No date set for cap penalty hearings

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said there was still no date set for the arbitration hearing on the salary-cap penalties against the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Goodell did take a couple of questions on the matter at his news conference wrapping up the owners meetings here Wednesday morning, but he didn't shine too much light on the reasons the Redskins were penalized $36 million against the cap and the Cowboys $10 million against the cap over the next two years.

"The question was, 'Did any teams gain a competitive advantage?'" Goodell said. "And that was the focus that we and the NFLPA had in reaching our agreement -- making sure that no team had a long-term competitive advantage."

The NFL's management council, which imposed the penalties, determined that the Redskins and Cowboys did work to gain a competitive advantage in future seasons by the way they structured contracts during the uncapped 2010 season. As Goodell points out, the penalties were agreed to by the players' union, though as we first reported on March 12, the union only agreed to them after the league threatened to reduce this year's salary cap.

As for the issue of how a team could be penalized for the way it spent its money during an uncapped year, Goodell said: "I think the rules were articulated. I'd have to go back and look at it again, but the rules were quite clear -- the rules that were followed and the rules that weren't."

It's hard to understand what Goodell could "go back and look at," since I think we've all been under the impression that these rules were not spelled out in any document. Giants owner John Mara, the chair of the management council, said Sunday that the rules intended to govern spending and contract structures in the uncapped year "came up several times in our meetings." There's nothing so far that's indicated the Redskins and Cowboys were in violation of any written rule.

Regardless, the owners did vote Tuesday to ratify the management council's decision. The vote passed 29-2-1, according to Goodell, with the Cowboys and Redskins obviously voting no and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers abstaining. Goodell said it was not necessary to have a full-membership vote to ratify a management council decision, but that it was not unprecedented. It was likely done as a show of support for the punishments in advance of the arbitration hearing.