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Roger Goodell will hear Saints 'bounty' appeals June 18

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear the appeals of the four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints "bounty" scandal on June 18, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

This will be the first meeting between Goodell and the players since he suspended them for their roles in the bounty program. It also will engage Goodell and Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has sued the commissioner for defamation.

Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his role in the bounty scheme, which offered cash rewards to defensive players who injured opponents.

Saints defensive end Will Smith was suspended for four games, and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita, now a Cleveland Brown, was suspended three games. Defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now a Green Bay Packer, received an eight-game ban.

Each of the players have denied they paid or received cash bonuses in the pay-to-injure scheme and have sought evidence from the NFL linking them to any such payments. The players refused to meet with NFL investigators before punishment was handed down.

The NFL Players Association has filed two grievances challenging Goodell's jurisdiction to rule against the players and to also hear their appeals. The ruling in one of the grievances supported Goodell's authority and will be appealed. No ruling has been made on the other grievance.

The players' appeals could result in reduced or modified suspensions. The NFL, however, has been steadfast in support of its evidence against the players, who were punished in large part for leadership roles in the bounty program.

The bounty program is known to have run from 2009 to 2011, under the direction of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely by the league.

The NFL also suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for a year, general manager Mickey Loomis eight games and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games.

Goodell has been given until July 5 to respond to Vilma's suit, which was filed in Louisiana.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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