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Saints’ Players in Bounty Case Appeal Latest Goodell Suspensions

Jonathan Vilma and three other National Football League players appealed the latest suspensions handed down by Commissioner Roger Goodell in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, imposed after an arbitrator threw out his original rulings.

Vilma, whose full-season suspension was kept intact by Goodell on Oct. 9; free-agent defensive end Anthony Hargrove; Saints defensive end Will Smith; and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita appealed their latest bans, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.

Arbitrators said Goodell overstepped his bounds by punishing the players for money they received outside their contracts, while upholding his ability to enact punishment for trying to injure opponents.

Goodell re-imposed a season ban on Vilma, a Saints linebacker. He also reduced Hargrove’s suspension by one game to seven, cut Smith’s ban in half to four games and trimmed the suspension of Fujita to one game from three.

The players today asked Goodell to step aside as the appeal arbitrator under the belief that he cannot rule impartially, the Associated Press reported. Aiello declined to comment on the substance of the appeals notices.

Vilma, who hasn’t played this season due to injury, is planning to take the field Oct. 21 when the Saints (1-4) visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as his appeal is pending, AP said, citing people who were familiar with the situation. An e-mail seeking comment from Greg Bensel, a spokesman for the Saints, wasn’t immediately returned.

The NFL said about two dozen Saints players, led by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, paid each other as much as $1,500 for targeting opponents such as Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Brett Favre from 2009 to 2011.

Coach Sean Payton was barred for a year and Williams was suspended indefinitely. Mickey Loomis, the Saints’ general manager, received an eight-game suspension. Those penalties were allowed to stand.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net

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

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