Special Master Stephen Burbank handed down his ruling in the NFLPA's grievance against the NFL, according to reports circulating on Monday morning. Burbank ruled in favor of the NFL, keeping the matter of player suspensions within the realm of personal conduct. The news was first reported by Pro Football Talk.
The news comes as a blow to the players and the union. Last week, they pleaded their case in front of Burbank that the Saints' pay for performance scandal and the resulting suspensions for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma should be handled as a salary cap violation. That would have taken the matter out of Roger Goodell's jurisdiction and put it front of Burbank, who is tasked with settling cap disputes under the terms of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.
Suspended players are quickly running out of avenues for appeal. Because the league labeled the matter as conduct detrimental to the league, it falls directly under Goodell. Typical on-field conduct matters can be appealed to Ted Cottrell and Art Shell.
Earlier this month, arbitrator Shyam Das heard an appeal from the NFLPA arguing that Goodell could not rule on the matter because it happened prior to the 2011 CBA. A ruling on that matter is expected any day.