Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will hear the latest appeals from four players suspended in the New Orleans Saints bounty case, who are seeking to overturn bans imposed by current commissioner Roger Goodell.
Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita appealed the latest penalties imposed by Goodell last week.
Players Union chief DeMaurice Smith said on Friday, via Twitter, that Goodell would recuse himself and Goodell confirmed that in a statement issued by the league.
Goodell said he has not “consulted with Paul Tagliabue at any point about the Saints matter, nor has he been any part of the process.”
The hearing will take place on Thursday at a time and location to be determined by Tagliabue, who will have full independence to decide the appeal.
In September, an appeals panel overturned the penalties Goodell initially disclosed in May. Goodell then issued a decision with a few changes.
Hargrove, currently a free agent, had an eight-game ban cut to seven games and Fujita, now with the Cleveland Browns, had a three-game penalty trimmed to one game. Vilma’s suspension remained season-long and Smith’s four-game ban also held firm.
Vilma has not played in a game this season because of a knee injury.
Vilma has filed a lawsuit against Goodell, denying that he offered money at a team meeting to any player who was able to deliver such a punishing blow to an opposing quarterback that he could not continue in a playoff game.
The league says the players and some Saints staff participated in a scheme that paid players bonuses for injuring opponents.
Former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, identified by the league as a “whistleblower” in scheme, issued a statement on Friday denying that he ever knew about such a system or told anyone he did.
“Roger Goodell identifies me as the ‘whistleblower’ who approached former Viking coach Brad Childress about an alleged bounty on Brett Favre in the NFC Championship Game,” Kennedy said.
“That is a lie. I had no knowledge about any alleged bounty to reveal to anyone, and I never informed anyone that I did. Contrary to the false information disseminated by the NFL, coach Childress approached me and asked me if I knew anything about such an allegation, and I told him the truth: I did not. I had no knowledge of any such alleged bounty,” he added.