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NFL, union held preliminary talks on Goodell role in discipline

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The NFL and NFL Players Association might have had preliminary talks on Commissioner Roger Goodell's power over player discipline, but neither side is expecting a resolution soon.

According to sources from both parties, talks are still at the preliminary stages. While these things can accelerate on a dime, there's no expectation that an agreement will come during the owners' meetings in Florida this week.

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Last week, a Wall Street Journal report led to speculation that Goodell might be prepared to surrender some disciplinary power.

"I'm not sure where that came from," Giants co-owner John Mara said Sunday, when asked about the Wall Street Journal story by reporters. "We're still in the middle of discussions with the union about the personal conduct policy. We have a long way to go before we reach any type of agreement on that."

Early talks have, however, revealed some of the priorities of owners and players going forward.

First, both parties have agreed that discussion should center on Goodell's power over the appellate process, and that it's important the commissioner retain a major say in the initial phase of player discipline. The league has held that it's an important piece of the commissioner's traditional role, and the union has been accepting of that stance. One idea that's been discussed has been establishing a jointly-appointed, three-person appellate panel.

Second, owners have shown a desire to extend the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through the 2020 season, as part of these talks. The union is reluctant to do so, largely because the media landscape could change significantly by the time the current broadcast deals expire after the 2021 season. As it is, the players' take in the CBA is weighted toward television, something that might not be as favorable in five years, given the advances in digital technology and the cord-cutting tendencies of the younger generation of NFL viewers.

Third, in light of all that's happened over the last year, sources on both sides have said that the owners would like to set up a system that keeps disciplinary matters out of the courts.

For his part, Goodell said at the Super Bowl in February that he was open to changes to his role.

"If we can find changes, if we can improve that process, we will do that. And we have done that," Goodell said. "We did it a year ago with our drug program, and I think there were very positive changes. We'll continue to have that dialogue with the union."

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