NFLPA fights to keep Paul Tagliabue from hearing bounty appeals

The NFL Players Assn. said it will file a motion Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans asking that Paul Tagliabue recuse himself from hearing the appeals of the four players suspended in the Saints bounty scandal.

In a statement, the NFLPA said Tagliabue's involvement is a conflict of interest because the former NFL commissioner works for a law firm that has handled bounty-related matters for the league, and represented current Commissioner Roger Goodell in a defamation lawsuit by one of the four players, Jonathan Vilma.

Goodell removed himself from hearing the appeals and appointed Tagliabue, who was league commissioner from 1989 through 2006, to the job last week.

The hearings are scheduled for Tuesday.

The suspensions were first handed down in May and took effect in July after one round of appeals were rejected by Goodell. But after training camp a three-member appeals panel instructed Goodell to start the disciplinary process again to clarify his reasons for issuing the suspensions.

The suspensions were reissued earlier this month and again were appealed by all four players -- the Saints' Vilma and Will Smith, Cleveland's Scott Fujita and free agent Anthony Hargrove.

Vilma, who has been suspended for the entire season, on Sunday played for the Saints for the first time this year, while the appeals process takes place. Smith has a four-game suspension.


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