The players' union has asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to recuse himself from the appeal hearing for Tom Brady in the deflated footballs case.
A request from the NFL Players Association formally was made Tuesday, citing "a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement."
"The commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as an arbitrator in this matter," the union said.
Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for his role in the use of underinflated footballs in the AFC championship game.
The league said Tuesday it will not comment on the union's request. The Patriots said they won't comment on the Brady case.
A four-time Super Bowl champion and the face of the most successful NFL franchise of this century, Brady was found in the investigation conducted by attorney Ted Wells — who was hired by the league — to be "at least generally aware" of a scheme to illegally deflate footballs used in the conference title game.
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent also fined the New England Patriots $1 million and took away two draft picks, a first-rounder next year and a fourth in 2017.
On Tuesday, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he will not appeal the punishments.
The CBA reached in 2011 to end the lockout gave Goodell the right to hear the appeal; only the commissioner can punish players for conduct detrimental to the league. But the NFLPA claims if he delegates his authority to discipline players, it's invalid, and if he handles it himself, he is no longer impartial.
The union also said "if the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review."
While Brady has remained silent during the appeal process, Saints right tackle Zach Strief, a player rep to the union, explained how many players feel about the case — and other disciplinary matters.
"The commissioner continues to kind of create some steps as he goes, in an effort I think to try and make the process better," Strief said. "The problem is, it shouldn't be one person coming up with ideas to make a process better. It should be a collaboration ... and I think that's where the appeals process comes in, to make sure the rules that are set up are followed. And that's where the PA has a problem with what's been done."
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen, Brett Martel and Howard Ulman contributed to this story.
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