The NFL Players Association and the NFL have been engaged in negotiations to strip league Commissioner Roger Goodell of final say on player appeals regarding the personal conduct policy.
Jim Trotter of ESPN.com reported Wednesday that those talks have lost momentum in a big way after the NFL's most recent proposal. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith called the latest development a "massive step backwards" in an email cited by Trotter.
Smith implied in his email the NFL changed its stance and wasn't as willing to compromise Goodell's power as initially expected:
When I briefed you on the status of negations with the NFL regarding the Personal Conduct Policy (the PCP) at our annual meetings, I shared with you the understanding I had with Roger as to our progress and positions. However, after our annual meetings had concluded, the NFL officially communicated a dramatic change of course...In short, unfortunately, it's a massive step backwards from where negotiations stood several weeks ago
Smith also outlined the plan for the future of the personal conduct policy in his email. He said that in October, the NFLPA tentatively approved the league's proposal to have three former judges serve as a neutral arbitration panel for the disciplinary appeals process.
According to Smith, the NFL also wanted to implement a stipulation regarding the commissioner's exempt list, giving players the opportunity to voluntarily go on the list "with no limitations," not on the basis of alleged violent crimes.
The NFLPA executive committee and board will have the final say on the latest NFL proposal, which they are likely to reject barring a significant compromise from Goodell and the league office.
Regardless of how this situation plays out, Goodell's popularity—he had a 28 percent approval rating as of February—doesn't figure to improve. Prominent players have been critical of his leadership, notably Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman, who referred to Goodell in a Sunday interview with Trotter as "just a suit."
Sherman criticized Goodell's proposed policy of ejecting players who have two personal-foul penalties in a game and the league's inability to solve the controversial catch rule.