To some, the league commissioner's authority to suspend players without a hearing, of sorts, is far too much authority.
The NFLPA is in a tough spot considering it is trying to defend players who were deliberately setting out to hurt other players it represents. But it's filed a grievance—one that strictly challenges the authority of Goodell to decide punishments.
NFLPA grievance appears to take 3 tacts: (1) conduct prior to new CBA - August 4, 2011 - not subject to discipline by NFL.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) May 4, 2012
(2) That only the CBA "System Arbitrator", not the Commissioner, should be able to punish the players for these actions.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) May 4, 2012
(3) That even if the first two are somehow not controlling, the appeals should be handled by Art Shell/Ted Cottrell, not Goodell.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) May 4, 2012
The players' decision to appeal the suspensions comes as no surprise, but it is highly unlikely anything will come of it if Goodell is the one hearing the appeals. Even if it is other members of the league, such as Art Shell and/or Ted Cottrell, the league is desperately trying to send a message on player safety.
Again, the NFLPA is in a tough spot trying to defend two parties that it represents. Its grievance against Goodell's authority was the smartest thing it could do.
No matter what, there should be some type of punishment for Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith—the four players suspended by Goodell, according to NFL Communications—but if that is the case, the NFLPA is arguing they should be heard out by someone other than just the league commissioner.
It is a smart move not to challenge the actual rulings, but rather Goodell's authority to hand them down at all.
There will most certainly be a lot more to come of this, and we'll update when more is known.