By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- If Roger Goodell thought his DeflateGate victory would prevent players from challenging him in the future and instead force them to genuflect at his feet, he's sorely mistaken. The league could face yet another off-field battle, this time from the group of former players accused of PED use in an Al-Jazeera documentary - that is if NFLPA President Eric Winston had his way.
The Cincinnati Bengals tackle joined Pro Football Talk Live on Wednesday and reportedly said that he would fight Goodell and the NFL in the case if he were in the same position as the Steelers' James Harrison, the Packers' Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, or free-agent former Packer Mike Neal. However, he also said that each of them will decide individually whether to do so.
No matter how the NFL plays their cards from here, they will need to try a little harder than they may have thought. Goodell has already threatened the players with suspensions if they don't respond to requests for interviews in the PED case by August 25. Unfortunately for the players, they may just end up having to serve their four games, no matter what they do or how hard they try to fight the league. Battling the absolute power granted to Goodell in the Collective Bargaining Agreement may be a fruitless endeavor, but simply laying down and taking the punishment without a fight over mere threats would also set a bad precedent.
The players remain undecided on how to respond to Goodell's threats, but they obviously have Winston's support and Green Bay GM Ted Thompson also offered his for the Packers players implicated in the case. This particular fight has only begun and it's ready to bleed into the regular season, but as New England learned over the past year-and-a-half, Goodell's power is virtually impossible to overcome as currently constituted.
It seems like the rest of the country is just now beginning to wake up to this sobering reality with the NFL commissioner. The sooner the general public realizes how steep of a hill the NFLPA has to climb and how much things need to change in the NFL's balance of power, the better off the public consciousness will be. The players know what they're dealing with now. It's about time everyone else did.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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