Commissioner Roger Goodell could narrow trinity power as the NFL's final judge, jury and executioner in matters of player discipline.
Goodell, previously steadfastly against surrendering the gavel out of duty to, in his words, protect the shield, is willing to discuss ways to involve others in mediation and settling some off-field disciplinary matters, according to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
"We've been talking about changes to the personal conduct policy since October and have traded proposals," Smith told The Wall Street Journal. "We looked at the league's proposal for neutral arbitration. There is a common ground for us to get something done."
Goodell said at Super Bowl 50 - a precise echo of comments he made in rebound press gatherings that followed decisions on the Saints bounty scandal, Ray Rice's botched discipline and Adrian Peterson "switching" his 4-year-old son - that he is open to changes if only he can be convinced it will work. Per Goodell, the current system is working.
"We've had a tremendous focus in recent months on the Personal Conduct Policy, but it is working," Goodell said Feb. 5 in San Francisco. "We've had a 40 percent reduction in player arrests just through the 2015 calendar year. Forty percent. Our arrest rates for our players are far below the average for males of that age, and it reflects for me on the quality of our players off the field. They're great young men. There's a lot of attention when people violate the rules. You don't put as much attention on the finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. That's what we're trying to do, but if we can find a better system, I'm all for it."
Goodell said at the time that the NFL was discussing ways to change the disciplinary process. On-field matters are handled by jointly appointed personnel - such as former NFL player Merton Hanks and former defensive coach Ted Cottrell - and the union, Smith said, would be open to a similar approach to off-field incidents involving players.
"I said we're open to changes in the way we do discipline, but we negotiated for a system in 2011," Goodell said in February. "It was a system that was quite similar for decades prior to that in collective bargaining agreements prior to that. It is almost exactly the same when it comes to protecting the integrity of the game and the Commissioner's authority."