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Thursday, August 4, 2011
Sources: Discipline power unchanged

ESPN.com news services

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will retain power to mete out discipline under the personal conduct policy in the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified Thursday afternoon, league sources tell ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

And the agreement, for the first time, calls for HGH testing to be implemented by the first game, a source familiar with the talks told Schefter.

The league year began Thursday when the CBA was ratified. Players who signed new contracts will be allowed to practice for the first time.

The NFL and the players union were still discussing issues, including the personal conduct policy, drug testing and benefits until early Thursday morning, then agreed to reconvene a few hours later, hoping to finish the agreement.

Goodell's disciplinary powers have been a point of contention with many players. As late as Wednesday night, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark predicted his team might not ratify the deal unless changes were made.

"De Smith is still working," Clark said of the NFLPA executive director, "and we're trying to get this figured out. But it's not an absolute that guys will be at practice tomorrow."

Clark added that the disciplinary process "with Roger Goodell having total control over the fine process, that's a deal-breaker for us in this situation."

"We feel like someone else should be on there; there should be some ... type of way -- actually someone who's not on the NFL payroll," Clark said. "A big issue, for us, especially, as a team, is Roger Goodell ... being judge, jury and appeals system."

But league sources told Schefter that Goodell would retain exclusive control over the personal conduct policy.

However, players likely will be able to appeal suspensions under the drug policy to an independent arbitrator, league sources told Schefter.

Among the players' concerns is how HGH testing would be implemented, who would oversee it and what would be a fair appeals process. Blood tests are used to detect HGH, while urine tests are used to detect other substances that violate the league's drug policy.

Goodell reiterated Wednesday the expectation an agreement would be finalized on time.

"That's certainly our intention," he said while visiting the Carolina Panthers. "If we can reach agreement and sign the collective bargaining agreement by (Thursday) morning, we certainly expect for the new league year to start and the players to be out here (Thursday) morning."

That might come a bit later in light of the adjournment.

Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie called Thursday "a soft deadline" but said it's "looking very optimistic" that the CBA will be signed on time.

Following the 4½-month lockout, all 32 teams are counting on having players with new contracts at practice Thursday, with a few clubs moving back the starting time of their workouts. Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he doesn't "even want to entertain the thought" of a delay.

"The first thing that's going to happen is I'm going to jump out of a building somewhere," Thompson joked.

Dallas player rep Jason Witten wasn't surprised that another deadline was being faced.

"We knew that was going to take a little bit of time (with) some of those issues," Witten said. "But, gosh, a lot of work's gone into it to get to this point; hate to see it slip."

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press contributed to this report.