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Burbank could force Goodell to start over on Saints discipline

Roger Goodell AP

Before any appeal hearings may occur regarding whether four players will be suspended for their alleged role in the Saints’ bounty program, a pair of grievances regarding the manner in which the appeals will be handled must be resolved.

On May 16, arbitrator Shyam Das conducted a hearing on the question of whether:  (1) Commissioner Roger Goodell lacks any power to impose discipline on players for conduct occurring before August 4, 2011, the date on which the new labor deal was signed; and (2) the discipline should be reviewed not by Goodell but by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, the men jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to handle on-field conduct issues.

Das could pull the plug on the entire process by agreeing with the players on that first point (which would be ironic, given that the NFLPA currently is trying to make a collusion claim based on pre-August 4 behavior).  If he doesn’t, Special Master Stephen Burbank could force Goodell to start over.

The grievance pending before Burbank arises from the contention that any punishment relating to violations of the salary cap (via paying extra money to players) must be resolved by Burbank under the labor deal.  Per multiple sources with knowledge of the May 30 hearing conducted by Burbank, he could void the discipline, if he believes it arises in whole or in part from alleged salary cap violations.

At that point, the NFL would have to choose whether to file with Burbank a claim that players were involved in salary-cap violations, or Goodell could try to fashion discipline on some basis other than the allegation that payments above and beyond a player’s contract were made.  Obviously, that would spark another legal challenge from the NFLPA and the affected players.

A decision is expected within a week, and the NFL definitely has reason to worry, at least a little.  The letters advising Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove of their suspensions make no effort to distinguish between a pay-for-performance program and a bounty system, instead lumping both together.  While the letters claims that the suspensions are based upon conduct detrimental to the game, a pay-for-performance system (e.g., $500 bucks for making an interception) isn’t nearly as detrimental to the game as a pay-for-injury system.  By making reference to the pay-for-performance system in the letters, the NFL has fueled the argument that the matter should have been handled by Burbank.

If Burbank compels the league to start over, Goodell will have no choice but to do so, probably by fashioning discipline in a way that avoids Burbank’s salary-cap jurisdiction.  And while the suspensions may eventually stick, the notion that the process initially was mishandled would create a major P.R. hit for the league — surely prompting some casual observers to simply conclude (albeit erroneously) that there wasn’t a bounty system at all.

In short, things could get even more interesting, soon.

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14 Responses to “Burbank could force Goodell to start over on Saints discipline”
  1. tokyosandblaster says: Jun 2, 2012 11:07 AM

    The taints will forever have an asterisk attached to their recent success, regardless of how the NFLPA and try to spin the CBA in their favor. Getting away with cheating because of a loophole doesn’t mean they didn’t cheat.

  2. lengai says: Jun 2, 2012 11:23 AM

    The Saints put on one of the best Superbowl performances in NFL history without penalty or injury. The asteriks is in your mind, not the fans of the Saints so your comment is as insignificant as you are, tokyosandblaster.

  3. bigmike7914 says: Jun 2, 2012 11:34 AM

    How did they cheat?, nothing they did shifted a competitive balance in their favor, where they on steroids?, did they tape the opposing teams practice?, we dont even know that the program was as extensive as Goodell is leading on because he won’t fork over the so-called evidence, all we have is a tape of a sadistic coach trying to motivate his players to become savages on the football field…

  4. northlawhodat says: Jun 2, 2012 11:40 AM

    @tokyosandblaster
    No what it means is the truth came out. And the SAINTS are no different than your or any other haters team.

    @lengai
    You couldn’t have said it better!

  5. prmpft says: Jun 2, 2012 11:41 AM

    “…surely prompting some casual observers to simply conclude (albeit erroneously) that there wasn’t a bounty system at all.”

    And please tell us all great Karnak – how you arrived at the conclusion that it would be an erroneous assumption. Do you have the smoking gun from the grassy knoll that the commissioner could not find? Enlighten us please.

  6. ikequebec says: Jun 2, 2012 11:41 AM

    @tokyosandblaster

    cheat? nope. just hard hits which is what WE pay for. Nothing will take away from what we have done and WILL DO to teams this year. LOOK OUT NFL…

    This plan of trying to destroy our team has only made us STRONGER. Look at our acquisitions this year. We took the heart and soul of Atlanta and Seattle. How many tackles less will Von have this year minus Brodrick? Not to mention Chamberlain. Oh and Grubbs for 1/2 the price of Nicks…

  7. Mike Florio says: Jun 2, 2012 11:44 AM

    Erroneous based on the ruling from Burbank. I still haven’t seen enough evidence to convince me there was a bounty system.

  8. bodybagx says: Jun 2, 2012 11:47 AM

    Sounds like the commish didn’t have all his ducks in a row.

  9. watchfullhose says: Jun 2, 2012 1:05 PM

    I wonder if this takes the turn of the “salary cap implications” route, if other actions like the teammates “fining” other teammates (a la broncos and tebow) will be considered violations as well.

  10. FinFan68 says: Jun 2, 2012 1:20 PM

    If the players put their money in the pot (and nobody else did) then it just moves the same money around and isn’t extra money in regards to the cap.

  11. prmpft says: Jun 2, 2012 3:44 PM

    Thank you Mike – I not only appreciate your answer – but your response as well. That another reason why I love your site – Good day my good man!

  12. benchwarmer69 says: Jun 2, 2012 3:55 PM

    After being told three times to stop- “oh, I don’t like the answer I got, so I’ll run to “daddy” (gov).

    My three year old uses the same tactics.

    ..What a bunch of babies!

  13. JaminJake says: Jun 2, 2012 6:23 PM

    tokyosandblaster says:
    Jun 2, 2012 11:07 AM
    The taints will forever have an asterisk attached to their recent success, regardless of how the NFLPA and try to spin the CBA in their favor. Getting away with cheating because of a loophole doesn’t mean they didn’t cheat.

    ______________________

    Amazing. Your problem is with the payments and not the acts. You should be more worried about players attempting to injure one another at the orders of a coach or because they enjoy injuring people. It’s a game and they should play it honorably and I see no honor in attempting to cheap-shot your opponents out of the game. Many players do it without incentive. That’s what you should be concerned about, not a team paying their players hidden bonuses to do it.

    *Waits for Jim Brown to say “back in my day”

  14. jpsoldier24 says: Jun 3, 2012 1:20 PM

    All the haters need to keep your mouths shut from day 1 GOD-DELL has wanted to stick it too us unfortunately his Case has more holes than Swiss cheese !!!! How dumb can NFL security be?? All u have to do is put on the video tape just look at his so called evidence or should I say lack of evidence could cost h his job !!!! This has done nothing but strengthen our bound with our team!!!! So to all u crybaby VIKING FALCLOWNS AND 49er FANS SHUT UR MOUTHS it’s just a matter of time every piece of evidence THE NFL so called leaks to the media is making them look more and more fraudulent !! WHO DAT 2DAT IN THE SUPER DOME (SUPER BOWL)

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