As NFL spokesman Greg Aiello risks a flag and/or a fine for excessive celebration after the scuttling of the second NFLPA bounty grievance in less than a week, the players still have one chance left to challenge the authority of Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Examination of the ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das indicates that, during the May 16 hearing, the NFLPA focused only on the question of whether the new labor deal prevents discipline of players for anything happening before August 4, 2011. At footnote 1 to the ruling, Das explains that the NFLPA is not now seeking a ruling on the question of whether the appeals should be resolved not by Goodell but by Art Shell (pictured) or Ted Cottrell, who have been jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to review fines and suspensions levied for on-field misconduct.
Presumably, the NFLPA decided to focus on the broader issue, which would have prevented any discipline whatsoever, making a ruling on the Shell-or-Cottrell question irrelevant.
So now the question becomes when and if the NFLPA will pursue the other aspect of the grievance. Based on our initial communications with sources having knowledge of the situation, the league and the union disagree (imagine that) on whether the issue remains viable. The NFLPA will claim that the question is still open and requires a decision, and the NFL will contend that the point has been waived.
With Goodell planning to conduct the appeal hearings in 10 days, there’s not much time to figure it all out.