The legal battle arising from the Ezekiel Elliott suspension could spawn other courtroom skirmishes.

On Monday, the NFL made a stunning allegation against the NFL Players Association: “[W]e’ve received multiple reports of the NFLPA spreading derogatory information to the media.”

During a Thursday appearance on PFT Live, NFLPA executive committee member Lorenzo Alexander used the word “slander” in reference to the league’s contention. And that’s a word that catches the ear of anyone with experience in litigation.

People typically don’t use words like “slander” unless a formal claim for defamation of character has been considered. Whether or not litigation ensues, Alexander’s comment suggests that the union is at least exploring whether to defend its reputation by forcing the NFL to back up its claim with proof. And that’s exactly what formal litigation would do, permitting the NFLPA to ask tough questions about how and why the NFL came to that conclusion, especially since the NFL generated the 160-page report that has been leaked in dribs and drabs to the media.