As the deadline for getting the CBA completed in order to allow free agents to participate in practice on Thursday inches closer and closer, a source with knowledge of the dynamics of the discussions tells us that one issue has emerged as the source of a potential impasse.
Per the source, Commissioner Roger Goodell refuses to surrender full control of the league’s personal conduct policy.
Since inception of the rule that exposes players and other team and league employees to discipline for off-field conduct, regardless of whether an arrest or conviction arises, Goodell has had the ability both to impose a penalty and to preside over the appeals process. Though former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw willingly gave Goodell that power, the players generally have decided after several years of incidents and enforcements that they want someone other than Goodell or an employee of the league office to have final say over each and every fine or suspension imposed.
But Goodell won’t yield, despite the loud objections of the recently-reconstituted NFLPA. As the source explains it, it’s perceived that Goodell views the personal conduct policy as “his baby,” and that he doesn’t want to yield in any way the exclusive ability to mete out punishment.
Though we’re a very long way from a return of the lockout, the two sides need to find a way out of this maze in order to let the League Year begin. At some point, owners (who currently are working on getting their teams ready on a compressed basis for the 2011 season) may need to get involved.
If they do, there’s no guarantee that owners will back Goodell. We’re told that teams generally don’t care about the personal conduct policy, and that many teams would prefer to have the ability to decide on their own whether and to what extent a player who gets in trouble away from work should be in trouble at work.
Regardless of how it turns out, that’s the main issue preventing this thing from finally getting done.