NFL Commissioner to Meet With Players in Saints’ Bounty Case

Jonathan Vilma and the other three players who had suspensions for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty pool case dismissed last week will meet with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Vilma’s season-long ban was overturned by an arbitration panel on Sept. 7, along with shorter suspensions for Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith. Fujita is now with the Cleveland Browns and Hargrove is a free agent.

The NFL said it won’t comment on details of Goodell’s meetings with the players or when a decision may be reached on discipline. Vilma’s lawyer, Peter Ginsburg, told the New York Times that Vilma and Goodell will meet as early as next week.

The four players involved in the Saints’ case were reinstated last week after the panel ruled Goodell lacked the authority to impose discipline for unauthorized compensation, or money that might have been paid under the bounty plan. He is allowed to punish players for intent to injure opponents, the arbitrators said in a four-page opinion.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail that the panel didn’t ask for “new” discipline, but for Goodell to clarify whether the basis for the discipline was for detrimental conduct or salary cap violations, or both. Aiello said the panel left it up to Goodell to determine whether any of the penalties should be modified.

NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah and Ginsburg didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

The NFL said in May about two dozen players participated in the Saints’ bounty program, with Vilma -- a defensive captain -- helping to establish and fund the program.

Vilma, a linebacker who has a salary of $1.6 million this season, was suspended without pay for the 2012 season. Hargrove, a defensive lineman, was suspended for eight games; Smith, a defensive end, for four games; and Fujita, a linebacker, for three games. Vilma has denied receiving or paying money for the intentional injury of an opponent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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