4 players file bounty appeals to NFL

Associated Press Modified: October 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm •  Published: October 12, 2012
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The union and Vilma would have to refile those requests with Berrigan, who placed the matter on indefinite hold when the three-member NFL appeal panel vacated the initial suspensions on technical ground and informed Goodell that he had to clarify his basis for the punishment.

The panel, which did not address the merits of the investigation, said it needed to be clear that Goodell's disciplinary decisions in the Saints' cash-for-hits pool pertained exclusively to conduct detrimental to football, and not salary cap violations, which would have to be handled by an arbitrator other than the commissioner.

Berrigan has stated that she found the NFL's disciplinary process unfair and that she would be inclined to grant Vilma at least a temporary restraining order if she believed she had jurisdiction on the matter.

However, Berrigan also has stated that she is hesitant to rule until she is certain the players have exhausted all possible remedies available to them through the NFL's labor agreement. She has further stressed that all parties would be wise to settle the matter out of court, but a federal magistrate has had little success getting meaningful settlement talks moving.

The four players were implicated in what the NFL said was a bounty pool run by former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and paid improper cash bonuses for hits that injured opponents. The players have acknowledged a pool but denied they intended to injure anyone. Goodell has been unmoved by the players' distinction regarding intent, outlining several instances in which Williams made notations of player rewards due for hits that knocked opponents out of games.

Williams, now with St. Louis, has cooperated with the league's investigation but is currently suspended indefinitely. Saints head coach Sean Payton is suspended for the season, general manager Mickey Loomis for eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games. They were punished separately from the players and all are serving out their punishment.

By contrast, the players and their union have put up intense resistance for the past half-year with no sign of letting up.

Even after his suspension was reduced this week, Fujita was harshly critical of Goodell, calling the "condescending tone" of his disciplinary letter unproductive, accusing the commissioner of misusing his power and questioning Goodell's record on player safety.

"The commissioner says he is disappointed in me," Fujita said Wednesday. "The truth is, I'm disappointed in him."