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NFLPA draws line in sand on NFL Personal Conduct Policy

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PHOENIX – The NFLPA is braced for a long fight regarding the NFL’s new personal conduct policy. The union, which represents NFL players, believes the law laid down by the league violates the 2011 collective bargaining agreement and won’t back down until Commissioner Roger Goodell agrees to come back to the bargaining table.

“The new personal conduct policy that has been instituted by the league, in our eyes, violates the CBA in several ways,” said Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle and current NFLPA President Eric Winston. “We’re going to be grieving this as far as we can.”

The NFLPA filed its first grievance with the league about the new personal conduct policy Jan. 23. The union claims it wasn’t approached before the new policy was announced.

The league’s policy, unanimously agreed to by NFL owners Dec. 10, minimally begins with an NFL investigation. It also gives the league an option to place the player on paid leave – “commissioner’s exempt list, ’’it’s called – if charged with a violent crime or sexual assault.

The NFL then makes a disciplinary decision and the player has a chance to appeal. If he does so, an “outside expert panel” will review the case before a final decision is reached.

The Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases were decided under the league’s personal conduct policy. Rice won his appeal and has been reinstated but Peter-son is suspended without pay until at least April 15, 2015.

“We make no apologies whatsoever about representing our players if we believe their discipline has been imposed that is inconsistent with our CBA,” said NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. “We continue to engage the league whether it will be through litigation or through collective bargain-ing about the new personal conduct policy.”

The NFLPA purposed its own personal conduct policy in mid-November, which included voluntary paid leave and discipline for players only after they’re convicted of a crime or admit to the wrong doing.

The league said it would come to the bargaining table on taking the initial decision out of Goodell’s hands and into the hands of a third-party arbitrator. The appeal, however, would still be in the hands of Goodell or a designee he has appointed. The NFLPA wasn’t satisfied.

The current CBA is five years into a 10-year agreement.

“We’ve been abundantly clear about our position in respect to both Mr. Rice and Mr. Peterson that should be employed when it comes to the personal con-duct policy,” Smith said. “What we insist on is the process and they violated the process.”

Next up in the process is for a third party arbitrator to hear the NFLPA’s Jan. 23 grievance and decide whether to issue a cease and desist order to the NFL on the new personal conduct policy.