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Players' union grievance to be heard Wednesday

NEW YORK (AP) - The NFL players' union grievance against the league in the Saints bounties scandal will be heard Wednesday.

The union claims NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn't have the authority to hand out discipline for player conduct that occurred before the current collective bargaining agreement was finalized last August. The players argue that a CBA arbitrator, and not Goodell, has the right to decide player punishment under such circumstances, as well as rule on any appeals.

Arbitrator Shyam Das will hear the case. Das was fired as the permanent arbitrator for baseball on Monday, but that does not affect his status with the NFL and NFLPA.

The union also maintains that appeals for on-field behavior should be heard by appeals officers Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, not the commissioner. Shell and Cottrell are employed by the NFL and the NFLPA as independent hearing officers when players are fined or suspended for flagrant hits during games.

Goodell suspended four players, including linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the 2012 season, after a league investigation uncovered a pay-for-hits program at New Orleans that ran from 2009-11. Also suspended were Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games; linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, for three games; and DE Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, for eight games.

Those suspended players have filed appeals, but no date has been set to hear them. The union wants those appeals heard by another arbitrator, Stephen Burbank, rather than by Goodell.

Previously, Goodell suspended Saints coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season. General manager Mickey Loomis got eight games, assistant coach Joe Vitt - now serving as Saints interim coach - received six games - and the club was fined $500,000.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, tagged by the league as the coach who ran the program, is suspended indefinitely.

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