The NFL has worked hard this season to ensure that the media understands the specific dynamics of the appeal process for in-game violations. With plenty of players and reporters and others criticizing the league’s review procedures by claiming that the same people who issue the punishment are the ones who determine whether to uphold it, the NFL has ensured (specifically in the context of the Ndamukong Suh suspension) that everyone understood that those matters are considered on appeal by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA.
We initially assumed (ass, you, me) that the same protocol applied to the reversal of the $10,000 fine levied during the season on Steelers safety Troy Polamalu for using a cell phone device during a game to call his wife. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello advises PFT that, because the situation did not involve something that happened on the field of play, the appeal actually was handled by the league office.
It makes the decision even more surprising — and it makes the contention (which has been advanced by folks like Polamalu) that it’s a waste of time to ask the league office to reconsider its own rulings even less accurate.
And so, to the extent that the decision to craft a de facto exception to the bright-line rule against the use of electronics during a game has opened a can of worms, the league office was twisting the can opener. As a practical matter, it means that players can try to persuade the league office that a smartphone or other eletric thingamajig was utilized for non-strategic or non-frivolous reasons.
In Polamalu’s case, it worked. It future cases, it’ll likely take something more convincing on appeal than, say, a note signed “Epstein’s mother.”