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NFL to meet with New Orleans Saints 'bounty' scandal players

The four players once suspended and since temporarily reinstated as part of the New Orleans Saints bounty case will meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league said Tuesday.

"We have agreed to meet with all four players in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma previously accepted the league's invitation to meet, and the other three players -- Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, Saints defensive end Will Smith and free agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove -- followed suit.

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"We have accepted Commissioner Goodell's invitation to meet with him to share information and hopefully resolve this matter appropriately," Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg said earlier Tuesday.

The meetings will be part of the pre-discipline phase of the CBA process, which is an important detail because of the players' problems with the post-discipline appeals process. Goodell plans to follow a CBA panel's direction following the meeting and reassess discipline. The panel asked that he separate infractions for pay-to-injure, which falls under his jurisdiction as "conduct detrimental," and "pay-for-performance," which the NFL Players Association views as a salary cap violation and, thus, would be outside Goodell's jurisdiction.

The meetings are expected to be held at the league office. in New York Ginsberg said Vilma's meeting will likely happen early next week.

Goodell and Vilma previously had a meeting scheduled for Aug. 23, with Vilma traveling to New York for the day. However, conditions for that meeting could not be agreed upon and the meeting was cancelled, with the player insisting on anything that happened in the Aug. 23 meeting being kept out of his pending defamation lawsuit against Goodell.

When asked if a similar circumstance could arise and jeopardize next week's meeting, Ginsberg said, "We expect that no obstacles will get in the way of this one."

Ginsberg added that, "We're prepared to move ahead."

The NFL sent a letter to the NFLPA on Monday setting a close-of-business deadline on Tuesday for the four players involved in the bounty case to provide any additional information to support their case in this matter.

The CBA appeals panel sent the suspensions of Vilma, Smith, Hargrove and Fujita back to the commissioner on Friday. Per a union source, the NFLPA then sent a letter asking for their reinstatement, which was granted.

Sources involved with the players -- Fujita, Smith and Hargrove are being represented by the NFLPA in court -- said that if things proceed to where the discipline is again seen as unacceptable by the players, they expect that there would be a third-party arbitrator, and not Goodell, overseeing the appeal.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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