On Friday, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash tried to drive a wedge within the NFLPA rank-and-file, calling out the union for defending Saints players believed to have been involved in the bounty program at the expense of the players who were targeted by the bounties.
So why did Pash commit an arguable breach in etiquette by complaining publicly about the NFLPA, when it simply is exercising its duty to defend the players accused of participating in the bounty program?
As we understand it, the NFL has become frustrated with the union’s tactics. In addition to the obvious argument that there’s no clear link between bounties and the intentional infliction of injuries (Brett Favre’s purple leg may suggest otherwise), the NFLPA is pushing the argument, we’re told, that the players were coerced by their coaches into funding the pay-for-performance/bounty pool — and into participating in the process of paying out the money.
Taking the element of coercion to the next level, the NFLPA also is arguing, we’re told, that the players were coerced into lying to investigators about the existence of a pay-for-performance/bounty pool.
True or not, the NFL doesn’t but it. And the delayed imposition of discipline against the Saints players has resulted in part from the fact that these arguments have forced NFL Security to engage in additional interviews to explore and/or knock down the coercion defense.
It’s unclear when the process will end. Eventually, if/when discipline is imposed, the players will have appeal rights.
As previously explained, the question eventually will become whether the penalties arise from on-field conduct or off-field behavior. The former entails an independent review process; for the latter, the league once again will serve as judge, jury, executioner, and appeals court.