NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has not announced whether he will recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension, although league attorneys are recommending that Goodell handle the Patriots quarterback's bid to have his sanction reduced or eliminated.
NFL labor lawyers expressed their views to attorneys from the NFL Players Association On Friday about why Goodell should handle the appeal. The NFLPA is representing Brady in the appeal process and eventually could decide to sue the league if the suspension is upheld. Former NFLPA lead attorney Jeffrey Kessler will spearhead Brady's appeal.
The union asked Goodell on Tuesday to appoint a neutral arbitrator to hear the case. At the league's annual May owners' meetings on Wednesday, Goodell said he would study the request, but he seemed to indicate that he will hear the appeal, saying on three occasions that he wants to hear from Brady directly about whether there might be new information that could prompt Goodell to reconsider the penalty. No date for the appeal has been set.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in an interview earlier Friday on ESPN that the union would "certainly increase the volume of the request" if he didn't hear back from Goodell by the end of next week about whether he will appoint someone else to hear the appeal. Smith did not say whether the union will take the NFL to court if Brady's suspension isn't lifted or Goodell refuses to step down as the appeals officer.
Brady was suspended after a 243-page report produced by attorney Ted Wells determined that he was generally aware of the Patriots' deliberate deflation of the footballs used in the first half of the AFC Championship Game against the Colts on Jan. 18.
The union has called Goodell a "central witness in the appeal hearing," even though it was NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent who issued the suspension. The union also contends that only Goodell can issue suspensions for conduct detrimental to the league. The league contends that it is following the guidelines set forth in the collective- bargaining agreement, citing Vincent's role in other disciplinary matters relating to game-day operations.
The union also believes that Goodell can't be impartial.
"The players believe that the commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner," the NFLPA wrote in announcing its request that Goodell step down. "If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review."