All four players in the New Orleans Saints bounty case have filed appeals with the NFL, according to sources close to the players, in advance of Friday's deadline to do so.
The appeals fall under the collective bargaining agreement process and follow NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's re-issuing of sanctions Tuesday.
The NFL later confimed they had received the players' appeals.
Goodell reduced Anthony Hargrove's suspension from eight games to seven and Scott Fujita's suspension from three games to one, while affirming the season-long suspension for Jonathan Vilma and the four-game suspension for Will Smith. Goodell allowed time served for Vilma (on the Saints' physically unable to perform (PUP) list) and Hargrove (free agent) and said Vilma could keep the game checks accumulated while on the PUP list.
Fujita, a former Saint, currently is on the Cleveland Browns' roster.
Vilma's appeal comes with a twist -- he has asked that Goodell recuse himself from the appeals process. The NFL fought for the commissioner to retain power over appeals in cases of "conduct detrimental" during last year's labor negotiations, and Goodell stepping aside in such a case would be unprecedented.
The priority for the four players, according to sources, was to avoid the enforcement of the suspensions. So filing the appeals serves as a stopgap. The players and the NFL will have a hearing Oct. 22, per the guidelines set by the CBA, but the hearing could be changed upon agreement of both sides.
Vilma's request for a preliminary injunction -- which would lift the suspension while his defamation case against Goodell plays out -- remains under consideration by a federal court in Louisiana. Smith, Hargrove and Fujita all withdrew their requests for injunctions after the CBA appeals panel sent the suspensions back to Goodell in early September, but all could refile for injunctions at any time.
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