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Appeals in Saints' 'bounty' case to be heard

  • By Brian McIntyre NFL.com
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The NFL Players Association is having its grievance heard Wednesday by arbitrator Shyam Das.

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According to Judy Battista of the New York Times, the focus of the union's argument will not be on the amount of evidence that the league has compiled against the players, rather they will ask Das to rule on whether or not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is allowed to discipline players for conduct prior to the new collective bargaining agreement.

If Das determines that Goodell has the authority to impose discipline, those appeals should be heard by Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, who are jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to hear appeals pertaining to on-field conduct.

The union will also ask whether or not Goodell has jurisdiction over the matter, claiming that a "pay-for-performance" bounty program amounts to a salary cap violation, which would be heard by system arbitrator Stephen Burbank.

In addition, the union consistently has claimed to have not received any detailed or specific evidence from the investigation. Battista reports that the league might make some of the evidence available publicly, in an effort to demonstrate the thoroughness of their investigation into the bounty program. That would not occur, however, until after the appeals process is complete and with the identities of sources who cooperated with the league's investigation protected to guard against retaliation.

UPDATE: A league source confirmed to NFL.com's Steve Wyche that there is a possibility the NFL could release some evidence in the Saints bounty case after the grievance and appeals process. The decision to reveal evidence which has, for the most part been classified, could be determined by the outcome of the hearings. There has been no decision at this point if and what evidence might publicly be disclosed.

Goodell has preached during his reign that building of trust with the fan base is crucial to the league's success. The league has been battered by players, representatives for the four suspended Saints players and the NFLPA for not disclosing evidence that directly links players to any wrongdoing. The final grievance hearing is scheduled for May 30.

The league said it has significant evidence to prove its allegations but it has worked to protect sources that have provided information.

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