So when does the NFL owe Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith a decision on his application for reinstatement? Whenever the league feels like giving him a decision, apparently.
Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the league must decide within 60 days after an application is made whether a player banished for at least a year under the substance-abuse policy should be reinstated.
The relevant language comes from Appendix B to the substance-abuse policy, which states that “[a]ll individuals involved in the process will take steps to enable the Commissioner to render a decision within 60 days of the receipt of the application [for reinstatement].”
As noted on Sunday, the wording of that provision could be interpreted as not actually requiring the Commissioner to make a decision within 60 days. And, coincidentally or not (not), that’s how the NFL interprets it.
In response to an email asking the league whether the language quoted above requires a decision from the Commissioner within 60 days, an NFL spokesman said, “No. All parties make every effort to be in a position for the league to make a decision within 60 days. Every step of the process must be completed.”
Smith applied for reinstatement 63 days ago, so “every effort” wasn’t enough. And with no information from the league regarding when or if a decision will be made, it’s impossible to know when or if a decision will be made — and why a decision hasn’t happened.
For Smith and the Raiders, time is of the essence. But that apparently isn’t compelling the league to take action.
It’s hard not to wonder whether the league is dragging its feet on this one simply because it has the power to drag its feet. If, the message may be, the players don’t like it they can negotiate for a more clear deadline — and make an appropriate concession to get it.
So here’s what all players should takeaway from the Aldon Smith situation: If the league intends to do the bare minimum that it’s required to do under the labor deal, so should you. Which means, among other things, choosing not to participate in part or all of the 2017 offseason program.