NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell plans to brief owners Wednesday on potential changes to the league's personal conduct policy after months of criticism for his handling of domestic violence cases involving players.
The owners are gathering in Irving, Texas, for their final scheduled meeting before the end of the season. The main subject on the agenda is the conduct policy, which is being revamped in the wake of the cases involving Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
“I blew it,” Goodell told The Wall Street Journal in a series of interviews this fall about the controversies. “Our penalties didn’t fit the crimes.”
The potential changes to the policy proposed by Goodell – who met with New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton last month – include a police department-style model where players, owners and league personnel will immediately be placed on paid leave following formal charges or an independent investigation.
Goodell told The Wall Street Journal that he regrets doing too little on cases when measures could have prevented future abuse.
Also among the considerations would be allowing for a neutral arbitrator to rule on player discipline, but for Goodell or someone he appoints to handle any appeals. That has been a sticking point with the players' union, which wants Goodell removed entirely from the process.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said owners will likely accept Goodell’s proposed changes, in addition to a call to use “league assets to take actions as needed against domestic violence and to help victims.”
Goodell's role in personal conduct discipline exists as part of the collective bargaining agreement reached between the league and union in 2011.
The NFLPA wants any changes to the personal conduct policy to be bargained, and called any meetings between the union and the league "a farce."
On Nov. 25, Goodell invited union officials to his office to discuss the potential changes, but was met with criticism.
DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association executive director, said his staff walked out after an hour because the league’s process wasn’t “fair, transparent and consistent,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
Last month, an arbitrator threw out Rice's indefinite suspension by the NFL for hitting his then-fiancee and now wife Janay in a hotel elevator, freeing him to play again.
Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones said Goodell's decision in September to change Rice's original suspension from two games to indefinite was "arbitrary" and an "abuse of discretion."
After noting the two-game suspension given to Rice was insufficient, Goodell had changed the minimum punishment under the personal conduct policy to six games. Then a video of the Baltimore Ravens running back punching Janay became public, Rice was released by the Ravens and Goodell suspended him indefinitely.
Rice and the union contended he was essentially sentenced twice, and Jones agreed, saying Rice "did not lie to or mislead the NFL."
Peterson's appeal of a league suspension lasting until next April 15 was heard by Harold Henderson last week. Henderson, a former NFL executive, was appointed by Goodell to rule on the appeal and is expected to do so soon.
Peterson is seeking reinstatement, something Goodell told Peterson he will not be considering before April 15.
The 2012 NFL MVP hasn't played for the Minnesota Vikings since Week 1 after he was charged with child abuse in Texas. He was placed on paid leave while the legal process played out, and he pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.
"We reiterate it is a bad process and we've got to figure out a way to get out of a bad process," NFLPA President Eric Winston said on a conference call Tuesday.
The league responded earlier this month to the union's demand for negotiations on the conduct policy with a letter from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. He wrote that the NFL is prepared to discuss modifying the CBA section regarding discipline "to provide that the initial disciplinary decision would be made by someone other than the commissioner or his designee. We would be prepared to consult with the NFLPA on the identity of such a disciplinary officer."
But Winston said "there is really nothing on the table; the proverbial table does not exist."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.