- Unanimously unilateral. – (SportsNetwork.com) - Unanimously unilateral.
Perhaps that's what you should take away from the NFL's self-titled "comprehensive new conduct policy."
A revised and "strengthened" personal-conduct policy for all NFL employees was "unanimously" endorsed and unveiled at a league meeting in Dallas on Wednesday with the highlights being a new league Conduct Committee, along with a yet to be named disciplinary officer for the newly created position of Special Counsel for Investigations and Conduct.
"With considerable assistance from the many people and organizations we consulted, NFL ownership has endorsed an enhanced policy that is significantly more robust, thorough, and formal," commissioner Roger Goodell claimed. "We now have a layered evaluation process to take into account a diversity of expert views. This will better enable us to make appropriate decisions and ensure accountability for everyone involved in the process."
On the surface that all sounds wonderful and there was some good in the policy, things like additional NFL-funded counseling and services for victims, families, and violators, an expert group of outside advisors to review and evaluate potential violations, and specific criteria for paid leave for an individual formally charged with a crime of violence.
But when you continued to peek through the document, this little nugget appeared: "An appeals process pursuant to Article 46 (Commissioner Discipline) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement for players or to applicable club or league procedures for non-players. The commissioner may name a panel that consists of independent experts to participate in deciding an appeal."
In layman's terms that means Goodell remains in his position of judge, jury and executioner when it comes to all personal-conduct issues in the NFL. There is just a little more nuance now to protect an emperor with no clothes.
Instead of Goodell himself or his current lieutenants listening to the evidence and handing out a punishment, the new disciplinary officer -- hired of course by the commish himself -- will oversee the investigatory process and determine initial disciple.
The league itself admits "for players, this is consistent with past practice under the CBA in which a member of the commissioner's staff has generally issued discipline for off-field misconduct."
So what exactly has changed in that regard? The league is going to hire a new rubber stamp?
The appeals process, meanwhile, remains as stacked as ever in Goodell's favor.
"The commissioner may name a panel that consists of independent experts to participate in deciding an appeal," the revised policy states.
Notice the wording and the inclusion of the word "may." That's neither semantics nor an oversight, it a nod toward the omnipotent power of the commissioner staying exactly where it is.
One of my pet peeves through this whole process has been the terminology "new personal-conduct policy," unveiled after Goodell announced there would be a stricter baseline suspension of six games for domestic violence issues. It was a narrative bought hook, line and sinker by many members of the media who should know better.
There is and can be no new policy without collective bargaining and the NFLPA highlighted that with its reaction to today's officially unveiled revised policy.
"Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL's new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses," the organization said in a tersely-worded statement. "Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months."
That was a nod toward Adrian Peterson, who remains sidelined while currently paying for not only his sins but the sins of Ray Rice or to be more specific, the public's reaction to Goodell's original assessment of Rice's sins.
There is some tangible improvements in the policy released today. Checkmarks were put next to two boxes that have stained the NFL in the past -- transparency and consistency. A third, however, credibility, was not touched.
And it really can't be -- at least not with Roger Goodell involved.
There remains no real recourse for the players if Goodell strays from what amounts to nothing more than a series of promises. But, by at least having the commissioner put tangible restraints on paper, the NFLPA can now savage him in the court of public opinion if he remains unfair and inconsistent moving forward.
WEEK 15 (All Times Eastern)
Arizona (10-3) at St. Louis (6-7) (-4 1/2), Thursday, 8:25 p.m. - Injuries have most observers scurrying to jump off the Cardinals' bandwagon. The Cards, however, enter Week 15 of the NFL season on the precipice of the postseason, tied for the league's best record at 10-3 and one-game ahead of the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in the ultra-tough NFC West. A win by the Cardinals will send Bruce Arians' club to the playoffs as long as the Dallas- Philadelphia game set for Sunday night doesn't end in a tie. Arizona can also lock down a postseason berth with a win in St. Louis, coupled by a Detroit loss against Minnesota on Sunday and a Green Bay win or draw in Buffalo. The Rams will be attempting to become the first team to put up three straight shutouts since the legendary Steel Curtain with Pittsburgh did so in 1976.
Rams 14, Cardinals 10
Houston (7-6) at Indianapolis (9-4) (-6 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Colts can clinch the AFC South with their 12th straight division win while the Texans can close the gap to just one game with two to play if they get the triumph. Houston has won two in a row, including last weekend's 27-13 win over Jacksonville where J.J. Watt recorded three sacks and became the fifth player to amass at least 50 sacks (51) in his first four NFL seasons. Indy QB Andrew Luck now has 12,501 passing yards, the most ever by any player in his first three NFL seasons.
Colts 31, Texans 23
Pittsburgh (8-5) (-2 1/2) at Atlanta (5-8), Sunday, 1 p.m. - There will be a first place team in Atlanta but it's the 5-8 Falcons, not the 8-5 Steelers. Somebody has to win the dismal NFC South and Atlanta has the inside track thanks to a 4-0 record in its division. The Steelers stand one-half game in back of Cincinnati in the tough AFC North after topping the Bengals in Week 14. The Falcons could be without Julio Jones, who dominated the Packers secondary on Monday night with 11 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown before being forced to the sidelines with a hip injury.
Steelers 27, Falcons 21
Jacksonville (2-11) at Baltimore (8-5) (-14), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Baltimore enters one-half game behind Cincinnati in the AFC North and with Joe Flacco on the precipice of being the first player in franchise history to reach 25,000 passing yards. The veteran needs just 197 and is on a run of four straight games with a passer rating of 100.0 or more. The Ravens are 38-5 when Flacco hits that century mark.
Ravens 31, Jaguars 14
Green Bay (10-3) (-5) at Buffalo (7-6), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The NFL's best quarterback takes on the league's best pass rush. Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with 119.0 passer rating and has thrown 35 TDs versus just three interceptions for Green Bay's top-ranked offense. The Bills lead all of football with 48 sacks and are the only team with three players who have nine-or-more sacks (Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes). The Pack can clinch a playoff berth with a win coupled with a Dallas loss at Philadelphia.
Packers 24, Bills 17
Tampa Bay (2-11) at Carolina (4-8-1) (-5 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Panthers are still in the NFC South hunt after topping New Orleans last weekend but will be without QB Cam Newton after a scary car accident on Tuesday. Newton suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back in the two-car accident and veteran Derek Anderson will be under center against the Bucs. Carolina has topped Tampa Bay three straight times and is just one-half game behind both Atlanta and the Saints in the division.
Panthers 17, Buccaneers 16
Cincinnati (8-4-1) at Cleveland (7-6) (pick 'em), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Johnny Manziel will make his first NFL start when the desperate Browns host the Bengals. Manziel, one of Cleveland's two first-round picks in the 2014 draft, takes over for struggling veteran Brian Hoyer with the Browns trying to stay alive in the AFC playoff race at 7-6. Cleveland is last in the tough AFC North but just one game behind both Pittsburgh and Baltimore and 1 1/2 south of Cincinnati with three games to play.
Bengals 23, Browns 17
Oakland (2-11) at Kansas City (7-6) (-10), Sunday, 1 p.m. - Revenge is on the Chiefs' minds. A three-game skid has Kansas City behind the 8-ball in the AFC playoff hunt and the losing started in Oakland back on Nov. 20 when the Chiefs lost to the then-winless Raiders, 24-20. In his last three meetings with Oakland, K.C, running back Jamaal Charles has 465 scrimmage yards (178 rushing, 287 receiving) and eight total TDs (three rushing, five through the air).
Chiefs 27, Raiders 13
Miami (7-6) at New England (10-3) (- 7 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - The Patriots have won 15 in a row at home dating back to last season and eight of their last nine games overall. With their win in San Diego last weekend the Pats joined the 1983-98 San Francisco 49ers as the only NFL teams in history to win 10-or more games in 12 consecutive seasons. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win over Miami and a first-round playoff bye with a win and some help.
Patriots 33, Dolphins 20
Washington (3-10) at New York Giants (4-9) (-6 1/2), Sunday, 1 p.m. - About the only intrigue here is whether Robert Griffin III will be under center for the Redskins. That and perhaps Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had 11 catches for 130 yards and a TD in Tennessee last weekend becoming the first rookie in history with 90-or-more receiving yards in six straight games.
Giants 30, Redskins 14
Denver (10-3) (-4) at San Diego (8-5), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. - Denver can clinch another AFC West crown with a win and can earn a first-round bye with a triumph and some help. The Broncos have won three in a row, including last weekends 24-17 win over Buffalo in which C.J. Anderson rushed for three touchdowns. Anderson has five total scores during Denver's current run. Despite a loss to New England in Week 14, Chargers QB Philip Rivers has won 33 of his 40 career regular-season starts in December and January.
Chargers 28, Broncos 24
New York Jets (2-11) (-1 1/2) at Tennessee (2-11), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. - The Jets are the favorites in Nashville which tells you all you need to know about the Titans. Tennessee could lose to both New York teams at home over a two- week period, no small feat considering the Giants arrived in Music City with only three wins and the Jets have only two.
Jets 21, Titans 16
San Francisco (7-6) at Seattle (9-4) (-10), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. - These two rivals will meet for the second time in three weeks. Seattle won the Week 13 matchup 19-3 and the 49ers, who have appeared in three consecutive NFC Championship Games, are in full on desperation mode when it comes to the postseason. Conversely, the Seahawks have won three in a row and are the first team since 2010 (New England) to have a three-game winning run with all three victories over teams with a .600-plus winning percentages and at least 10 games played (9-1 Arizona, 7-4 San Francisco and 9-3 Philadelphia).
Seahawks 23, 49ers 13
Minnesota (6-7) at Detroit (9-4) (-8), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. - The Lions will try to keep on the heels of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North against an improving Vikings team behind rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater. In his last six starts, Bridgewater is 4-2 with a passer rating of 91.0 over that span. Veteran Detroit QB Matthew Stafford is also hot, completing 60-of-79 passes for 701 yards with five TDs and no interceptions in his past two games.
Lions 24, Vikings 20
Dallas (9-4) at Philadelphia (9-4) (-3 1/2), Sunday 8:30 p.m. - First place in the NFC East is on the line when the Cowboys visit the Eagles on Sunday night. The teams enter Week 15 tied for the top spot in the division at 9-4. Philadelphia won the Thanksgiving Day meeting 33-10. Dallas has the NFL's best road record (6-0) and posted a 41-28 victory at Chicago last Thursday night.
Eagles 31, Cowboys 24
New Orleans (5-8) (-3) at Chicago (5-8), Monday, 8:30 p.m. - Normally the Saints want to play at home but four straight losses at the Superdome and a Bears team that has seemingly checked out on the season make Chicago a desirable location even in December. In his past two meetings with the Bears, Drew Brees has completed 55-of-72 passes for 558 yards with five TDs for a 121.2 rating.
Saints 23, Bears 20