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Scott Fujita, NFLPA challenge NFL bounty statements

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL Players Association filed documents in federal court disputing NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's sworn statement that he was prepared to discipline players for their involvement in the New Orleans Saints' "bounty" program back in March but waited until May as a courtesy to the union.

Attorneys for four players suspended in the bounty investigation have argued the punishment handed down by Goodell should be overturned, in part because Goodell's public statements last spring showed he had improperly pre-judged the players' actions.

The documents filed Friday include sworn declarations by suspended linebacker Scott Fujita and union chief DeMaurice Smith.

"During our phone conversation on or about March 20, Mr. Goodell told me that he would be coming down hard with punishments on Saints coaches, but that with respect to Saints players, he was not quite sure what he had on them, and that player punishments would therefore take some time," Fujita's declaration said.

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan had asked for the NFL and NFLPA to file evidence this week related to the NFL's contention that Goodell delayed ruling on the players only because he was asked to do so by the union while it conducted its own bounty probe.

In a declaration filed Thursday, Goodell stated he agreed in a phone conversation with Smith "to address discipline of the club and non-player employees and then to afford the NFLPA a reasonable opportunity to conduct its own investigation and express its views before I imposed discipline on the players."

Smith, however, stated in his Friday declaration that while a phone conversation with Goodell took place, he and Goodell never reached the agreement the commissioner described.

The NFLPA also noted in its filing that as late as April 24, Goodell was quoted in media reports saying he and NFL investigators "have been continuing our work" investigating player conduct, and "I hope to reach those decisions very soon."

Goodell disciplined the Saints, coaches and general manager Mickey Loomis on March 21. Coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season, while Loomis was docked half a season and assistant head coach Joe Vitt six games.

Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely for running the bounty program.

Goodell later suspended Vilma for the entire season, Saints defensive end Will Smith has been suspended for the first four regular-season games. Anthony Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers was penalized eight games and Scott Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, got three games.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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