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NFLPA Says The NFL Can't Mandate Counseling for Adrian Peterson

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The thing that won't end continues on

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

So here's your daily Adrian Peterson news, kids.

Ben Goessling over at ESPN has a good piece on the latest in the Adrian Peterson saga.  When we last left our erstwhile Vikings running back, he had been suspended by the NFL until at least April 15th, and had to jump through a bunch of hoops to get back in the good graces of the league before he would be reinstated.

One of those hoops was league mandated counseling. After Peterson was initially suspended, he met with a psychology professor at Howard University, but the league insisted he meet with one approved by the NFL, and to attend regular counseling sessions.

The NFLPA cried foul, saying NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league had overstepped their bounds and sued in federal court, asking for immediate reinstatement.

One of the points the NFLPA is arguing in asking for immediate reinstatement is that in their mind the NFL has violated the CBA. And the NFLPA filed a brief in federal court yesterday supporting their argument:

According to the NFLPA's interpretation of the CBA, the commissioner is allowed only to fine, suspend or terminate the contracts of players and does not have 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 Player[s] in a reasonable amount, to suspend Player[s] for a certain period or indefinitely; and/or to terminate th[eir] contract[s],'" the NFLPA argued in a 16-page brief. "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."

CBA cases like this don't succeed in the federal court system very often, because a CBA is generally looked on as a pre-approved set of guidelines that both parties have agreed to. The court is loathe to get involved in what are usually clear cut agreements between management and the union, especially if there are processes to resolve disputes, like mediation and/or arbitration. And the CBA between the NFL and the league has such remedies to address grievances. So my initial reaction is to think that the court will dismiss Peterson's case and the suspension will stand.

That said, federal courts intervening isn't unheard of when there seems to be a clear dispute, and if the NFLPA's interpretation of the CBA is the correct one, and they can prove it to a federal judge, the suspension could be lifted before the April 15th date set by the NFL.