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NFL announces Harold Henderson will handle Ezekiel Elliott appeal

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 18: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys warms up on the field prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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The first, and most important, decision regarding the Ezekiel Elliott has been made.

The NFL has announced (as a practical matter) that Harold Henderson will handle the Elliott appeal.

Under the labor deal, the Commissioner has the ability to handle the appeal personally or delegate it to someone else. Many believed Goodell would handle it on his own; however, because he made the initial decision (even though he wasn’t present for the hearing), it was unlikely that he would have been the one to review it.

Goodell could have assigned the matter to a truly independent party. Goodell ultimately opted not to surrender the outcome to someone who would have been handling the case as a one-and-done project. Henderson, by virtue of the fact that the league regularly hires him to provide appeal services, is viewed as someone who will be inclined to rubber stamp the decision from the league -- even if he hasn’t always done that. (More on that in a subsequent post.)

As a practical matter, the chances of Elliott completely overturning the suspension have dropped significantly. (At best, he’ll get a mild reduction.) As a result, this increases significantly the possibility of a lawsuit eventually being filed.