Judge denies request from Dallas Cowboys' La'el Collins to halt suspension

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ESPN 12 October, 2021 - 07:07pm 12 views

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SHERMAN, Texas -- A federal judge has denied a request by Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins for an injunction that would have halted his five-game suspension with one game remaining.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant suggested in his ruling issued Tuesday that the NFL suspended Collins in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. However, Mazzant ruled the arbitrator's decision in Collins' appeal was based on a "reasonable construction of the parties' agreements."

The ruling means Collins won't be eligible to play Sunday at New England. The seventh-year player can return to the team next week, when the Cowboys are idle. Collins can play again in Week 8 at Minnesota.

The NFL accused Collins of bribery in a court filing that opposed the request for a preliminary injunction. Representatives for Collins have strongly denied that and said the league misled the arbitrator by saying Collins had been suspended four games when he hadn't.

Collins sued the NFL, its management council and commissioner Roger Goodell last week. The lawsuit said Collins was suspended when the new labor agreement signed in 2020 no longer allowed for suspensions over missed tests or positive marijuana tests. The league countered by saying Collins had a "long history of discipline for repeated violations."

"Clearly in a fair hearing, a fair court, with a judge like we had here, we'd win hands down," said player agent Peter Schaffer, one of Collins' representatives. "(Collins) stood up against the league knowing he was right. The only reason he was suspended is this is how the league treats its players."

The suspension was announced the day after Dallas' 31-29 loss to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the opener, Collins' first game since 2019. He missed all of last season because of hip surgery.

Just before the start of the season four years ago, Mazzant granted star running back Ezekiel Elliott's request for an injunction to stop a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations. That ruling sparked a two-month legal saga that ended with Elliott serving the suspension.

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Cowboys RT La’el Collins finds ‘vindication’ in loss of suspension appeal

The Dallas Morning News 12 October, 2021 - 09:25pm

5:26 PM on Oct 12, 2021 CDT

With that language, the 25-page decision offered some moral vindication for Collins, whose legal team has argued his infractions warranted a fine, not suspension, in accordance to the 2020 policy agreement.

Last year, Collins missed several drug tests, never testing positive with the exception of the painkiller Codeine following his October 2020 hip surgery, his lawyer Peter Schaffer said. On Nov. 12, according to court transcripts, Collins was accused of attempting in vain to bribe a specimen collector $5,000 and then $10,000 when the two men were alone in the collection room inside the Cowboys’ training facility at Ford Center at The Star.

Collins will complete his five-game suspension on Sunday, sitting out against the New England Patriots. He forfeited $430,556 in salary across the five weeks. An arbitrator enacted the suspension on Sept. 9 following an Aug. 31 NFL appeal hearing.

By strict definition, ruling is a defeat for Cowboys RT La’el Collins; he serves suspension in full. But it includes some level of vindication after Court expressed “serious concerns regarding the NFL’s conduct and the arbitrator’s interpretation of the (substance abuse) policy.”

“I think he feels vindicated that he stood up against, as David did against Goliath, and went toe-to-toe with the greatest sports enterprise of all-time and proved to a federal judge that he was in the right,” Schaffer said. “And (he proved) that he did things the right way. But for the high hurdle that would be required to get a federal judge to overturn the arbitrator, he wins.

“Had this judge been the judge at the hearing, he would have been playing four weeks ago. There is some vindication there, both personally and professionally, that he was in the right the whole time. We take some comfort in that.”

An NFL spokesperson did not return request for comment.

Collins can resume football duties next Monday when the Cowboys begin their bye week, and he’s scheduled to return to game action on Oct. 31 at the Minnesota Vikings. Terence Steele, a second-year lineman who has impressed throughout Collins’ absence, will start again Sunday in his place.

Dallas (4-1) has won four straight games.

U.S. District Court judge Amos Mazzant delivered the Tuesday decision.

Within the document that the Dallas Morning News obtained, Mazzant questioned first the NFL for how it framed a previous discipline negotiation for Collins’ missed tests to the independent arbitrator and secondly the arbitrator for using Collins’ failed bribe attempt as grounds to suspend Collins five games. Bribe attempts are not explicitly defined within the substance abuse policy as subject for suspension.

Mazzant noted in his conclusion, however, that he’d be overstepping to undo the arbitrator’s ruling.

“The Court takes no comfort in enforcing an arbitration award that upholds a punishment that, arguably, is not permissible under the parties’ CBA,” Mazzant wrote. “But, just as the Court cannot embrace its own opinion as to the validity of Collins’ claims or the out-of-bounds nature of the NFL’s disciplinary decisions, the Court cannot disregard an arbitrator’s reasonable construction of the parties’ agreements.”

Collins has denied that the bribe attempt occurred. According to a transcript of his appeal hearing, he characterized the bribe as a miscommunication and “joke gone wrong,” saying that teammates joked about the bribe inside the locker room.

The arbitrator, James Carter, ruled that the bribe occurred, forming the basis to Collins’ suspension. He missed the entire 2020 season while recovering from hip surgery. He said in the appeal hearing that he was on crutches for 14 weeks and needed to be driven to the Cowboys’ facility in order to be drug tested.

Find more Cowboys coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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Judge Rules On Cowboys' La'el Collins Playing

Sports Illustrated 12 October, 2021 - 08:21pm

And as far as the Cowboys are concerned - again, whatever courtroom claims are made to the contrary - Collins is not being counted on to play this Sunday in an NFL Week 6 visit to the New England Patriots, either.

Said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (via "Shan & RJ'' on 105.3 The Fan): "Frankly, I do not have anything worth noting that would indicate otherwise.''

UPDATE: On Tuesday, the court made its ruling. Collins' appeal is not being granted.

Collins, 28, was suspended on Sept. 10 for violations regarding multiple drug tests and allegedly trying to bribe the league’s test collector. The league said during Friday’s hearing in Sherman, Texas, that the person who collects the tests reported last November that Collins asked to meet with him "man-to-man," adding that he felt he was "being tested too much."

There was some discussion, according to reports from inside the courtroom, allegedly suggesting that the team was planning on letting Collins play in the Giants game and that his participation was necessary for a Dallas win.

He was not allowed to play. Dallas won, 44-20.

It was during a conversation with the sample-taker, the NFL alleges, when Collins asked if there was something "we could do" and offered the official $5,000 and later $10,000.

Prescott was asked directly about the bribery accusation and denied any knowledge of such an incident.

"No,'' he said, "I never heard from La’el or anybody ever think about something like that."

The NFL had initially handed down a suspension of just two games but after Collins appealed that suspension, and an arbitrator appointed by both the league and the NFLPA not only denied the appeal but also enforced a five-game suspension.

As of today, Collins, the team's starting right tackle, will have served five games. 

Judge doesn't halt suspension of Cowboys' Collins

CBS Dallas / Fort Worth 12 October, 2021 - 07:04pm

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SHERMAN, Texas -- A federal judge has denied a request by Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins for an injunction that would have halted his five-game suspension with one game remaining.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant suggested in his ruling issued Tuesday that the NFL suspended Collins in violation of the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union. However, Mazzant ruled the arbitrator's decision in Collins' appeal was based on a "reasonable construction of the parties' agreements."

The ruling means Collins won't be eligible to play Sunday at New England. The seventh-year player can return to the team next week, when the Cowboys are idle. Collins can play again in Week 8 at Minnesota.

The NFL accused Collins of bribery in a court filing that opposed the request for a preliminary injunction. Representatives for Collins have strongly denied that and said the league misled the arbitrator by saying Collins had been suspended four games when he hadn't.

Collins sued the NFL, its management council and commissioner Roger Goodell last week. The lawsuit said Collins was suspended when the new labor agreement signed in 2020 no longer allowed for suspensions over missed tests or positive marijuana tests. The league countered by saying Collins had a "long history of discipline for repeated violations."

"Clearly in a fair hearing, a fair court, with a judge like we had here, we'd win hands down," said player agent Peter Schaffer, one of Collins' representatives. "(Collins) stood up against the league knowing he was right. The only reason he was suspended is this is how the league treats its players."

The suspension was announced the day after Dallas' 31-29 loss to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the opener, Collins' first game since 2019. He missed all of last season because of hip surgery.

Just before the start of the season four years ago, Mazzant granted star running back Ezekiel Elliott's request for an injunction to stop a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations. That ruling sparked a two-month legal saga that ended with Elliott serving the suspension.

Judge denies request by Cowboys' Collins to halt suspension

Associated Press 12 October, 2021 - 06:45pm

SHERMAN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request by Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins for an injunction that would have halted his five-game suspension with one game remaining.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant suggested in his ruling issued Tuesday that the NFL suspended Collins in violation of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union. However, Mazzant ruled the arbitrator’s decision in Collins’ appeal was based on a “reasonable construction of the parties’ agreements.”

The ruling means Collins won’t be eligible to play Sunday at New England. The seventh-year player can return to the team next week, when the Cowboys are idle. Collins can play again in Week 8 at Minnesota.

The NFL accused Collins of bribery in a court filing that opposed the request for a preliminary injunction. Representatives for Collins have strongly denied that and said the league misled the arbitrator by saying Collins had been suspended four games when he hadn’t.

Collins sued the NFL, its management council and Commissioner Roger Goodell last week. The lawsuit said Collins was suspended when the new labor agreement signed in 2020 no longer allowed for suspensions over missed tests or positive marijuana tests. The league countered by saying Collins had a “long history of discipline for repeated violations.”

The suspension was announced the day after Dallas’ 31-29 loss to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the opener, Collins’ first game since 2019. He missed all of last season because of hip surgery.

Mazzant is based in Sherman, Texas, north of Dallas. Just before the start of the season four years ago, Mazzant granted star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s request for an injunction to stop a six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations. That ruling sparked a two-month legal saga that ended with Elliott serving the suspension.

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