The NFL Players Association and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady plan to call commissioner Roger Goodell as a witness in Brady's appeal hearing, and thus have formally asked Goodell to remove himself as arbitrator.
A source told ESPN's Ed Werder on Friday, however, that Goodell is unlikely to recuse himself as arbitrator of the case, as the league believes the commissioner's presence ensures a higher level of cooperation in the investigation than would be given to somebody else in that position. The source also said that Goodell was looking forward to hearing Brady's side of the story.
On Thursday, Goodell declared his intention to hear Brady's appeal, with a league spokesman saying the decision was made "in accordance with the process agreed upon with the NFL Players Association in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement."
If Goodell doesn't relent, the NFL Players Association wrote in a letter to the NFL that "the NFLPA and Mr. Brady will seek recusal and pursue all available relief to obtain an arbitrator who is not evidently partial."
The NFLPA compared Brady's situation to the recent appeal of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, for which Goodell appointed Judge Barbara Jones as arbitrator.
In addition, the NFLPA also intends to challenge Goodell's decision to allow executive vice president Troy Vincent to determine the Patriots' discipline, which it believes is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement.
Furthermore, the NFLPA intends to argue that the four-game suspension for Brady is not fair and consistent with past punishment for those alleged to have committed similar violations. Also, it believes the Wells report is "a legally inadequate basis upon which to impose this unprecedented discipline."
As for calling Goodell as a witness, the NFLPA stated that testimony on Goodell's decision to delegate the decision of the Patriots' punishment to Vincent is a focus. The NFLPA also intends to call Vincent as a witness.
"You will both be required to testify about when you became aware of the Colts' complaints about ball deflation and what decisions and steps were thereafter taken to set up what may have been a 'sting operation' to try to implicate the Patriots and Mr. Brady," the NFLPA wrote in its letter. "The latter conduct would present an additional ground for setting aside the discipline imposed."