Roger Goodell Open To Changing His Role In NFL Disciplinary Process — Sort Of

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Roger Goodell made his first public comments — other than a statement — on Monday since a judge ruled against him in Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension appeal.

The NFL commissioner appeared on ESPN Radio’s “The Mike and Mike Show,” where almost the entire conversation revolved around the Deflategate saga. Goodell was asked why the league is choosing to extend the ordeal by appealing U.S. District Judge Richard Berman’s ruling when there’s clearly fatigue from all parties involved, which has extended to NFL fans looking forward to the 2015 season.

“We believe we were consistent with the collective bargaining agreement,” Goodell replied. “That’s simply a legal matter. I am not going to be focused on that. Our legal team will go through the appellate stage, but I want to get back to football and focusing on football, and that’s what I’ll be doing over the next several months.”

Goodell also acknowledged the league’s unsuccessful litigation in recent cases, which ultimately could lead to changes in the NFL’s disciplinary process. That could include Goodell relinquishing some power in that process — sort of.

“We believe that a discipline officer or some type of panel that could make at least the initial decision and then a designee of mine on some type of appeal would be a better system, but we also have some resistance to a third-party arbitration,” Goodell said. “We believe that the standards of the NFL are important to uphold. We believe that you don’t delegate that responsibility or those standards. We think that somebody with a deep knowledge of the game and our policies and our rules are important, particularly when it relates to competitive violations. Those are important to have.”

Here are more highlights from the Goodell interview.

On the NFL’s litigation record and how the disciplinary process could change: “Sometimes when you’re having litigation, you lose in the initial phases and you get to the right place when you have that long-term view, which we do. You have to have a long-term view with litigation, and you have to understand you’re not going to win them all. From our standpoint, we want to get to a better discipline system. We’ve had several discussions with the union about how to do that. We have done that on the field over the last several years. … I believe we can do that here, where we can come with changes, whether they’re designated discipline officers or panels, those things can help us get to a better place and ultimately better decisions. Courts are not the place we should be having these discussions.”

On his relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft: “It’s the same as it’s always been. We may disagree on this issue, but Robert and I continue to have a very strong relationship. We continue to work on league matters that are important to us. We obviously disagree about this issue, but there’s a respectful disagreement about that. We continue to work on league matters and other matters as necessary.”

On skipping the Patriots’ season opener Thursday night versus Pittsburgh: “I don’t know whether I would or wouldn’t (be a distraction), but it isn’t necessary to have that dialogue. I’ve been to their last two games, and we’re looking to have a great celebration. I’m going to a classic NFL game to start the season between the Bears and Packers, and I’m looking forward to it.”

On whether the NFL asked the Patriots to suspend two team employees, as ESPN reported in May: “Absolutely not, no. That was a decision by the Patriots.”

On why the employees weren’t interviewed during the Brady appeal hearing: “That’s an interesting question. I asked both parties near the end of the hearing whether I should hear from them directly. Both parties, particularly the union side, said it was not necessary. They didn’t feel it was a necessary step. The management counsel side said we think we have sufficient information, but the fact that the union doesn’t want to hear from them should be taken into account. I think they are important figures in this, but they (the union) chose not to go any further with it at that point.”

Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick
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