New Orleans Saints  

 

NFLPA requests Sean Payton attend 'bounty' appeals hearing

The NFL Players Association has requested that certain current and former New Orleans Saints coaches and executives, including suspended head coach Sean Payton, attend the appeals hearing of players suspended in the team's "bounty" program, sources with knowledge of the situation said on Thursday.

The hearing for the four suspended players in the pay-to-injure scheme will be heard by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday.

The story was first reported by The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

The NFLPA sent a notice to the NFL requesting that Payton, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and assistant head coach Joe Vitt join the suspended players at the hearing.

The union also asked that NFL security officials Joe Hummel and Jeff Miller attend.

The request is a means for the union to try to gather evidence used against the players, a source said. It is not known if any of those asked could be compelled to attend or speak at the appeals hearing.

The NFL declined to comment.

Current Saints players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith have been suspended for the 2012 season and four games, respectively. Former Saints defenders Scott Fujita, now of the Cleveland Browns, and Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, were suspended for three and six games, respectively.

The Saints' bounty program rewarded defensive players for hits that injured opponents.

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Per collectively bargained rules, the NFL must produce the evidence it plans to use at the appellate hearing by Friday, but that could simply come in the form of summary reports that have already been disclosed, a source said.

The players have already lost two grievance hearings challenging Goodell's jurisdiction to suspend players in connection with the bounty program. One of those rulings is currently under appeal. There is no timetable as to when Goodell will rule on the appeals he will hear Monday.

Each of the players has denied paying or receiving cash bonuses in the bounty scheme and has sought evidence from the NFL linking them to any such payments. The players refused to meet with NFL investigators before the punishment was handed down.

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

Payton's suspension runs for a year. The NFL also suspended Loomis for eight games and Vitt for six games.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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