On Friday, the four players suspended as part of the Saints bounty scandal -- Will Smith, Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Jonathan Vilma -- won their appeal against the NFL. The ruling by a CBA panel meant that commissioner Roger Goodell would have to reconsider their punishments and that the players would immediately be eligible to play.
The victory could be short-lived, however; Goodell was asked to clarify which offenses fell under pay for performance and pay to injure. The former is a salary-cap violation, and the Saints contend the bounty scandal qualifies, while the latter is a violation of the personal conduct policy, which falls under Goodell's purview.
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to Goodell Monday that outlined, as ESPN's Ed Werder reported, "the process that should be followed in determining the ultimate fate of former and current New Orleans Saints players suspended for their alleged involvement in the bounty scandal."
Sources tell Werder that the letter "reaffirm(ed) the players' contention no pay-to-injure program existed, stress(ed) players must have a full opportunity to present their cases and cross-examine evidence and witnesses, and express(ed) a continued willingness to engage in settlement negotiations as the courts have recommended."
Meanwhile, the NFL sent a letter of its own notifying the NFLPA of its willingness to meet with any of the four suspended players who might have additional information regarding the bounty scandal. The deadline is Tuesday. A source tells NFL Network's Albert Breer that the commissioner will rule after the players have a chance to provide more information.
Breer adds: "The letter also noted that each player was given opportunities to speak with the commissioner after the discipline was imposed, including one at the appeals hearing, and emphasized that the league remains open to meeting with the players."
Smith said Sunday that he believes Goodell violated the collective bargaining agreement by suspending the players.
"It's great these players were vindicated and able to join their teammates on the sideline," Smith told ESPN. "But at the end of the day, my hope is that our players and fans understand that any time this kind of thing happens, it vindicates the importance of collective bargaining. It vindicates the importance of fairness and it certainly vindicates the notion that power is not absolute."
Smith added that he felt there was no proof that the players were involved in a pay-to-injure scheme though he admitted that the appeals victory could be short-lived.
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