson appeal

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy is facing a 10-game suspension if he doesn't win his appeal.

Andrew Weber

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has waived his right to hear Greg Hardy’s appeal of the 10-game suspension Goodell imposed on the Dallas Cowboys defensive end and has instead passed it on to Harold Henderson, the arbitrator who initially upheld Adrian Peterson’s suspension, a source told FOX Sports.

The move is significant because Henderson, who is a league-appointed arbitrator, denied Peterson’s appeal of his suspension back in December on the basis that Henderson believed the "new" domestic violence policy could be applied to Peterson.

The NFLPA had argued Peterson’s situation, like Hardy’s, occurred under the "old" policy and should therefore result in a two-game suspension.

The NFLPA appealed Henderson’s decision via a federal lawsuit, and Judge David Doty ruled Henderson’s logic in agreeing the NFL could unilaterally impose the new policy was flawed. Doty didn’t overturn the suspension; rather, he kicked it back to Henderson, the NFL and the NFLPA and instructed them to go through the appeal process again. That never occurred because the NFL then reinstated Peterson.

So Hardy, whose appeal will be heard on May 28 according to the source,  and the NFLPA enter the appeal process with Doty’s ruling in their back pocket. The NFL has argued — and Henderson agreed — there was no "old" and "new" policy, only a strengthened one. The NFL also argued there have never been minimum and maximum penalties in Goodell’s personal-conduct policy, and therefore he has the right to impose a suspension of any length.

In its press release announcing Hardy’s suspension last month, the NFL left out the words domestic violence.

"Commissioner Goodell noted that Hardy engaged in conduct detrimental to the league," the release stated, "and that a suspension of this length would be appropriate under any version of the Personal Conduct Policy or its predecessors."

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Goodell has suspended players for significant periods of time in the past, so look for the league to argue Hardy’s suspension for "conduct detrimental to the league" is in line with bans imposed on then-Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones (one season) and late Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry (eight games).

The NFLPA will likely counter with its argument that Hardy should be suspended under the initial guidelines of the punishment handed down to former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice (two games), as well as those of other domestic-violence offenders.

Hardy signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys in March. The total base value of the contract is $11.3 million, though much of it is tied up in per-game roster bonuses that add up to $9.25 million. For every game he’s suspended, Hardy will lose a $578,125 installment of those bonuses as well as a portion of his $750,000 base salary.