NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith reinforced the union's concern Saturday about excessive fines for violent hits and pledged to be aggressive in challenging some of the monetary penalties.
"We will challenge and appeal any disciplinary decision that is unfair and disproportionate," Smith told ESPN. "The players want to be part of a league and business that doesn't just fine its way to health and player safety."
Smith threw his support behind Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who criticized commissioner Roger Goodell this week over the process that determines the fine amounts and the appeals process.
Polamalu said this week that Goodell has too much power and suggested a systems of checks and balances in the fines and appeals system.
League spokesman Greg Aiello noted that Goodell primarily is not involved in on-field discipline. The majority of fines are determined by senior vice president of football operations Ray Anderson and director of football operations Merton Hanks, a former All-Pro safety with the 49ers.
Goodell, per the CBA, has the right to appoint the parties who screen and hear the appeals for on-field transgressions. Those duties fall to Art Shell, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Oakland Raiders and former NFL player and assistant coach Ted Cottrell. The CBA stipulates that while Goodell has the authority to appoint those who screen appeals, he should do so in consultation with the union's executive director.
Goodell and Anderson met Tuesday with Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has been fined $100,000 this season. Harrison called the meeting only "semi-productive."
"Players want a fair and transparent disciplinary process, but they also want healthcare and rights that will protect them from the dangers of the game," said Smith.
Smith has communicated with Goodell during labor discussions about putting a more compressive system in place during the next CBA term, in addition to enhanced health and disability benefits.
The union is appealing a $50,000 fine that was handed out to Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims for a Week 7 hit on Titans wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins, whom the league described as defenseless and away from the ball.
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's Senior NFL Analyst.