NFLPA: Goodell lacks authority to force Peterson into counseling

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The NFL Players Association is disputing a portion of the punishment commissioner Roger Goodell imposed on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, when he suspended Peterson for the remainder of the 2014 season.

As part of the suspension of Peterson following his no contest plea to a misdemeanor assault charge, Goodell set conditions for Peterson's reinstatement – including meeting with a league-assigned psychiatrist to design a counseling and therapy program.

But according to ESPN, a brief filed on behalf of Peterson by the players' union argues Goodell lacks the power to attach such terms to Peterson's suspension. The union argues that under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the commissioner is only allowed to fine, suspend or terminate the contracts of players and therefore lacks the power to administer additional forms of discipline.

"The collectively-bargained NFL Player Contract could not be clearer in expressly limiting the Commissioner's disciplinary authority 'to fine Players(s) in a reasonable amount, to suspend Player(s) for a certain period or indefinitely; and/or terminate th(eir) contracts (s). The NFL does not deny that the Commissioner's imposed counseling requirement is neither a fine, suspension, or contract termination, nor would there be any other 'plausible' interpretation of this CBA provision permitting such a requirement."

"Instead, the NFL – like the [suspension] itself – entirely ignores the Player Contract's CBA disciplinary limitation. As the NFL highlights, Arbitrator [Harold] Henderson sustained the counseling requirement of Mr. Peterson's discipline not on the basis of any provision in the CBA, but by relying upon Commissioner Goodell's unilaterally promulgated Personal Conduct Policies."

A hearing on the union's lawsuit on behalf of Peterson is expected to go before U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minneapolis on Feb. 6.

That issue could play a key part in determining how quickly Peterson can return to the NFL.

CBS Sports points out that Goodell's letter announcing Peterson's punishment hints that the suspension is open-ended, since April 15 is actually the earliest date that Goodell will review Peterson's progress.

"At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extend to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay."

If Peterson's suspension appears that it may extend beyond April 15, it could make things tough for the Vikings – or any team – to plan their future around the nearly 30-year-old running back.

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