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First bounty battle could relate to who handles the appeals

2012 NFL Draft - First Round

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on stage as he announces a draft selection during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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The players who have been suspended for their roles in the bounty program reportedly intend to fight, on multiple fronts. The first fight will arise via the appeal process.

Actually, the first fight before the first fight could be whether the NFL has designated the right appeal process. “Each player disciplined today is entitled to appeal the decision within three days,” the league’s official announcement explains. “If an appeal is filed, Commissioner Goodell would hold a hearing at which the player may speak on his behalf and be represented by counsel.

For punishments imposed due to on-field infractions, the appeals are handled by either Ted Cottrell or Art Shell, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA. For punishments imposed due to off-field infractions, the NFL handles the appeal.

The designation of Goodell as the person holding the hearing means that the NFL has characterized the bounty penalties as relating to off-field violations. The NFLPA could decide to argue that the NFL should have treated the situation as an on-field infraction.

It’s unclear whether the NFLPA will make that argument or where the argument would be made, but why not give it a try? It’s unlikely that Roger Goodell will change his own mind; Shell or Cottrell could decide to change it for him.

Then again, to the extent that the players hope to attack the process via federal court, they may be better off letting it ride, so that they can challenge Goodell’s review of Goodell’s decision.