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So the newspaper headlines and the lead topic on sport's talk radio today will be about the Eagles signing of Michael Vick and what it will mean to them and the rest of the league, heck, that's what my blog post is supposed to be about, but I don't see this as a story about Michael Vick at all. Sure there are likely to be some consequences to the Vick signing, but those are purely speculative, which will begin being answered when he takes the practice field on Saturday and will play out over the course of the season. To me though, Michael Vick is just another player in the ongoing drama about crime, punishment, justice and the effects of unbridled power. What Vick's signing by the Eagles is really about is Roger Goodell.
Never in the history of sports have we seen a league commissioner insert himself into a sport like Roger Goodell has since taking over the commissionership of the NFL. He has taken on the roll of the prosecutor, judge, jury and even the appeals court when it comes to meting out what he believes is in the best interest of protecting the NFL. I'm sure even Pacman Jones has said to himself, "I knew Goodell was tough, but I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition!"
My first problem with trying to analyze what the Eagles' signing of Vick really means is that I have no idea when or if he will play this season. People must remember that Vick's suspension is not necessarily up by week six, that is only the time frame that Roger Goodell has decreed to everyone that he will hand down the extent of his sanctions. Not only does Goodell control the potential fate of the Eagles, but his decision of when to allow Vick to play will also have consequences for the rest of the league, particularly the NFC East. Without guidelines or a set suspension, Goodell's decision concerning Vick's return must be looked at very carefully and with suspicion. If McNabb gets hurt, will Goodell take that into consideration as to when he will allow Vick to return? Will Goodell give opposing teams at least a week's notice that Vick will be allowed to play, or will he make his decision on a Friday, allowing Vick to appear that Sunday against a potentially unprepared defense? Forget about how this uncertainty could effect the planning of defensive coordinators, just think about how it will affect the boys setting the lines in Vegas and Dover. On these and many other important questions, like the Shadow, only Goodell knows the answers.
What the cases of Vick, Stallworth, Burress, Jones and others show is that Roger Goodell is currently a man without constraints -- but that might soon come to an end. Looming like storm clouds on the horizon is the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. One has to presume that the players have all watched the way in which Goodell has handed out his form of justice, and wondered what they can do about reigning in his omnipotence. As the players prepare to renegotiate a collective bargaining agreement, I believe it will be imperative for them to set some rules, guidelines and even limits on the commissioner's powers as it comes to player discipline. Without limits or guidelines as to what, how and/or when punishments against players are to be imposed, particularly in light of his penchant for leveling "indefinite suspensions," the players will find themselves under the foot and at the mercy of an unbridled sovereign. The players must, for their own good, and for what I believe to be the good of the league, make sure that some form of control or supervision is placed upon the commissioner's ability to so influence not only the lives of players, but the ultimate outcome of a season.
August 16, 2009; 10:39 PM ET
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