Goodell unwilling to give up final say in discipline process

September 8, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is willing to lessen his role in the player discipline process, but he's still reluctant to give up final say.

Goodell told ESPN Radio on Tuesday morning the league resists third-party arbitration. The players union wants disciplinary power now held by Goodell to be handled by a neutral arbitrator.

Goodell said he's ''very open'' to changing his role and called it ''extremely time consuming,'' adding he has discussed this matter with several owners the past couple years. After a federal judge overturned Tom Brady's four-game suspension in the ''Deflategate'' scandal last week, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank suggested it may be time to revisit the system that makes Goodell the sole arbiter of cases.

But Goodell indicated any change would come within the initial discipline process, not with the way appeals are handled.

''We believe that the standards of the NFL are important to uphold,'' Goodell told the network. ''We believe that you don't delegate that responsibility or those standards. We think that somebody with a deep knowledge of the game, our policies and our rules are important particularly when it relates to competitive violations. Those are important to have. There's got to be a system in there somewhere.''

Goodell said he spoke to union chief DeMaurice Smith before Brady's decision came down about making changes to the collective bargaining agreement.

''We want to get to a better discipline system,'' Goodell said. ''We've had several discussions with the union about how to do that. We have done that on the field over the last several years and I think we've got a better system. We've done that in our drug and steroid program and I think we have a better system than we did before those changes.

''And I believe we can do that here where we can come with changes whether they're designated discipline officer, whether they're panels. Those things can help us get to a better place and ultimately better decisions. Courts are not where we should be having these discussions at the table.''

As for losing another high-profile case against the NFLPA, Goodell isn't conceding yet. He cited the league's victory in an appeal ruling in Maurice Clarett's eligibility case a decade ago. After U.S. District Judge Richard Berman erased Brady's suspension, the NFL promptly appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

''Success sometimes when you're having litigation, you lose in the initial phases and you get to the right places when you have that long-term view, which is what we do and there are many cases like that,'' Goodell said.

But he also added: ''You also have to understand you're not going to win them all.''


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