NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was hearing the appeals Monday of four players suspended for their role in the Saints bounty program.
On hand at NFL headquarters were all four players: Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended for the 2012 season, and defensive end Will Smith, docked for four games; Green Bay defensive end Anthony Hargrove, suspended for eight games; and Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita (three games).
Lawyers for the players and the NFL Players Association also attended. The union recently lost two grievances challenging Goodell’s authority to hand out discipline for the bounty program.
Smith, Hargrove, and Fujita and their attorneys all arrived together. Vilma and his lawyer showed up separately. Asked what he expected from the hearing, Vilma replied: “I have no idea.”
The NFL turned over evidence to the four players and the union on Friday, as required by the collective bargaining agreement. That information included some 200 pages of documents, with emails, power-point presentations, even handwritten notes, plus one video recording. But a ledger that reportedly documents payments of $1,000 for plays called “cart-offs” and $400 for “whacks,” as well as $100 fines for mental errors, was not in the material.
Previously, Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the season and assistant coach Joe Vitt for six games. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis got eight games, while former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — who has apologized for his role in the scandal — was suspended indefinitely.
The NFL’s investigation of the Saints found Williams ran a system for three years under which bounties were set on targeted opponents, including Brett Favre and Kurt Warner. The program was in effect from 2009, when New Orleans won the Super Bowl, until last season.