Bountygate: DeShazier Calls Out the NFLPA

"Roger, did you skip over Sections 14 and 15?" (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Bud Lite)

Now that the NFLPA has pushed back against Goodell's ruling on player sanctions, and the NFL has responded to the pushback, it's time to comment and analyze just what's going on here.

Earlier today, Dave let us know that he's now questioning the whole deal, and I am growing a bit skeptical myself.

John DeShazier of the nola.com and Times-Picayune uses today's column to chastise the player's union for coming in with too little, too late to protect its players from the Bountygate sanctions.

Make the jump for a run through his argument.

* * *

He first points out the "too late" aspect...

It would've been wonderful if the NFL Players Association more effectively had sought to derail Goodell's one-man judicial system train when the perfect opportunity to do so presented itself at the bargaining table, rather than now, when it appears they're scrambling to sidestep the very agreement into which they entered.

I'm not so sure I'd characterize this as "sidestepping", John. Seems to me as if they're working to make sure he's acting with correct authority as spelled out in the CBA.

And here's the "too little" part:

But the twin arguments that, one, Goodell was prohibited from punishing players for sketchy conduct before the current CBA going into effect last Aug. 4 because they were absolved from detrimental conduct before that and, two, that the offending actions were "on the playing field" and subject to the authority of hearing officers, rather than "off the field" and under the jurisdiction of Goodell, don't sound like a winning formula.

OK, John, but why?

First, they might want to note that last season, Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson was among eight players the union turned over to Goodell to be suspended for off-field transgressions that happened during the lockout.

Benson was suspended for a game without pay and docked another game check even though his transgression occurred before the CBA was signed, while he was a free agent. The union negotiated a deal in which he was one of eight players who could be disciplined, while 25 players were not.

There's some wisdom here, but just because the NFLPA screwed up on that one in regard to timing, doesn't mean they should keep repeating the same mistake.

Second, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who will serve a six-game suspension for his role in the bounty program, called the cause of his punishment the "spoken word" rather than the "clenched fist." That points to a belief that if he was guilty of anything, it wasn't for something that happened on the field.

Saints players, likewise, have insisted that no malicious intent was carried onto the field. No opponent purposefully was targeted to be injured for pay via a bounty program, they have said, in bold print and with exclamation points.

Yet, in the appeal -- and in an effort to get the matter out of the hands of Goodell -- the union seems to be making an affirmative case for the clenched fist rather than the spoken word.

It wants the bounty system to be considered an on-field act, and under the jurisdiction of hearing officers Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, rather than an off-field act that solely can be judged by the commissioner -- even while players insist nothing happened on the field.

But from what James Varney writes of the grievance, that's not quite what they are saying in it...

It's the system arbitrator, not Goodell, who should be in control, according to the union. Goodell doesn't have the disciplinary authority in the matter under the collective bargaining agreement because in this case, it is sections of Articles 14 and 15 that apply, the grievance claims. Goodell slotted his punishment under Article 46 or "conduct detrimental" to the NFL and the game.

While Article 46 would make the commissioner the sole arbiter, the NFLPA says this issue is exactly the opposite and that the CBA expressly rules the commissioner out of the loop.

"The CBA provides that only the System Arbitrator is authorized to penalize players for alleged violations of the undisclosed payments provisions," the union motion reads. "This is in contrast to penalties against Club employees, where the CBA does provide that the commissioner is authorized to impose fines and suspensions, up to specified maximum limits, but only after the System Arbitrator has first found a violation of the underlying rule."

Then DeShazier sums it all up:

It sounds like what it is, a desperate attempt to prevent Goodell from imposing his will on this situation.

Too bad the NFLPA didn't want that desperately enough to do something about it last summer when it could have.

* * *

Now it's your turn to comment. What are your thoughts on DeShazier's "too little, too late" argument?

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