Roger Goodell says he will have an open mind regarding Tom Brady's appeal. Regarding the NFLPA's request that he recuse himself from the process, however, the NFL commissioner appears to be more steadfast.
Goodell wrote a letter to the union Tuesday stating that he will hear Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension on June 23. The union had asked him May 19 to recuse himself from the appeal, claiming that he could be a "central witness" in the case, that he could be a "central witness" in the appeal, and that he is ineligible to hear the appeal of a punishment that was communicated in a letter signed not by him but by NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent.
"Based on the unambiguous language and structure of the CBA, as well as common sense, I conclude that none of the arguments advanced by the NFLPA has merit," Goodell wrote in the lengthy letter, during which he cited the collective-bargaining agreement liberally.
Goodell wrote that Vincent's letter to Brady came with "authorization of the commissioner." He wrote that unlike Ray Rice's appeal last year, Goodell has no firsthand information in this case and should not be considered as a central witness ("I am not a necessary or even appropriate witness," he wrote).
"There is no basis upon which I could properly be asked to testify in the appeal proceeding, which under Article 46 of the CBA is designed to afford Mr. Brady an opportunity to bring new or additional facts or circumstances to my attention for consideration," Goodell wrote.
The letter concludes: "The motion for recusal is denied. We will proceed with the hearing on June 23, as previously scheduled."
The union had no immediate comment on Goodell's letter.
As for the essence of the case -- Brady's knowledge and use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game -- Goodell said he intends to hear arguments from the Patriots quarterback and expects to have new evidence introduced by him.
"I have publicly expressed my appreciation to Mr. [Ted] Wells and his colleagues for their thorough and independent work," Goodell wrote of the 243-page report commissioned by the league that found it was "more probable than not" that Brady "was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities . . . involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."
"But," Goodell wrote Tuesday, "that does not mean that I am wedded to their conclusions or to their assessment of the facts. Nor does it mean that, after considering the evidence and argument presented during the appeal, I may not reach a different conclusion about Mr. Brady's conduct or the discipline imposed . . . As I have said publicly, I very much look forward to hearing from Mr. Brady and to considering any new information or evidence that he may bring to my attention.
"My mind," Goodell wrote, "is open."