Burbank’s ruling doesn’t prove, or disprove, the existence of a bounty system

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Headlines can be misleading, intentionally or otherwise.  Monday’s development in the bounty case — the decision by Stephen Burbank to reject one of the grievances filed by the NFLPA on behalf of the suspended players — has been interpreted by many as a decision that the appeals have failed and that the suspension will be served.

That’s not what it means.

The gist of the nine-page ruling is that, while Burbank has the sole ability to determine whether teams have violated the salary cap via additional payments to players above and beyond their contracts, that rule doesn’t apply to the three players accused of funding the alleged bounty pool, since the players aren’t the “team.”

That’s it.  Sometimes (OK, rarely), it really is that simple.

As the NFLPA’s statement in response to the decision points out, Burbank concludes his ruling by explaining clearly what the decision is not — “nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.”

In light of the language of the labor deal, Burbank likely made the right call.  As to Packers defensive Anthony Hargrove, over whose claim Burbank retained jurisdiction pending clarification by the NFL as to the behavior for which he has been punished, Burbank gave the NFL a clear roadmap for keeping the discipline away from Burbank’s authority.

The NFLPA still has a pending grievance that attacks Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to punish any players for conduct occurring before the current labor deal was signed in August 2011, and that argues the appeals should be handled by Ted Cottrell or Art Shell.  The players could win on either of those points.

Besides, the appeals still have to be handled on the merits (unless the NFLPA prevails on its argument that player are immune for anything that happened before August 2011).  If Goodell hears the appeals and upholds the suspensions, a legal challenge may be pursued on the back end.

Thus, the NFLPA initially has failed in its effort to shift the process away from Goodell and to Stephen Burbank.  That’s all that happened.

And that decision will be appealed, so there’s still a chance that the players will prevail on that point.

So regardless of how badly you may want all of this to be over, there’s still a long way to go.

6 responses to “Burbank’s ruling doesn’t prove, or disprove, the existence of a bounty system

  1. As the NFL Turns…New Football Soap Opera filled with endless drama from Nfl and NFLPa…back and forth everyday….can’t wait for football season to start.

  2. Considering it’s basically impossible to ‘disprove the existence’ of anything, I still don’t get what all those folks who think nothing was going believe the NFL is after. Why are they singling out the Saints for *whatever* if nothing was going on?

  3. I might as well get this out of the way before we get numerous responces from Saints fans that noone has admitted to a bounty system.

    The last paragraph from the Saints press release regarding the bounties :

    To our fans, the NFL and the rest of our league, we offer our sincere apology and take full responsibility for these serious violations. It has always been the goal of the New Orleans Saints to create a model franchise and to impact our league in a positive manner. There is no place for bounties in our league and we reiterate our pledge that this will never happen again.

    That should save a lot of time. By the way Saints fans, why was Drew Brees (and the NFLPA) involved in trying to frame this as a coaching issue (per Pamphillon) if he needed an explanation?

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