Sources: Bounty appeals to be heard

Updated: June 7, 2012, 12:18 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The four players suspended for their roles in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program will have their appeals heard later this month by commissioner Roger Goodell.

League and union sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that June 18 is the tentative date for the hearing, pending a ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das on the grievance players have filed that claims Goodell cannot discipline players based on the lockout agreement.

It is anticipated that Das will have a ruling soon, but both sides admit they do not have a concise indication on when it will come down, sources told Mortensen. The hearing would be pushed back if Das has not ruled.

NFL.com reported that Goodell and players including Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who sued Goodell for defamation after being suspended for the entire 2012 season, would participate in the meeting -- their first together since Goodell dealt out punishment for the bounty system that ran from 2009 to 2011.

In addition to Vilma's yearlong ban, Goodell suspended Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games; former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, for eight games; and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, for three games.

The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance contending the new collective bargaining agreement prohibits Goodell from punishing players for any conduct before the CBA was signed last summer.

Das has yet to rule on that grievance, which also seeks to have player appeals heard by Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, who are jointly appointed by the league and union to review discipline handed out for on-field conduct.

An NFL investigation determined the Saints' bounty system offered thousands of dollars to players for big hits that knocked opponents out of games.

In March, Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for all of next season without pay, and levied other penalties against the club.

Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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