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La Canfora: Roger Goodell likely to 're-determine' Saints punishments within next week

By Eye on Football staff | CBSSports.com
The Saints aren't quite in the clear yet, suspension-wise. (Getty Images)

The following is a report from CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. Follow him on Twitter @JasonLaCanfora.

The commissioner feels strongly about the merits of the investigation and his subsequent punishment and intends to oblige the arbitration panel's request for an expedited decision, sources said, one that is very likely to come this week. Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma of the Saints, and Scott Fujita of the Browns are eligible to play Sunday, while the fourth suspended player, Anthony Hargrove, is a free agent at this time following his release by Green Bay.

The likelihood of those penalties changing much is small. Goodell will provide the clarification on the initial player discipline, and detail how much of that determinaton was based on the salary-cap issues involved, and those matters pursuant to Artile 14 of the collective bargaining agreement, which are under the domain of the system arbitrator and not the commissioner.

The league has also taken note of the fact that Stephen Burbank, the system arbitrator, noted in his rulings in the past this is not primarily a salary cap issue. And, while players have complained about the fairness of this process, the fact that the suspended players were granted an opportunity to get game checks and play in Week 1 serves as a victory for them, but from the NFL standpoint, that's also being seen as a positive in that the process itself is clearly mindful of both parties. Long-term, that's not a bad thing from the NFL's perspective.

As Goodell noted in his letter to the teams Friday afternoon, the panel's ruling does not attack the merits of his investigation or rulings. Of course, the potential for a federal judge in Louisiana to intervene remains, and she has expressed her concerns with the inquiry and suspensions already, though is inclined to let the NFL and NFLPA attempt to settle the matter themselves rather than make it an issue for the court.

She has been weighing whether or not to grant an injunction against the suspensions, as the NFLPA has requested. If she were to do so, it's expected the NFL would then ask for an expedited appeal.

Regardless, in the short term the reprieve for the suspended players could be quite short, with Goodell submitting his re-determination to the appeals panel this week.

As previously reported here, it's very unlikely Fujita plays after missing three preseason games due to injury and then not being able to participate in meetings and practice all week while still suspended. Vilma has yet to take a physical, having been banned from the team for all of training camp, and is not ready to play. Smith, however, is in line to start for New Orleans.

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