A week after four suspended players showed up for the bounty appeal hearing but gave no evidence or argument to support their claims of innocence, the league office has yet to issue the inevitable decision that the suspensions have been upheld.
A decision isn’t coming Monday, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello.
There’s no reason for delay. Former prosecutor Mary Jo White presented her “mosaic” of evidence seven days ago, and the players said nothing in response. Based on the evidence presented by the league and the evidence not presented by the players, it’s a no-brainer.
So why hasn’t Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a ruling? In theory, there’s a chance he has decided to take a fresh look at the case, given the various flaws that have been highlighted in recent days and weeks. If, for example, Goodell agrees that the Anthony Hargrove video doesn’t show that Hargrove said “give me my money,” and if Goodell likewise concludes that, absent proof that Hargrove said it there’s no real case against him, maybe Goodell will rescind the suspension.
The problem is that, by changing his mind on his own, Goodell will have to acknowledge that the investigation that as recently as Friday the league’s top lawyer was defending on PFT Live actually contained significant flaws. So it would be highly unlikely for Goodell to change his mind.
The more likely reality is that Goodell, with the help of Jeff Pash and perhaps Mary Jo White, is crafting letters aimed at persuading the players and/or the public that the penalties are justified, because there never can be a specific cash incentive to deliver a good, clean, legal hit in a way that causes an opponent to leave the game, even if there’s no corresponding intent to injure.
That’s really what the case is all about, but at some point the debate flew off the rails. Now, it’s time for the NFL to reshape the message. The letters resolving the appeals give Goodell the best chance to do just that.