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NFL players' union says Roger Goodell made a 'sweeping grab for power' in Deflategate ruling

NFL players' union says Roger Goodell made a 'sweeping grab for power' in Deflategate ruling
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

The NFL Players Assn. told a federal appeals court Monday that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was making a "sweeping grab for power" in the Deflategate controversy and a judge was right to reject his handling of the scandal.

Lawyers for the union made the claim in papers filed with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. The court is hearing the NFL's appeal of a judge's ruling that nullified the league's four-game suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady. A three-judge panel will hear oral arguments in March before issuing a decision weeks or months later.

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The union said Goodell ignored the collectively bargained agreement between the league and the union when he upheld the suspension in July. "It is a sweeping grab for power that is contrary to collectively bargained penalties," union lawyers wrote.

They said the league has for decades provided all players with hundreds of pages defining league policies including conduct detrimental to the game, with some penalties collectively bargained. Under "equipment violations," the union said, the league provides notice in bold, italicized type that "First offenses will result in fines."

The union has asked the court to uphold the decision issued by Judge Richard Berman just before the season began. Berman said the league's discipline of Brady was based on "several significant legal deficiencies," including that it failed to adequately provide notice that a lengthy suspension could result from deflating footballs

Rams fire Cignetti

The St. Louis Rams, next to last in offense in the NFL, fired offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and designated Rob Boras, assistant head coach/offense and tight ends coach, to take over the coordinating duties. St. Louis (4-8) has lost five in a row and had a season-low for points in a 27-3 loss to Arizona on Sunday. Cignetti, 50, had been with Jeff Fisher since the head coach was hired in 2012.

Fisher also said wide receiver Stedman Bailey was improving from two gunshot wounds to the head, but the coach wasn't sure if the 2013 third-round pick would be able to return to the NFL. Bailey was shot in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Nov. 24 and Fisher described the injuries as career-threatening, though he said he wasn't ruling out a return. Bailey came off the suspended list Monday from a four-game ban for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Fisher said the team probably would place him on the non-football injury list.

Manning to throw

Peyton Manning will suit up and throw outdoors Wednesday as he takes his first big step back from a torn plantar fascia in his left foot that has sidelined him since mid-November. It's unlikely, however, that he'll participate in practice, and it is unknown when Denver's 39-year-old quarterback might play in games again. "The thought is we go into kind of a modified small workout personally with him and see where we can be each and every day," Coach Gary Kubiak said.

Manning hasn't thrown outside since four of his passes were intercepted by the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 15, when he had his worst career performance on the same day he became the league's all-time career leader in yards passing. The next day, Kubiak named Brock Osweiler the starter and the fourth-year pro has gone 3-0 since, with wins over Chicago, New England and San Diego keeping the Broncos three games ahead of the Chiefs in the AFC West.

Boyle suspended

Baltimore rookie tight end Nick Boyle was suspended four games by the NFL for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances. The suspension probably means Boyle, who has 18 catches, is done for the season; the Ravens (4-8) have four games left and are unlikely to make the playoffs.

Etc.

New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has missed the last two games, is still in the NFL's concussion protocol, though Coach Todd Bowles says he's "feeling a lot better." Bowles also said defensive end Mike Catapano's foot injury could sideline him the rest of the season. . . . Indianapolis quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who's 3-1 since replacing injured Andrew Luck, has a stiff neck and a mild rib separation, suffered during Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh, but is expected to play Sunday at Jacksonville. . . . Green Bay tight end Andrew Quarless was sentenced to a year of probation, ordered to attend an anger management class and fined $1,000 for firing a gun in Miami Beach in July. . . . Jacksonville middle linebacker Paul Posluszny broke his right hand during Sunday's loss at Tennessee, but the team has not ruled him out for the rest of the year. . . . Seattle released cornerback Cary Williams, who signed a three-year, $18-million deal last off-season and started the first 10 games of the season before getting benched. . . . Buffalo starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore has a shoulder injury that could sideline him Sunday against Philadelphia. . . . Jacksonville receiver Allen Hurns exited the NFL's concussion protocol and was cleared to practice this week and play against Indianapolis.

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