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Posted at 12:02 PM ET, 06/18/2012

New Orleans Saints bounties: Jonathan Vilma leaves hearing

The four players suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for their alleged roles in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal are appealing his punishment today at NFL headquarters in New York.

And one player, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, left, saying the process is not fair. The other three — Saints defensive end Will Smith, Scott Fujita (now with the Cleveland Browns) and Anthony Hargrove (now with the Green Bay Packers) — have an afternoon hearing.

Peter Ginsberg, Vilma’s attorney, said that he and Vilma had refused the NFL’s request to adjourn the meeting until Monday afternoon. Ginsberg said, via the Associated Press, that Goodell did not present evidence on which the suspension was based.


Will Smith (left) and Anthony Hargrove arrive for the hearing. (Mark Lennihan / AP)
Vilma, who has been suspended for the 2012 season and filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell, questioned whether could receive a fair hearing.

“Roger Goodell has taken three months to tear down what I built over eight years. It’s tough to swallow,” Vilma said. “I have been linked to a bounty and it simply is not true.

“I don’t know how I can get a fair process when he is the judge, jury and executioner. You’re assuming it will be fair, but it’s not.”

The day began with Fujita, Hargrove and Smith issuing a statement through the NFL Players Association:

“We have purportedly been disciplined by the Commissioner for alleged activities that the National Football League has grossly misrepresented to the public.

“We are in attendance today not because we recognize the Commissioner’s jurisdiction to adjudicate regarding these specious allegations, but because we believe the League would attempt to publicly mischaracterize our refusal to attend. We will not address the substance of the NFL’s case because this is not the proper venue for adjudication, and there has been no semblance of due process afforded to us.

“As veteran players of 11, 9 and 9 years in this League, we are profoundly disappointed with the NFL’s conduct in this matter. We know what the NFL has publicly said we did, and the Commissioner has chosen to try to punish us and disparage our characters based on semantics, not facts. Words are cheap and power is fleeting.

“Shame on the National Football League and Commissioner Goodell for being more concerned about ‘convicting’ us publicly than being honorable and fair to men who have dedicated their professional lives to playing this game with honor. — Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove and Will Smith”

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By  |  12:02 PM ET, 06/18/2012

 
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