Attorneys for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have recommended that Goodell reject the NFLPA's request that he recuse himself from hearing Tom Brady's appeal of his four-game suspension.
While Goodell still could step aside as arbitrator, he would be doing so against the advice of his lawyers
Goodell said Wednesday at the NFL spring meeting that he looked forward to hearing "directly from Tom if there is new information or there is information that can be helpful to us in getting this right." Goodell cited his role as arbitrator as part of a "long-established" process.
The players' association formally made its request Tuesday, citing "a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement."
The union called Goodell a "central witness in the appeal hearing," adding that he is not impartial. The NFLPA wanted a neutral party to serve as an arbitrator.
"The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner," the NFLPA wrote. "If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review."
On Friday's Outside the Lines on ESPN, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was asked by host Bob Ley how likely it would be that the union would go to the courts before the appeal in an attempt to block Goodell, and Smith didn't tip his hand.
"It's our job to make decisions about process that are in the best interest of the client," Smith said.
Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for his role in the use of underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
The New England Patriots also were fined $1 million and stripped of two picks -- a first-rounder in the 2016 draft and a fourth-rounder in the 2017 draft. On Tuesday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he will not appeal those penalties.
Brady has hired attorney Jeffrey Kessler, who has taken on the league in a variety of other cases through the years, and could take his case to court should his punishment not be reduced after appeal.
ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.