While several reports surfaced Friday that the league has denied the NFLPA’s request to stop commissioner Roger Goodell from being the one presiding over New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady’s appeal of a four-game suspension, the league has yet to officially budge.
NFL executive Greg Aiello told FOX Sports 1 NFL Insider Mike Garafolo exclusively on Friday that no final decision has been made on the issue.
Brady, suspended for his role in the Deflategate scandal, appealed the decision and the players union is hoping to get Goodell recused from the case because it plans to call him as a witness.
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"The NFLPA has formally requested that Commissioner Roger Goodell recuse himself as the arbitrator in Tom Brady’s disciplinary appeal. Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner’s role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as an arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner’s history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner," the NFLPA said in an earlier press release.
The Patriots also were fined $1 million and had two future draft picks stripped over the apparent deflation of footballs in the AFC title game against the Indianapolis Colts this winter, and team owner Robert Kraft announced this week the team’s decision not to appeal those penalties.
NFL lawyers have recommended to Goodell that he should not recuse himself, according to The Associated Press. No date has been set for the appeal, although the collective bargaining agreement calls for it to be heard within 10 days. However, both sides can agree on delaying a hearing, which would need to be held by Wednesday without any requested delays.
Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season after a league-sanctioned report by attorney Ted Wells found the New England quarterback "at least generally aware" of a scheme to illegally deflate footballs used in the AFC title game win over Indianapolis. On Wednesday at the spring owners meetings, Goodell said he was aware of the union’s request but had not yet had time to examine it.
"It’s my job here to make sure we’re doing everything to protect the integrity of the game, protect our policies, protect our procedures," Goodell said then. "We have a process that has been negotiated with the union that has been in place for decades. It’s my responsibility and it’s something that we’ve had in place for a long time."
Brady has hired attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who has taken on the league in a variety of other cases through the years, and could take his case to court should his punishment not be reduced after appeal.