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NFL must provide Saints 'bounty' hearing evidence

The appeals for the four former and current New Orleans Saints players who have been suspended for the team's "bounty" scandal are scheduled to begin (and end) Monday, and James Varney of The Times-Picayune reports the NFL must provide on Friday the evidence they intend to present to the players during the hearings.

Varney notes anyone expecting to pore over the thousands of documents of evidence the league says it has obtained will be disappointed. All this means is that the evidence the NFL plans to show the players during their hearings will be disclosed.

I'm no legal beagle, but this step in the process can be found in Article 46, Section 2(f)(ii) of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which states that "the parties shall exchange copies of any exhibits upon which they intend to rely no later than three (3) calendar days prior to the hearing." Any exhibit not disclosed by then can't be introduced at the hearing.

The attorney for Jonathan Vilma, the Saints linebacker suspended for the season for his involvement in the pay-to-injure program, said he believed the NFL had withheld the evidence for too long.

"If (NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) was really interested in a fair process, he would have disclosed the evidence weeks or months ago," Vilma's attorney Peter Ginsberg told USA Today. "That fact that this isn't occurring until now makes me cynical."

While the league is not required to publicly disclose all the evidence it has on the bounty program -- and might not, even after all appeals are heard -- that hasn't stopped the NFL Players Association from trying to extract as much evidence as possible.

A source with knowledge of the situation told reporter Steve Wyche on Thursday that the NFLPA sent a letter to the NFL requesting that current and former Saints coaches and executives to attend the hearings, including head coach Sean Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, assistant head coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis, each of whom has been suspended by the league for their involvement in the bounty program.

Mike Florio of, who is a lawyer, suggests that the union asking for the coaches and executives to be present is about laying the groundwork for an appeal.

In other words, there are still billable hours to be extracted from this case, which is unlikely to be fully resolved anytime soon.

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