As the NFL and NFL Players Association continue to try (and fail) to make progress on a potential settlement of the Tom Brady suspension, one influential owner has declined to have a direct influence on the situation.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that Giants co-owner John Mara has declined a request that he participate directly in the talks, citing a competitive conflict of interest arising from New England’s Week Five game against the Cowboys. If Brady’s suspension is reduced by even one game, Brady will play in the post-bye contest against Dallas — and New England will be more likely to win.
Mara’s position is confusing, for various reasons. First, Mara is believed to be one of the owners pushing for the league to take a hard line with Brady. Second, if there’s any settlement of the four-game suspension, it surely would entail a reduction by at least one game. Third, perceived competitive conflicts of interest didn’t keep Mara from talking openly about cap penalties imposed three years ago on Dallas and Washington, or from stridently boasting that his pair of NFC East rivals were lucky that the penalty wasn’t worse.
The fact that Mara’s direct involvement was solicited tends to confirm that owners definitely have been involved in this phase of the process, where Roger Goodell, Arbitrator has reverted to Roger Goodell, Commissioner — and where he needs to ensure that his constituents are aware of and satisfied with any major decisions made by the league office. It also highlights the flaws inherent to having issues like this resolved by an internal process controlled by the NFL and then resolved via litigation. The better approach would be to have truly neutral arbitration, with the decision final and binding on the parties, and no need for negotiations involving owners or anyone else.
Of course, Mara will have no choice but to be involved if Judge Richard M. Berman requires him to be. Maybe the best way to settle the Brady case would be to order the entire NFL Management Council Executive Committee to appear in court for the next settlement conference, given that the CEC routinely accompanied Goodell for CBA negotiations in 2011.