A recent ESPN survey of NFL players revealed at least one rock-solid sentiment: They overwhelmingly oppose commissioner Roger Goodell's ultimate authority on discipline.
More than 100 players were polled, and 88 percent answered "no" when asked if Goodell should decide discipline. That position no doubt was strengthened further Thursday, when U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman vacated Tom Brady's four-game suspension, which was based on Goodell's decision and investigator Ted Wells' report that determined Brady was "generally aware" of a scheme to deflate footballs in the AFC Championship Game.
The ruling has raised new calls for the NFL to overhaul its judicial process, which gives Goodell extraordinary latitude in both handing out punishments and overseeing appeals. Berman is the latest judge or third-party arbitrator to rule that Goodell has overstepped those wide boundaries, a conclusion players appear to have reached long before Thursday.
Consider that in the same poll, 72 percent said they believed the Patriots (but not necessarily Brady) had in fact done something to deflate footballs in the AFC title game victory over the Colts. About two in five players (42 percent) said they considered the Patriots cheaters, and 68 percent said they think other teams also tamper with footballs illegally.
But even if they agreed tacitly with Goodell's findings, it's clear that the majority of NFL players don't trust him to react in a fair manner.
Here are the complete results of the 13-question survey: