In a week that will include fairly little work (especially in those states where deer hunting is a big deal), the NFL and NFL Players Association will carve out some time to get together before they commence carving the carcass of a large bird with intelligence inversely proportional to its tastiness.
Per a league source, the league and union will meet this week to discuss, among other things, potential revisions to the personal conduct policy. The two sides have met three prior times, with the NFLPA wanting formal “collective bargaining” over possible changes to the policy and the NFL not wanting to make the possible tweaks a subject of formal bargaining.
Regardless of whether it is or isn’t deemed bargaining in the classic labor-relations sense, the players want all appeals of employee discipline to be handled by an independent third-party arbitrator. The NFL wants to retain the Commissioner’s ability to impose discipline and to handle the appeal directly or to designate the responsibility to someone of the Commissioner’s choosing.
The issue takes on greater importance given the decision of Commissioner Roger Goodell to appoint former NFL executive Harold Henderson as the hearing officer in the Adrian Peterson appeal. The NFLPA doesn’t regard Henderson as truly independent, in part due to his track record of upholding the NFL’s decisions.
It’s believed that, since 2008, Henderson has affirmed 90 percent or more of the NFL’s decisions in the nearly 90 appeals he has handled under various league policies, with the only widely-known reduction coming in the case of receiver Brandon Marshall, whose three-game suspension was reduced to a one-game suspension and a one-game fine by Henderson. The union prefers the use of an arbitrator with no connection to the NFL; the league used that approach in selecting a hearing officer for the Ray Rice appeal.