NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is willing to lessen his role in the player discipline process, but still reluctant to give up the final say.
Goodell spoke publicly for the first time since U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman vacated New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
Appearing on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” in the Morning, Goodell said that he’s “very open” to changing his role, calling it “extremely time consuming”. He has been suggesting to several owners that a discipline officer or a panel making the initial decision on whether to suspend a player “would make for a better system.”
The players union, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), wants disciplinary power now held by Goodell to be handled by a neutral arbitrator but the league resists third-party arbitration.
“We believe that the standards of the NFL are important to uphold,” said Goodell. “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 that prior to nullification of Brady’s suspension, he spoke to union chief DeMaurice Smith about making changes to the collective bargaining agreement.
“We want to get to a better discipline system,” said Goodell. “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.”
The NFL promptly appealed Berman’s ruling to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“With 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. “You also have to understand you’re not going to win them all.”
The Patriots’ request to reinstate its two employees—John Jastremski and Jim McNally–who were suspended during Deflategate investigation, was also addressed with Goodell saying that it was the Patriots’ decision to suspend the staffers.
The NFL, in a statement, confirmed the receipt of the request and said that “it is still under review.”
The NFL regular season will open on Thursday between the Super Bowl-champion Patriots versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and Goodell will not be there to avoid being a distraction, but he’ll be attending the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game in Chicago on Sunday.
Las Vegas odds have the Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks as the favorites to win the Super Bowl at 15/2 followed by Indianapolis Colts at 9/1 and Philadelphia Eagles at 10/1.