NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will hear the appeals of Browns linebacker Scott Fujita and the other players suspended for their alleged roles in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal on June 18, Steve Wyche of NFL.com reported today.
The NFL has set the date, according to the report, even though arbitrator Shyam Das has not yet ruled on one of the NFL Players Association’s grievances against league. The union argues that Goodell does not have the authority to punish players for conduct that occurred before the new collective bargaining agreement was signed last August and that Ted Cottrell and Art Shell, who are jointly appointed by the league and union to review discipline for on-field conduct, should rule on appeals instead of Goodell.
"Pending a ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das, we are not commenting on the appeals process," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail response to the Beacon Journal.
Arbitrator Stephen Burbank rejected the union’s other grievance on Monday, ruling Goodell has the authority to discipline Fujita and others who received punishment for their alleged involvement in the scandal. The NFLPA will appeal Burbank’s decision.
“It’s certainly disappointing, but this is a part of the process,” Fujita said of Burbank’s ruling. “You’ve just got to be patient and respect that process and just keep hoping for a positive outcome.”
In addition to suspending Fujita for three games, the NFL has docked Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who used to play for the Saints, for eight games and Saints defensive end Will Smith for four games.
Fujita, who played for the Saints from 2006-09, has reserved the right to appeal his suspension pending the outcome of the union's grievances. He has repeatedly denied the NFL’s accusation that he contributed money to a pool that paid players for intentionally trying to injure opponents.