By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
HOUSTON (CBS) — Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen made his opinion very clear: If you don’t do anything wrong, you’ll never get in trouble with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Mr. Olsen, it’s Tom Brady on line three.
On Friday, Goodell was asked at an event in Houston if there might be changes coming to the player discipline system in the NFL. After the answer, Olsen — who was sharing the stage with Goodell — decided to offer his opinion on the matter.
“The [Personal] Conduct Policy is very low on my totem pole. I don’t anticipate being in his office to get in trouble, and if I don’t act accordingly and I have to go see him in New York, that was something that I did. Those things don’t just happen to you,” Olsen said. “You play a vital role for whether or not you fall into that conduct policy.”
Olsen admitted that there is the occasional “gray area,” but for the most part, people who find themselves in trouble with the league have brought it on themselves.
“For the most part in the big picture, you control yourself, you control your actions,” Olsen lectured. “We all are very clear on what the standards are if you play in the NFL. If you choose to abide by them, you will have zero interaction with the commissioner in a negative way. If you don’t abide by them, you’re not obligated to be a part of this league and you’re not entitled to be a part of this league.
“The vast majority of NFL players, especially guys that have been around the game, understand that and we take great pride. We want to be held to a high standard. It’s not easy to play in the NFL and we don’t want it to be easy, because I think that higher standard is what separates us from a lot of other leagues, what separates us and what makes us the most popular game.”
Olsen’s comments were met with a round of applause from the fans in attendance. The commissioner was quite pleased.
Of course, Brady found himself at the mercy of the NFL commissioner for the past two years for being a part of a violation that experts in the fields of physics and engineering have agreed did not take place. For his troubles of being accused, Brady sat with an NFL-paid investigative team for several hours, answering every question asked by Ted Wells and his team. Wells and the NFL decided that Brady had been lying, so they suspended him for an unprecedented four games.
Brady then testified under oath in part of a 10-hour hearing at NFL headquarters — a sham of a process if ever there were a sham of a process. Goodell, with zero legal experience, shoehorned himself in as the arbitrator in the case, and a month later when he issued his ruling, the commissioner told an out-and-out lie about Brady’s testimony.
Brady had to take the case to court, and he and lawyer Jeffrey Kessler were able to convince a federal judge and then the Chief Judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York that he got a raw deal. But two other Second Circuit judges ruled that Goodell had carte blanche to punish players however he wants and for whatever he wants.
Forced with the decision to throw a Hail Mary at the Supreme Court of the United States or just take his four-game suspension, Brady ultimately had to wave the white flag and take his punishment, which will sit on his record forever.
Again, this was all for an infraction that did not happen. If one still does not believe that to be the case, one need only look at the PSI measurements that were recorded all year in 2015 and sent to the league office. The NFL decided to not only keep those PSI numbers secret but also to rewrite history by saying that no data was recorded and that instead, officials only ran “spot checks.”
If one were still unconvinced, one could look at a game between the Giants and Steelers this year, when Giants personnel stuck a gauge into a Steelers football on the sideline and discovered its PSI reading to be below the allowable limit of 12.5 PSI. Goodell and the NFL responded by … doing nothing and issuing no punishments.
Heck, one might even want to take a look at Olsen’s own team, as the Panthers were once caught using sideline heaters to warm footballs during a game in Minnesota. Goodell and the NFL came down hard on the Panthers by … telling them not to do it. No fines, no suspensions, no draft picks taken away. Just a note.
Yet for Brady, it was a four-game suspension. And for the Patriots, it was a loss of a first-round draft pick, a fourth-round draft pick, and $1 million.
According to Olsen, they must have deserved it.
(Greg, my man, if you need a quick read on the subject, I’ve got you covered. Check it out.)
Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, also on the stage, made his thoughts known on players who get suspended for taking drugs, stating that players only get tested twice per year so it’s easy to avoid a positive test.
“The guys that are getting caught, you’re just not using common sense. You know what I mean?” Fitzgerald said, drawing laughter from Goodell and the crowd.
(Meanwhile, Alan Branch might like a word or two, after he had to fight the NFL for a positive marijuana test that never actually existed.)
(Also, Josh Brown got a one-game suspension despite Goodell’s imposing of a mandatory six-game ban for first time offenders of the domestic violence policy. But according to Olsen, NFL players are held to the highest standard of all sports and that’s what makes them great. Got it. Cool. Great.)
Goodell, for his part, claimed to be open to a change in the disciplinary process if such a change were necessary to complete the next CBA with the players’ union. However, he remained steadfast that he has no interest in giving up his ultimate authority.
“We’ve often said that we would modify the way we do our discipline. There’s no perfect way to do it. The only thing that we feel very strongly about is handing off the ultimate decision, as it relates to personal conduct, to someone who has no affiliation with the NFL, someone who doesn’t care about the way our fans feel about the game,” Goodell said. “Giving that to somebody who has absolutely no equity and no stake in the NFL, I’m opposed to.”
Goodell, Olsen, Fitzgerald and Eli Manning were speaking Friday in downtown Houston at the House of Blues, for a fan forum event in which they fielded questions from fans. The three players are finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. They were all there for doing great things for the community, and they deserve the honor.
They maybe want to do some research though before speaking definitively on certain matters. That’s all.