NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The NFL is again urging a federal judge to avoid interfering in Commissioner Roger Goodell's efforts to discipline four players for the Saints' cash-for-hits bounty pool.
In a response Wednesday to papers the players filed earlier this week, the NFL says its collective bargaining agreement with the players' union gives Goodell the power to handle discipline involving conduct detrimental to football "at his discretion."
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan is considering the players' request to overturn varying suspensions to Saints linebacker Jon Vilma (full season), Saints defensive end Will Smith (four games), free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (seven games) and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita (one game).
The players also want Berrigan to appoint a "neutral arbitrator" to handle any discipline in the matter.
The NFL argues that the players' request "turns the CBA (and the law) on its head."
"The parties agreed to "trust in (the Commissioner's) personal judgment," the papers filed by the NFL said.
The players have argued Goodell's public comments about the matter, dating to before he had even disciplined to the players, prove he cannot be impartial, and therefore has violated the players' industrial due process rights, which are also an inherent part the league's labor deal.