Commissioner Roger Goodell won his first battle in the Deflategate punishment controversy Tuesday, with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft saying in a press conference the team would not appeal its fine or draft-pick penalties. The NFLPA made it clear within hours it has no similar plans, formally requesting Goodell recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady's appeal, according to a statement:
Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as an arbitrator in this matter.
Goodell later commented about the request, declining to answer if he would do so, via Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports. The commissioner also said that he "hasn't given it full consideration yet," via Garafolo.
The NFLPA also cited Goodell's inconsistency in dishing out punishment, calling him "ill-suited" to hear the case. Independent arbitrators have come down hard on the commissioner over the last year, most notably overturning the suspension of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Unsurprisingly, the NFLPA requested that a neutral party hear the case when initially filing Brady's appeal. That Goodell chose himself instead was a surprise to most though he does have that right under the league's collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL suspended Brady four games after Ted Wells' report (Warning: NSFW language) found it was "more probable than not" the Patriots quarterback knew game balls were being deflated below the league protocol regarding pounds per square inch. Wells' report largely centers on text message exchanges between Jim McNally and John Jastremski, two Patriots employees who regularly referenced Brady.
"The discipline is ridiculous and has no legitimate basis," Brady's agent, Don Yee, said in a statement, per Garafolo. "In my opinion, this outcome was predetermined; there was no fairness in the Wells investigation whatsoever. There is no evidence that Tom directed footballs be set at pressures below the allowable limits."
Goodell (or whoever hears the case) will have the option to uphold, reduce or eliminate Brady's suspension altogether. If Brady's suspension is upheld, he will not be eligible to return until New England's Week 6 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.
Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots' 2014 second-round pick, would start in Brady's place.
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