The NFL Players Association got a win of sorts today when Judge Barbara S. Jones overturned the league’s indefinite suspension of former Ravens running back Ray Rice, but the decision won’t necessarily result in any major changes to the NFL’s disciplinary process. Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports (via Twitter) that the league expects to complete and announce a new personal conduct policy “in the weeks ahead,” and it remains to be seen exactly how much input the union will have on that new policy.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the NFLPA fears that the NFL will unilaterally implement a new conduct policy without any collective bargaining – and without accounting for the union’s objecting – following the next ownership meetings, which are scheduled for December 10. While that new policy might be an improvement on the current one, the league and commissioner Roger Goodell may not concede to independent arbitration for disciplinary matters and appeals, in which case we could see more cases like Rice’s, where the disciplinary process is somewhat arbitrary.
“If they want the buy-in of the players, sit down at the table with us and bargain,” Winston said. “If not, then they’re going to unilaterally do this, they’re going to keep messing up the game and we’re going to keep talking about these things, unfortunately, instead of a big matchup on Sunday …. Every player has rights. We’re not against discipline, and we’ve never been against discipline. But that discipline needs to be carried out in the proper fashion, within the rights both sides have negotiated.”
Rice’s suspension is far from the first case in which the NFL has issued a ruling that had no precedent and didn’t match up with the rules in the current conduct policy. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is embroiled in a similar situation now, having agreed to be placed on the exempt list, believing the time served would help alleviate any additional suspension. His suspension is currently under appeal, with a hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Still, in the case of Rice, a third party (Jones) called out Goodell and the league for an “arbitrary” process, and the NFLPA is hoping the ruling draws attention to what the union sees as a disturbing pattern.
“It’s starting to become a pattern now,” Winston said. “We’re having a lot of this overreaching, lack of due process, and so now (the league says), ‘Let’s make changes. Well, we only want to make the changes we want to make.’
“I’m not happy about this,” Winston said of today’s ruling. “There’s not a winner here. The judge said we were right, but we didn’t win. There’s been way too many of these.“