Players in Saints' bounty case to meet with Goodell

Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:57pm EDT

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma celebrates the Saints' overtime win against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland December 6, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Cameron

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma celebrates the Saints' overtime win against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland December 6, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Cameron

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(Reuters) - The four players whose suspensions for their roles in the New Orleans Saints' bounty case were set aside by an arbitration panel will meet with National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league said on Tuesday.

"We have agreed to meet with all four players in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, free agent Anthony Hargrove, Saints defensive end Will Smith and Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita will meet with Goodell in New York in the coming days to discuss the case.

Although all four have been reinstated to their teams, only Smith played in the league's opening weekend.

The three-member arbitration panel said in its ruling last week that under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association, Goodell did not have the authority to suspend players for accepting money from a pool for big plays.

But the panel said Goodell can apply new bans if he proves there was an intent by the players to injure opposing athletes.

The league has said the commissioner plans to make an expedited determination if that was the case.

The four players were punished in May when the NFL identified them as having leadership roles in a program where players were given cash rewards for knocking opponents out of games from 2009-2011.

Vilma was initially suspended for the entire 2012 regular season, Hargrove for eight games, Smith for four games and Fujita three games.

Bans given to Saints coaches Gregg Williams, Sean Payton and Joe Vitt were not affected by the panel's decision.

Williams, the Saints' former defensive coordinator, was suspended indefinitely by Goodell, head coach Payton for the current season and assistant Vitt for six games.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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